Par For The Course, The Republican Party Acquitted Itself Very Poorly Today
Trump lost one of Nebraska's electoral votes because Nebraska awards them different from most states. A presidential candidate gets one of the state's electoral votes for each congressional district he or she wins and the candidate with the most votes statewide gets 2 votes. With a PVI of R+14, it is elementary to figure out that Trump would be the overall winner. In 2016, he took 495,961 votes (58.75%) to Hillary's 284,494 (33.70%). That gave him 2 votes. And here is how it went in the 3 congressional districts:
NE-01- 56% to 36%
NE-02- 47% to 45%
NE-03- 74% to 20%
2020 was different. For one thing, far more Nebraskans voted-- drawn to polls either because they loved or hated Trump. He won statewide-- 556,846 (58.51%), more votes but a fractionally smaller share. Biden took 374,583 (39.36%), significantly better than Hillary had done. And in the districts:
NE-01- 56.01% to 41.09%
NE-02- 45.66% to 52.30%
NE-03- 75.59% to 22.41%
Biden did better than Hillary in each district-- and better enough in NE-02 (Omaha and suburbs) to win that district and an electoral vote.
Senate Ben Sasse was up for reelection and he drew significantly-- though not overwhelmingly-- more voters than Trump did: 583,507 (62.74%). Over 26,000 of Sasse's voters did not vote for Trump. That may have stiffen his backbone enough so that today, he voted to convict Trump in the impeachment trial. He'll have over 5 years for Trump fanatics to calm down.
Before he voted, the Associated Press noted that he was betting his political future on opposing Trump. On Friday, Tom Beaumont wrote that Sasse was pretty defiant about being censured, referring to Republican "political addicts" as followers of a "cult of personality" and "acting like politics is religion." Watch:
It’s the no-apologies approach Nebraskans have come to expect-- and even appreciate-- from their junior senator, who perhaps more than any other rising Republican leader is cultivating anti-Trumpism as his brand.
Sasse has said Trump’s claims of election fraud were “lies” and that Trump “riled a mob that attacked the Capitol” on Jan. 6, when Congress was voting to affirm Joe Biden’s election victory. Sasse is among the small group of Republicans considered most likely to vote to convict Trump on the charge of inciting an insurrection when the Senate impeachment trial concludes.
Sasse’s criticism of Trump is angering plenty of activists in deeply Republican Nebraska. But Sasse is also winning some respect for speaking his mind even when it’s unpopular, a trait that some Republicans said reminded them of the former president himself.
“I’d rather have him say what he’s seeing and what he’s thinking,” said Tracy Fackler, an Omaha auto repair shop owner, who like many across the state said he voted for Trump for much the same reason.
Sasse, who was elected to a second six-year term last year, does not have to worry much about the consequences of his anti-Trump campaign in a state that Trump won by 18 percentage points in November. Sasse’s more immediate risk is how his votes on impeachment will go over with Republicans if he were to run for president in 2024.
Of the small number of Republican senators who’ve sided with Democrats on impeachment, only the 48-year-old Sasse is viewed as still aspiring to higher office. He is, in effect, betting there’s a political future in trying to fight for the comeback of the establishment Republican party.
“We still agree on some big things,” he said in his video, pointing to values his party often promoted before Trump. “Rule of law. Constitutionalism. Limited government.”
...[T]he Scotts Bluff County GOP chair had grown furious with Sasse by mid-January after the senator said Trump had “consistently lied by claiming that he ’won the election by a landslide‴ and that the then-president was “derelict in his duty to defend the Constitution and uphold the rule of law” during the Capitol siege.
“He’s made such a public spectacle of his hatred for President Trump. And that’s not the way Nebraska feels,” Woodward said. She described Sasse as “Oh, just so disrespectful to the former president.”
Three other county GOP committees have voted to censure Sasse. The state Republican central committee is expected to consider at least eight separate resolutions to censure him when it meets next month.
...During his 2014 campaign, Sasse said repeatedly that he identified more as a conservative than a Republican.
The sentiment came through in the video Sasse released Feb. 4. He cast angry state GOP committee members as out of step with not just some on the committee itself but with other Nebraska Republicans and, even more broadly, Nebraska voters.
Sasse had his statement together after the vote today: "An impeachment trial is a public declaration of what a president’s oath of office means and what behavior that oath demands of presidents in the future. But here’s the sad reality: If we were talking about a Democratic president, most Republicans and most Democrats would simply swap sides. Tribalism is a hell of a drug, but our oath to the Constitution means we’re constrained to the facts. First, President Trump lied that he 'won the election by a landslide.' He lied about widespread voter fraud, spreading conspiracy theories despite losing 60 straight court challenges, many of his losses handed down by great judges he nominated. He tried to intimidate the Georgia secretary of state to 'find votes' and overturn that state’s election. He publicly and falsely declared that Vice President Pence could break his constitutional oath and simply declare a different outcome. The president repeated these lies when summoning his crowd-- parts of which were widely known to be violent-- to Capitol Hill to intimidate Vice President Pence and Congress into not fulfilling our constitutional duties. Those lies had consequences, endangering the life of the vice president and bringing us dangerously close to a bloody constitutional crisis.Each of these actions are violations of a president’s oath of office."
Unlike Sasse-- or any of the other Republicans who voted to convict-- Lisa Murkowski is up for reelection next year. Trump won Alaska-- with 51.28% in 2016 and with 52.83% in 2020. Biden did much better than Hillary, indicating that independents broke in his direction. Those independents are the core of Murkowski's base.
After the vote today, she said "I'm sure that there are many Alaskans that are very dissatisfied with my vote. And I'm sure that there are many Alaskans that are proud of my vote. And I'm sure that that is the same of every 100 of us that just cast a vote in there. Because the country is split. The country is divided. And the country has chosen sides in a way that, as we can see, can be very aggressive and can lead to violence. Politics is rough and tumble and we understand that. And I'd love to think that we can argue back and forth about the merits of whether or not we need to increase the minimum wage or what we need to do on trade policy. Let's argue it, let's debate it. Let's have wins, let's have losses. But let's stop this hatred. Let's stop trying to denigrate the other side so that we can gain the advantage. Let's just talk about our good ideas. And that's why you should like us not because you hate the other guys more or you trust the other guys less... I think what you saw, what you saw here on the sixth was just a snapshot of the agitation that's out there in the country right now. It's not about me. This is really about what we stand for. And if I can’t say what I believe that our president should stand for, then why should I ask Alaskans to stand with me? So there's, there's consequences, I guess, with every vote, and this was consequential on many levels, but I cannot allow my vote, the significance of my vote to be devalued by whether or not I feel that this is helpful for my political ambitions.”
Susan Collins was just reelected, winning a state that Trump lost both times. Like Sasse, she has over 5 years for Maine Trumpists t get over it. She took to the Senate floor this afternoon to say that the trial was about Trump's "failure to obey the oath he swore on Jan. 20, 2017... "That attack was not a spontaneous outbreak of violence. Rather it was the culmination of a steady stream of provocations by President Trump that were aimed at overturning the results of the presidential election. The president's unprecedented efforts to discredit the election results did not begin on Jan. 6. Rather, he planted the seeds of doubt many weeks before the votes were cast on Nov. 3. My vote in this trial stems from my own oath and duty to defend the Constitution of the United States. The abuse of power and betrayal of his oath by President Trump meet the constitutional standards of high crime and misdemeanors. And for those reasons, I voted to convict Donald J Trump."
No one doubted how Romney was going to vote; in fact, he's the only Republican who voted to impeach Trump the first time around. Utah is one of the few states where the Republican Party is more popular than Trump. In November, Trump got 865,140 votes (58.13%) to Biden's 560,282 (37.65%), despite Evan McMullin having endorsed Biden. Romney won 2 years earlier with 62.6%. He's statement , just before the final vote, came as a surprise to no one:
"After careful consideration of the respective counsels’ arguments, I have concluded that President Trump is guilty of the charge made by the House of Representatives. President Trump attempted to corrupt the election by pressuring the Secretary of State of Georgia to falsify the election results in his state. President Trump incited the insurrection against Congress by using the power of his office to summon his supporters to Washington on January 6th and urging them to march on the Capitol during the counting of electoral votes. He did this despite the obvious and well known threats of violence that day. President Trump also violated his oath of office by failing to protect the Capitol, the Vice President, and others in the Capitol. Each and every one of these conclusions compels me to support conviction."
Bill Cassidy's vote to convict came as a surprise. Although he had voted earlier that the trial was constitutional, the reaction in Louisiana was so negative that he seems to have decided to vote against conviction. He may have been the only member of the Senate to have actually been convinced by the managers' presentation. And he's definitely taking a big risk. The state party censured him today. Trump took Louisiana with 58.46% of the vote, marginally better than he did in 2016. Cassidy was reelected the same day-- with 59.32%, just a bit over a point better than Trump.
Cassidy's official statement was brief and to the point: "Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty," a bit of a blast at his cowardly Republican colleagues.
Unlike 2022 retirees Rob Portman (OH), Richard Shelby (AL) and Chuck Grassley (IA), retirees Richard Burr (NC) and Pat Toomey (PA) both voted to convict. Burr: "The President promoted unfounded conspiracy theories to cast doubt on the integrity of a free and fair election because he did not like the results. As Congress met to certify the election results, the President directed his supporters to go to the Capitol to disrupt the lawful proceedings required by the Constitution. When the crowd became violent, the President used his office to first inflame the situation instead of immediately calling for an end to the assault. As I said on January 6th, the President bears responsibility for these tragic events. The evidence is compelling that President Trump is guilty of inciting an insurrection against a coequal branch of government and that the charge rises to the level of high Crimes and Misdemeanors. Therefore, I have voted to convict. I do not make this decision lightly, but I believe it is necessary."
And Toomey was on that same page: "He began with dishonest, systematic attempts to convince supporters that he had won. His lawful, but unsuccessful, legal challenges failed due to lack of evidence. Then, he applied intense pressure on state and local officials to reverse the election outcomes in their states. When these efforts failed, President Trump summoned thousands to Washington, D.C. and inflamed their passions by repeating disproven allegations about widespread fraud. He urged the mob to march on the Capitol for the explicit purpose of preventing Congress and the Vice President from formally certifying the results of the presidential election. All of this to hold on to power despite having legitimately lost... As a result of President Trump’s actions, for the first time in American history, the transfer of presidential power was not peaceful. A lawless attempt to retain power by a president was one of the founders’ greatest fears motivating the inclusion of the impeachment authorities in the U.S. Constitution. I was one of the 74 million Americans who voted for President Trump, in part because of the many accomplishments of his administration. Unfortunately, his behavior after the election betrayed the confidence millions of us placed in him."
A few hours ago, NY Times impeachment trial reporter Nick Fandos noted that "Minutes after voting to acquit" Trump on Saturday, McConnell "castigated the former president for what he called a 'disgraceful dereliction of duty,' pinning responsibility for last month’s Capitol assault directly on Trump. In a speech more blistering [than] many of those in favor of conviction, McConnell said the former president had shouted 'wild myths' about election fraud into the 'the largest megaphone on planet earth' with foreseeable consequences. Congress and the American public paid the price, he added. It was a stunning statement from a leader who has defended Senate prerogatives zealously, in which he effectively argued that Mr. Trump was guilty as charged, but the Senate could do nothing about it.
“There is no question-- none-- that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” he said. “The people that stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole.”
But even as he condemned Mr. Trump, Mr. McConnell said his reading of the Constitution was that the Senate should not try a former president. He called impeachment a “narrow tool” meant to remove an official from office, not pursue them afterward.
Democrats were furious, pointing out that their vote to impeach came while Mr. Trump remained in office and that it was Mr. McConnell who refused to call the Senate back into session to start the trial before he left office. But Mr. McConnell that even if he had, there would not have been time to reach a verdict in the final days of Mr. Trump’s term.
The harshly worded speech appeared to be something of a compromise for Mr. McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Washington, who has come to despise the 45th president he aided and accommodated for four years and now regards Mr. Trump as a danger to his party.
Mr. McConnell had considered voting to convict the former president as a means of purging him from the party, but allies said he concluded he could not practically, as leader, side with a minority of his colleagues rather than the overwhelming number who said the trial was invalid and voted to acquit. Instead, he used every ounce of his rhetorical strength to try to damage Mr. Trump’s credibility with his own party.
When the Capitol attack was underway, Mr. McConnell said, Mr. Trump abdicated his responsibility as commander in chief, and afterward, he refused to drop his baseless election lies.
“Whatever reaction he says he meant to produce by the afternoon, we know he was watching the same live television as the rest of us,” Mr. McConnell said. “A mob was assaulting a Capitol in his name. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags and screaming their loyalty to him.”
He added: “He did not do his job. He did not take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed and order restored. No, instead, according to public reports, he watched television happily-- happily-- as the chaos unfolded.”
McConnell also rejected one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers’ most explicit defenses: that his words had been no different from those of any other politician advocating a cause.
“That is different from what we saw,” he said.
Notably, he argued that it was up to the criminal justice system to hold former presidents to account for their conduct in office. Mr. Trump, he said, “didn’t get away with anything yet.”
So if McConnell was on a criminal jury he'd vote to send Trump to prison? He won't be on a jury but Trump, reported CNN this evening, "has privately voiced concern in the last two weeks about whether he could face charges as a result of the January 6 riot he's accused of inciting, according to multiple people... CNN has previously reported that federal investigators could look at everyone involved in the unrest at the US Capitol, including the role Trump played in inciting the crowd, according to the acting US attorney in Washington. Asked directly by a reporter in January if investigators were looking at the role Trump played at the rally, acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin had said, 'We're looking at all actors here and anyone that had a role and, if the evidence fits the elements of the crime, they're going to be charged.'"