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Republicans who voted to convict Trump face censure at home

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is among Republican senators

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is among Republican senators censured by their states' party after voting Saturday to convict Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial. Credit: Pool via AP / Sarah Silbiger

The wrath of MAGA

The seven Republican senators who voted to convict former President Donald Trump on inciting the deadly U.S. Capitol insurrection are getting blowback from the MAGAverse, including state Republican parties stocked with Trump loyalists.

Louisiana's Bill Cassidy was censured by his state's party on Saturday hours after the Senate vote, and North Carolina's Richard Burr faced a similar rebuke from the party organization in his state on Monday. Trump's second impeachment trial ended with a 57-43 vote for guilty, short of the two-thirds majority needed for conviction.

Cassidy, who isn't up for reelection until 2026, defended his vote in an op-ed in The Advocate, a Baton Rouge newspaper, that he had "no illusions that this is a popular decision." Trump's "rhetoric and actions were clearly intended to prevent a peaceful transfer of power," Cassidy wrote. "I voted to convict former President Trump because he is guilty. That’s what the facts demand."

The guilty vote by Burr, who isn't seeking reelection, was denounced as "shocking and disappointing" by North Carolina GOP chairman Michael Whatley. Burr said in a statement Monday: "It is truly a sad day for North Carolina Republicans. My party's leadership has chosen loyalty to one man over the core principles of the Republican Party and the founders of our great nation."

Republicans in Maine, Nebraska and Pennsylvania are considering censures of Susan Collins, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey.

Some Utah Republicans want to censure Mitt Romney, charging he "embarrassed the State of Utah and appears to be an agent for the Establishment Deep State," but state party leaders are resisting the effort. They said the vote against Trump by Romney — and for Trump by Utah's other senator, Mike Lee — "showcase a diversity of thought, in contrast to the danger of a party fixated on ‘unanimity of thought.’ "

Alaska's Lisa Murkowski — who is up for reelection next year — told Politico she’s "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." In a statement on her decision, she wrote: "If months of lies, organizing 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." Her state’s Republicans may consider censuring her when they meet in mid-March.

Even Minority Leader Mitch McConnell caught flak from within his ranks after he voted to acquit Trump, then in a fiery speech blamed Trump for the Jan. 6 insurrection and suggested the former president ultimately could be found liable in criminal and civil courts. "He has to realize as our leader, what he says reflects on us," Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin told a conservative Milwaukee radio host. "I didn’t particularly like it." Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina complained Sunday that McConnell "got a load off his chest, obviously, but unfortunately he put a load on the back of Republicans."

Turn up the base

Three-quarters of Republicans — 75% to 21% — want Trump to continue playing a prominent role in their party, according to a new Quinnipiac poll conducted after the Senate trial vote. But Americans at large, by 60% to 34%, would just as soon see him fade away.

A majority of Americans, 55% to 43%, says Trump should not be allowed to hold elected office in the future, the poll found. Republicans, by 87% to 11%, say he should be allowed.

A new ABC News/Ipsos poll found more than half of Americans, by 58% to 41%, say Trump should have been convicted in the second trial.

Janison: Why Cuomo misses Trump

Losing Trump's presidential performance as a point of comparison may already be proving detrimental to the prestige of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

Nearly a year ago, at the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo's daily televised briefings emerged as a favorable contrast to the Republican president's what-if-we-inject-disinfectant buffoonery and false claims. The governor outclassed Trump’s it’s-all-going-away passivity. Nothing made Cuomo sound smart and competent like a tweet from Trump attacking him.

Now the shiny armor of the state's top Democrat as an anti-Trump knight is rusting. A data-release gap in COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes in the state was concealed amid Trump administration inquiries. Cuomo's 2018 state-ticket running mate, New York Attorney General Letitia James, last month revealed the data-juggling and local lawmakers of both parties are responding.

But with Trump gone, demanding accountability on a state level no longer seems partisan. Republican critics can and will issue the kind of hard criticism one would expect from the "out" party. And it will resonate better than it did before, even among a number of Democrats. Honest, rational skeptics have clamored for months for clear answers about the transfers of COVID-19 patients between hospitals and nursing homes. It will not suffice for the Cuomo camp to keep describing the issue as trumped up.

Pelosi: Commission to examine insurrection

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that Congress will establish an independent, 9/11-style commission to look into the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Pelosi also promised to move forward in coming weeks with emergency funding legislation "for the safety of members and the security of the Capitol" after consulting with retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, who she had asked to examine security on Capitol Hill.

Calls have grown for a bipartisan, independent investigation into the law enforcement and administrative failures that coincided with the first large-scale assault of the Capitol complex in over two centuries, The New York Times reported.

Top LI Republicans differ on verdict

Past and present Long Island House Republicans agreed with the acquittal of Trump but differed over whether to blame him for the Capitol insurrection, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Recently retired Rep. Peter King of Seaford, who was a strong supporter of the ex-president, condemned what he called "shameful" and "disgraceful" actions by Trump leading up to the Jan. 6 attack. "While I do not believe President Trump’s actions and inaction rose to the level of Impeachment, they are a permanent stain on his legacy — a legacy which in other aspects had considerable successes," King said.

Reps. Lee Zeldin of Shirley and Andrew Garbarino of Bayport didn't address Trump's behavior. "The push to have the Senate convict a former President was not appropriate and was never going to be successful or achieve unity," said Zeldin. Garbarino blamed the rioters, saying, "It was un-American, and every trespasser should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Democrats didn't hold back. Rep. Kathleen Rice of Garden City said the "Senate’s failure to hold a president accountable who incited an insurrection leaves our democracy vulnerable to future attacks." Rep. Thomas Suozzi of Glen Cove said that "if you can't be impeached for inciting an insurrection against the capital of your own government, I don't know what you can be impeached for."

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments on Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • President Joe Biden, his top economic advisers and Federal Reserve under Chairman Jerome Powell are in agreement on pressing for a big coronavirus relief and stimulus package, deciding the risk of setting off a 1970s-like inflation by "overheating" the economy is much lower than the risk of failing to heat it up enough, The New York Times reports.
  • Garbarino, the freshman congressman, marked Presidents Day by tweeting a quote from James Buchanan, widely rated among one of the worst presidents in U.S. history, a pro-slavery Northerner who allowed the slide toward Civil War. However, the quote is better than its author: "The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there."
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, now Biden's top medical adviser, received a prestigious $1 million Israeli prize on Monday for "speaking truth to power in a highly charged political environment" as the coronavirus crisis hit during the Trump administration. The Dan David Foundation, the group awarding the prize, also praised Fauci's advocacy for COVID-19 vaccine development.
  • The federal health insurance marketplace, Healthcare.gov, reopened Monday for a special enrollment period that will run through mid-May, as part of the Biden administration's efforts to help Americans in need of insurance coverage during the pandemic.

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