Collins avoids state-party censure after voting to convict Trump

Sen. Susan Collins avoided censure from her state party on Saturday, escaping the fate of other Republicans who voted to convict former President Donald Trump in his most recent impeachment trial.

A 41-19 majority of the Maine Republican Party voted against censuring the moderate fifth-term Republican, according to a release from her office.

“Today’s decision is a testament to the Republican Party’s ‘big tent’ philosophy that respects different views but unites around core principles,” Collins wrote in a statement Saturday. “Our party has been most successful when it has embraced this approach to advance our shared goals of providing tax relief to families and small business job creators, pursuing fiscal responsibility and government accountability, promoting personal responsibility, protecting constitutional rights, and ensuring a strong national defense.”

Some of Collins’ six other Republican Senate colleagues who voted to convict Trump, who was charged with inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, have faced rebukes from their state parties.

The Louisiana GOP quickly censured Sen. Bill Cassidy after his vote, and the North Carolina Republican party did the same to Sen. Richard Burr just days after his vote. In the House, the Wyoming GOP censured No. 3 House Republican Rep. Liz Cheney for voting to impeach Trump.

The Alaska GOP also recently moved to censure Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) for her vote and have called for her to no longer run as a Republican.

Among other Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump, Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) were rebuked by their state parties but narrowly averted censure, while the Utah GOP defended Utah Sen. Mitt Romney’s vote.

Collins has defended her decision, saying Trump failed to uphold his oath of office.

"His actions to interfere with the peaceful transition of power — the hallmark of our Constitution and our American democracy — were an abuse of power and constitute grounds for conviction," Collins said on the Senate floor.

After a near double-digit re-election victory in November, Collins has played a significant role in a divided Senate.

Trump, who still has broad support among GOP voters, has targeted Republican lawmakers in both chambers who voted to impeach or convict him, reading the names of every GOP lawmaker to do so at his Conservative Political Action Conference speech in February.

“Get rid of them all,” Trump said.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Tom Emmer has warned Trump against trying to primary these GOP lawmakers, saying it won't be helpful.

“He can do whatever he wants,” Emmer (R-Minn.) said in an interview. “But I would tell him that it’s probably better for us that we keep these people and we make sure that we have a majority that can be sustained going forward.”

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Ron Johnson says he didn’t feel threatened Jan. 6. If BLM or Antifa stormed Capitol, he ‘might have.’

In an interview on conservative talk radio, Sen. Ron Johnson, one of former President Donald Trump’s strongest supporters, said he didn’t feel threatened by rioters violently storming the Capitol. Instead, he said, he might have been scared if the participants were Black Lives Matter or Antifa supporters — a comment with strong racial overtones.

“Even though those thousands of people that were marching to the Capitol were trying to pressure people like me to vote the way they wanted me to vote, I knew those were people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, and so I wasn't concerned,” Johnson (R-Wis.) said in an interview on conservative radio host Joe Pag’s show Thursday.

"Now, had the tables been turned — Joe, this could get me in trouble — had the tables been turned, and President Trump won the election and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and Antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned," Johnson said.

In the past, Republicans have sought to equate the largely white crowd of insurrectionists with multiracial crowds protesting police brutality against Black Americans over the summer.

New evidence from federal prosecutors shows there was a contingent of white supremacists among the rioters during the Jan. 6 insurrection, as well as extremist militia and paramilitary groups. The insurrection left several people dead and hundreds of people have been charged in connection to the events of Jan. 6.

Johnson's comments sparked outrage from Democratic lawmakers.

Rep. Mark Pocan, who is from Johnson's state of Wisconsin, laid into Johnson in a tweet Saturday morning, saying the comments were "seriously embarrassing to our state."

"We’ve moved from just plain old fringe, extremist rants to fringe extremist and racist rants," Pocan said.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) called Johnson's comments "stunning" on MSNBC Saturday morning, saying that the violent mob showed that "white supremacy is a threat to every American life and to our democracy."

"Damning commentary, but certainly not surprising," Pressley said.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) questioned Johnson's apparent lack of fear in a tweet Friday.

"I reviewed many of the videos and statements we submitted during the Impeachment trial. The mob murdered a police officer and injured 140 other officers," Lieu wrote. "They would have hurt you if they got their hands on you. That’s why Senators hid that day. Remember?"

Johnson’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In the interview, Johnson also falsely claimed the armed insurrection was not an armed insurrection.

Law enforcement authorities have said they found guns and bombs on rioters. Rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” erected a noose, carried zip ties and among other things, some are facing weapons charges related to the insurrection, including assault on a police officer with a dangerous weapon.

Johnson also has pushed the conspiracy theory that outside provocateurs were part of the riots, a claim Trump backers have often made.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that there is "no evidence" Antifa had any role in the insurrection.

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Party leaders rip Republicans who voted to convict Trump

The seven Republican senators who voted to convict former President Donald Trump of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection are already feeling the heat back home.

Several state Republican parties moved quickly to discipline or criticize home-state senators for breaking with the 43 other Senate Republicans who voted to acquit Trump in his second impeachment trial.

The Louisiana GOP immediately censured Sen. Bill Cassidy, while state party officials in North Carolina and Pennsylvania issued sharp statements expressing disappointment over the votes cast Saturday by Sens. Richard Burr and Pat Toomey.

The moves are the latest in a series of censures and disciplinary actions doled out to lawmakers deemed to be critical of the former president in the wake of the Capitol riot. Trump, acquitted Saturday of inciting the insurrection, still has broad support among Republican voters and state and local parties have lashed out at elected officials who have been critical of his actions.

In Wyoming, the state party voted to censure Rep. Liz Cheney for her House vote to impeach Trump. The Arizona Republican Party recently censured Republican Gov. Doug Ducey after he opted not to back Trump's bid to subvert the election results. The Arizona party also censured Cindy McCain, GOP Sen. John McCain's widow, and former GOP Sen. Jeff Flake after they backed Joe Biden for president.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) listens during a news conference in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Ben Sasse, one of the seven Senate votes against Trump, is also facing potential censure from the Nebraska GOP central committee for his harsh criticism of the president’s efforts to overturn the election results.

Sasse, who was also censured by the committee in 2016 for being insufficiently supportive of Trump, responded last week by releasing a direct-to-camera video denouncing a brand of politics marked by “the weird worship of one dude.”

Yet it was Cassidy who received the harshest rebuke Saturday.

Four days earlier, the state party described itself as “profoundly disappointed” when Cassidy joined five other Republicans to vote that the Senate trial was constitutional. Cassidy defended that vote, arguing Trump's defense team did a "terrible job."

The Louisiana GOP's executive committee said Saturday in a statement that it voted unanimously to censure Cassidy for his vote to convict.

"We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the vote today by Sen. Cassidy to convict former President Trump," the party added in a tweet. "Fortunately, clearer heads prevailed and President Trump has been acquitted of the impeachment charge filed against him."

Cassidy defended his vote in a two-sentence statement.

"Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty,” the senator wrote.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., listens during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing.

The chair of the North Carolina Republican Party called Burr's vote to convict Trump "shocking and disappointing." Burr, who is not running for reelection in 2022, was the only one of the seven GOP senators who voted to convict Trump who voted earlier in the week that the trial was unconstitutional.

"North Carolina Republicans sent Senator Burr to the United States Senate to uphold the Constitution and his vote today to convict in a trial that he declared unconstitutional is shocking and disappointing," Michael Whatley wrote in a one-sentence statement.

Burr said he still thinks the trial was unconstitutional, but since the Senate voted the trial was constitutional, he respected that vote as "established precedent."

"As I said on January 6th, the President bears responsibility for these tragic events," Burr said in a statement Saturday explaining his decision. "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."

Lawrence Tabas, Pennsylvania GOP chair, was also critical of Toomey's vote.

“I share the disappointment of many of our grassroots leaders and volunteers over Senator Toomey’s vote today," Tabas wrote in a statement. Tabas called the trial an "unconstitutional theft of time and energy that did absolutely nothing to unify or help the American people.”

Toomey, who is not running for reelection in 2022, explained his decision in a lengthy Twitter thread, saying that he voted for Trump for president in November because of his administration's "many accomplishments" but that Trump betrayed the Constitution and his oath of office.

"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," Toomey wrote. "Unfortunately, his behavior after the election betrayed the confidence millions of us placed in him."

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‘Practically and morally responsible’: McConnell scorches Trump — but votes to acquit

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday delivered a searing address from the Senate floor condemning Donald Trump as “practically and morally responsible” for the Capitol insurrection — moments after voting to acquit the former president of inciting it.

The Kentucky Republican maintained he would have "carefully considered" convicting Trump had he been in office, but that he believes Trump could not be convicted as a former president.

“There's no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” McConnell said. “The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things."

He then stated: “We have no power to convict and disqualify a former office holder who is now a private citizen.”

"By the strict criminal standard, the president's speech probably was not incitement. However — however — in the context of impeachment, the Senate might have decided this was acceptable shorthand for the reckless actions that preceded the riot,” McConnell said. “But in this case the question is moot because former president Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction.”

McConnell’s words come as the Republican Party is facing a reckoning about its future in the post-Trump era. Some have embraced Trump, while others have shied away from him, including seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict the former president Saturday, joining every Senate Democrat.

McConnell opted not to hold the trial while Trump was still in office because he believed it wouldn’t provide enough time for due process. But ahead of the House's vote to impeach Trump, McConnell said he was open to convicting him.

In his speech Saturday, McConnell slammed Trump for pushing conspiracy theories, saying he was “determined to either overturn the voters' decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”

McConnell also took aim at Trump’s defense team and some Republicans who claim that convicting Trump would “disenfranchise” those who voted for him.

“Anyone who decries his awful behavior is accused of insulting millions of voters. That's an absurd deflection,” McConnell said. “Seventy-four million Americans did not invade the Capitol. Hundreds of rioters did. Seventy-four million Americans did not engineer the campaign of disinformation and rage that provoked it. One person did. Just one.”

McConnell argued Trump was the only one who could have stopped the insurrection — and that he didn’t act “swiftly” enough.

“Instead, according to public reports, he watched television happily — happily — as the chaos unfolded. He kept pressing his scheme to overturn the election. Even after it was clear to any reasonable observer that Vice President Pence was in serious danger, even as the mob carrying Trump banners was beating cops and breaching perimeters, the president sent a further tweet attacking his own vice president.”

McConnell has repeatedly distanced himself from Trump and his actions, but on Saturday the minority leader staunchly backed the Trump legal team’s argument that the trial itself was not constitutional. McConnell said that impeachment and conviction is a “narrow tool for a narrow purpose.”

That purpose does not include former presidents, he argued, saying that by the House impeachment manager’s arguments, “any private citizen” could be barred from office.

“There's no limiting principle in the Constitutional text that would empower the Senate to convict former officers that would not also let them convict and disqualify any private citizen,” McConnell said.

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‘Blame you’: Johnson and Romney get heated after vote for impeachment witnesses

Republican Sens. Ron Johnson and Mitt Romney had a heated exchange on the Senate floor Saturday after Romney voted to allow witnesses in former president Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

A "visibly upset" Johnson (R-Wis.) turned to Romney (R-Utah) and the two went “back and forth” with Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) between them, according to pool reports.

“Blame you,” Johnson told Romney. Voices were “definitely raised,” according to the report, with Johnson pointing at Romney at one stage.

Asked about the confrontation by reporters, Johnson declined to get into it, saying “those are private conversations.” A reporter then noted that reporters heard it.

"That's grotesque you guys are recording," Johnson said, to which a reporter noted they were allowed to witness the proceedings.

Johnson, a Trump ally, told reporters that the vote will merely “inflame the situation.”

“We never should have this impeachment trial. It's not healing, it's not unifying, it's like opening up a wound and just rubbing salt in it,” Johnson said. “I thought we were going come to a conclusion here today and [then] let’s rip the wound back open, let's rub more salt in it.”

Spokespeople for Romney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Romney was the only Republican to vote to convict former Trump in his first impeachment trial, and has voted that Trump's second Senate trial is constitutional.

Johnson and Romney weren’t alone in clashing as tensions escalated among congressional Republicans.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who recently issued a statement detailing a call between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the Jan. 6 insurrection, drew the ire of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

“The gift that keeps on giving to the Democrats,” Greene wrote. “First voting to impeach innocent President Trump, then yapping to the press and throwing [McCarthy] under the bus, and now a tool as a witness for the Democrats running the circus trial.”

“The Trump loyal 75 million are watching,” she added.

On Saturday, House impeachment manager and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) called to subpoena Herrera Beutler.

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‘Philly-delphia’: Trump attorney’s calls for depositions in home city draws laughter

The Senate broke out in laughter Saturday after Trump defense attorney Michael van der Veen called for in-person depositions of witnesses in "Philly-delphia."

House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) called Saturday to subpoena Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) via Zoom after she issued a statement detailing her claims that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had a fiery phone call with former President Donald Trump as the violent insurrection was underway at the Capitol Jan. 6.

Herrera Beutler said Trump rebuffed McCarthy's calls to put an end to the violence. McCarthy pushed back, and Trump responded, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are," Herrera Beutler said.

In response to Raskin's call to testify, van der Veen called for the trial to end Saturday without witnesses. But if there will be witnesses, he said he will need "over 100 depositions," including of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris.

"None of these depositions should be done by Zoom. We didn't do this hearing by Zoom. These depositions should be done in person, in my office, in Philly-delphia," van der Veen said, to laughter in the chamber.

"I don't know why you're laughing," van der Veen said.

"It is civil process. That is the way lawyers do it," van der Veen said. "We send notices of deposition."

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Senate president pro tempore who is presiding over the trial, called for order in the chamber.

"I haven't laughed at any of you, and there's nothing laughable here," van der Veen said.

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Group of Dem senators calls for McCarthy, Tuberville to be deposed

Three Democratic senators are calling for Donald Trump’s impeachment trial to be suspended to allow witnesses to be called, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville.

The calls from Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeff Merkley and Ed Markey come amid newfound attention on a story Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has been telling: that McCarthy had a heated phone call with the former president while the violent insurrection was underway at the Capitol Jan. 6.

If witnesses aren’t called, the trial will head to closing arguments Saturday.

McCarthy told Trump to call off the rioters, to which Trump falsely said he couldn’t because they were really left-wing extremists, Herrera Beutler says. McCarthy pushed back, and Trump responded "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are," Herrera Beutler says. Herrera Beutler, of Washington, was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump.

Tuberville, of Alabama, told POLITICO Wednesday that he spoke to Trump while the rioters got close to the Senate floor, and told him Vice President Mike Pence had been evacuated.

Both of these claims would bolster House impeachment managers’ arguments that Trump ignored calls to stop the violence.

“Looks like Trump’s BS-artist attorneys may have crossed the line from BS to something much more serious,” Whitehouse wrote in a tweet late Friday night. He pointed to an Atlantic article noting that Trump’s attorneys didn’t directly answer when asked Friday when Trump knew Pence was in danger.

“Trump’s lawyers are likely under ethics obligation to clean this up: duty of candor to a tribunal. You don’t get as counsel to make misrepresentations; if you do, you have an affirmative duty to clean it up. Tomorrow just got a lot more interesting,” wrote Whitehouse, of Rhode Island.

Whitehouse then called for the trial to be suspended to depose McCarthy and Tuberville in order to learn more about the situation, as well as calling on the Secret Service to provide details on communications to the White House about Pence’s safety.

“What did Trump know, and when did he know it?” Whitehouse wrote.

“Senator Whitehouse nailed it,” Merkley, of Oregon, said on Twitter Saturday morning in response to Whitehouse’s calls for witnesses.

Fellow Democrat Sen. Ed Markey, of Massachusetts, agreed with Whitehouse’s call for witnesses Saturday morning.

“The House Managers should ask for witnesses to be called, including anyone who communicated with Donald Trump or have direct knowledge of his actions and state of mind while he was in the White House after the Capitol was breached and while the attempted coup was ongoing,” Markey wrote in a tweet.

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Trump impeachment defense team shows 9-plus minute compilation of Dems using word ‘fight’

Former President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team played more than nine minutes of footage on Friday showing Democrats using the word “fight," attempting to rebut House impeachment managers’ charge that Trump incited the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

The lengthy compilation of Democrats using the word — which contained many clips with little or no context at all — came after Trump attorney David Schoen accused impeachment managers of selectively editing Trump’s words. Some of the Democrats shown were senators serving as jurors at the impeachment trial, including New York's Chuck Schumer, New Jersey's Cory Booker, Massachusetts's Elizabeth Warren, Georgia's Raphael Warnock and New York's Kirsten Gillibrand, among others.

House impeachment managers have pointed to Trump’s own words before the Jan. 6 insurrection, when he said supporters would lose the country if they didn't “fight like hell.” Democrats have also argued Trump’s speech was the culmination of a monthslong effort to subvert the election results.

“Every single one of you and every one of you, that's okay,” Schoen said, speaking to Democrats. “You didn't do anything wrong. It's a word people use. But please stop the hypocrisy.”

The “fight” compilation followed several minutes after a reel of clips of Democrats calling for Trump to be impeached, dating back several years, and Democrats using fiery political language.

Trump’s legal team drew criticism from many Republicans and from Trump himself after a meandering performance on Tuesday. On Friday, the defense team drifted into relitigating controversies like Trump’s remark that there were "very fine people on both sides" of a 2017 deadly clash at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correctly reflect which state Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) represents.
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Romney, Murkowski ready questions for Senate impeachment trial teams

Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski both said Friday that they have already submitted questions for the dueling impeachment legal teams at the Senate trial of former President Donald Trump.

Neither lawmaker elaborated on what their questions were or to whom they will be directed. Romney (R-Utah) told reporters that he has submitted a list of five questions and that "we'll give you a copy of those." Romney also added that he didn't coordinate with "anybody else" on the questions. Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she has "several" questions she is going to ask but didn't elaborate.

Senate impeachment trial procedure allows senators to ask questions of both House impeachment managers and the president's defense team after both sides present their case. Trump's impeachment defense team is expected to finish its case Friday, Trump’s senior adviser Jason Miller said Thursday, and the trial could end as soon as this weekend.

Both Romney and Murkowski are among the six Republicans who voted earlier this week in favor of a measure declaring an impeachment trial of a former president constitutional. Romney was the only Republican to vote last year to convict Trump on an article of impeachment in the president's previous Senate trial.

The Utah senator also declined to say what he wanted to see from Trump's defense team, which began presenting its case Friday.

"I'm gonna wait and hear....what the former president's council provides in their defense," Romney told reporters. "I'm not going to give them advice as to what they think is best for us to see."

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Trump impeachment attorney says his colleague has been ‘unfairly maligned’

Trump impeachment attorney David Schoen said Thursday that his fellow impeachment attorney Bruce Castor has been "unfairly maligned" over his performance in the Senate trial thus far.

In an interview on Fox News Thursday afternoon, Schoen defended Castor’s work on former president Donald Trump’s legal defense team after Castor received widespread criticism for a winding performance Tuesday in arguing the Senate trial was unconstitutional. Schoen previously told Fox News that Castor hadn't planned on beginning his arguments Tuesday.

“Listen, Mr. Castor got up the first day, he jumped right into it to respond to something that had been said. And I think he's been very unfairly maligned, frankly. He's a lawyer with a long 35 years of experience or so," Schoen said. "Let's just see how this thing plays out."

Castor's speech Tuesday was meandering at times, touching on things like ancient Greek democracy and undercutting Trump’s false claims that he won the election, saying “smart” voters took him out of office. Trump himself was not happy with the team’s performance.

Trump's former impeachment attorney Alan Dershowitz said on Newsmax Tuesday that he had "no idea what [Castor] is doing" after the right-wing network cut away from his remarks.

“The American people are entitled to an argument … but this, just, after all kinds of very strong presentations on the part of the House managers … it does not appear to me to be effective advocacy,” Dershowitz said.

Former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a longtime Trump ally, called Castor’s work “unthinkable” after Castor said the team changed its strategy because they thought House impeachment managers had done a good job.

“That’s a prosecutor’s dream come true, for a defense lawyer to stand up during opening and say, ‘Wow, wasn’t that something? Boy, that was so powerful, we changed strategy,'" Christie said.

Trump’s legal team will wrap up its case Friday, Trump’s senior adviser Jason Miller wrote in a tweet Thursday, meaning the team will use less than two days to defend him. Schoen told Fox News on Thursday that Trump's team will not change its legal strategy on Friday.

“There’s no reason for us to be out there a long time,” Schoen said. “It should be as short as possible given the complete lack of evidence and the harm that this is causing to the American people.”

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