WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) – Republicans who supported the impeachment conviction of former President Donald Trump began a defiant counteroffensive on Sunday (Feb 14) against the threats thrown at them by Mr Trump’s defenders, a sign that the divisions exposed in the Senate vote on Saturday were deepening.
At the same time, Mr Trump’s loyalists, led by Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, kept up the pressure, warning that any dissent would prompt a revolt from the right that would result in the election of more pro-Trump candidates, including the former president’s relatives.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of seven Republicans to vote to convict the former president of inciting an insurrection at the Capitol on Jan 6, sent out a blistering takedown of him – after Republicans from the party’s Trump wing promised to unseat her in 2022.
“President Trump was not concerned about the Vice-President; he was not concerned about members of Congress; he was not concerned about the Capitol Police,” she wrote in a statement on Twitter. “He was concerned about his election and retaining power.”
She added: “If months of lies, organising a rally of supporters in an effort to thwart the work of Congress, encouraging a crowd to march on the Capitol, and then taking no meaningful action to stop the violence once it began is not worthy of impeachment, conviction, and disqualification from holding office in the United States, I cannot imagine what is.”
Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, a moderate Republican, defended the GOP senators who voted for conviction – Murkowski, Susan Collins of Maine, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
“I think there were a lot more people who didn’t have the courage to vote that way,” Mr Hogan told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “But you’re right, there weren’t enough people willing to stand up.”
He said it reminded him of how his father, former Rep. Lawrence Hogan Sr. of Maryland, was the only Republican in the House to recommend all three articles of impeachment against former President Richard Nixon – a decision that he felt cost him future elections.
Two of the Republicans who stood up to Mr Trump, Mr Toomey and Mr Burr, are not seeking reelection. The others, including Murkowski and Romney, have strong support in their states.
But Mr Graham, a caustic former Trump critic who has become a dogged defender, warned the seven Republicans that their defiance would have consequences, predicting that Mr Trump’s daughter-in-law now enjoyed front-runner status in the race to succeed Mr Burr in two years.
“My friend Richard Burr just made Lara Trump almost the certain nominee for the Senate seat in North Carolina to replace him if she runs,” he said in an interview on Fox News Sunday.