Republicans straddle line on RNC’s Jan. 6 rhetoric

Sen. Marco Rubio on Sunday said those who committed crimes on Jan. 6 should be “prosecuted” but slammed the House committee’s investigation as “a partisan scam” — an attempt from the Florida Republican to walk the tightrope as the GOP remains divided on how to speak about the Capitol attack.

Last week, Republicans were asked to pick a side not once, but twice. From the Republican National Committee voting to censure Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) for their participation on the committee investigating Jan. 6 to former Vice President Mike Pence rebuking the former president in a speech, journalists have asked members of the party to weigh in.

Rubio, when asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” if former President Donald Trump was wrong to say his vice president could have overturned the election results, Rubio spun it forward.

“I just don’t think a vice president has that power because if the vice president has that power, Donald Trump would defeat Joe Biden in four years or two years, and then Kamala Harris can decide ... to overturn the election. I don’t want to wind up there,” Rubio said.

Then when asked by host Margaret Brennan if the RNC speaks for him when it said the House committee’s “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse,” Rubio again walked the line, saying anyone who entered the Capitol and committed acts of violence should be prosecuted.

“But the Jan. 6 commission is not the place to do this. That’s what prosecutors are supposed to do,” he said. “This commission is a partisan scam. The purpose of that commission is to try to embarrass and smear and harass as many Republicans as they can get their hands on.”

Rubio wasn’t the only one to dance around questions about Pence and the RNC on Sunday.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said he voted to certify the election and praised both Pence and Trump, adding that he hopes “they can work out their differences.” When asked about the RNC censure of Cheney on “Fox News Sunday,” he noted that she’s already been censured in their state and that he disagrees with her on a number of issues from the select committee to the impeachment of the former president.

“Liz is going to have to travel the state and make her case to the voters of Wyoming if she intends to get reelected,” Barrasso said.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) — who has defended Cheney before — spoke along similar lines as Rubio, when asked if he stands by the RNC’s statement and actions. On ABC’s “This Week,” he said he condemns violence and believes criminal actors should be prosecuted but said the problem with the committee is that many Republicans see it as a means for “weaponizing” Jan. 6.

He brushed off the repeated questioning about the RNC’s statement by pitching party unity.

“And, you know, why are we talking about this resolution?” McCaul said. “Why aren’t Republicans talking about the failures of the Biden administration? In Afghanistan, you know, with this Ukraine/Russia thing, with China, you know, all over the world, the border’s wide open.”

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GOP Sen. Burr censured by North Carolina GOP after Trump conviction vote

The North Carolina Republican Party's central committee voted Monday night to censure Sen. Richard Burr for his vote to convict Donald Trump after the former president's impeachment trial, adding to the growing list of Republican members of Congress facing consequences for moves against Trump.

"The NCGOP agrees with the strong majority of Republicans in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate that the Democrat-led attempt to impeach a former President lies outside the United States Constitution," the committee wrote in a statement after its unanimous vote.

In a statement, Burr said it was 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," Burr said.

Burr, who has already announced he will not seek reelection in 2022, is among seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump on Saturday, and the state GOP condemned him for the move before its censure decision. North Carolina’s GOP Chair Michael Whatley said his vote “in a trial that he declared unconstitutional is shocking and disappointing.”

“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 Crimes and Misdemeanors,” Burr said on Saturday. “Therefore, I have voted to convict.”

The Senate on Saturday acquitted Trump of incitement of insurrection following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol on a 57-43 vote, falling 10 votes short of the threshold required for conviction. All 50 Democratic senators supported conviction.

But on Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the "biggest winner" of Trump's impeachment trial was the former president's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump.

"My dear friend Richard Burr, who I like and have been friends to a long time, just made Lara Trump almost the certain nominee for the Senate seat in North Carolina to replace him if she runs," Graham said on Fox News. "And I certainly will be behind her because she represents the future of the Republican Party."

House impeachment managers led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., walk out of the Senate Chamber in the Capitol at the end of the fifth day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in Washington. The Senate has acquitted Donald Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, bringing his trial to a close and giving the former president a historic second victory in the court of impeachment. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) also faced backlash for his vote Saturday, with his state's GOP voting the same day to censure the senator for his decision. Cassidy continued to defend his vote on Monday, writing in a Baton Rouge newspaper that he "voted to convict former President Trump because he is guilty. That’s what the facts demand."

"I have no illusions that this is a popular decision. I made this decision because Americans should not be fed lies about 'massive election fraud.' Police should not be left to the mercy of a mob. Mobs should not be inflamed to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power," the Louisiana senator wrote.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) also could face consequences from his state GOP for his Saturday vote to convict Trump. Pennsylvania Republican Party Chair Lawrence Tabas said in an email to state committee members on Saturday, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, that he would call a meeting soon “to address issues and consider action related to the impeachment vote.”

Cassidy, Burr and Toomey are just a few of the Republican lawmakers being rebuked by their state parties for their votes in Trump’s second impeachment trial. Earlier this month, Sen. Ben Sasse faced a censure effort by Nebraska’s Republican Party, and Maine Republicans are slated to discuss Sen. Susan Collins' conviction vote this week. Multiple House Republicans have also faced reprisal for their votes — including No. 3 House Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.

Meanwhile, amid some Utah Republican criticism of Sen. Mitt Romney, the state party credited both his vote to convict Trump, and Sen. Mike Lee, who voted to acquit Trump. In a statement released Monday and circulated on social media, the state GOP said: "The differences between our own Utah Republicans showcase a diversity of thought, in contrast to the danger of a party fixated on 'unanimity of thought.'"

Holly Otterbein contributed to this report.

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Rep. Kinzinger: They claim ‘I’m possessed by the devil’

Rep. Adam Kinzinger on Sunday offered a glimpse of what it’s like being one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump: Friends and family turned against him, and he was told he’s “possessed by the devil.”

“Look it’s really difficult. I mean, all of a sudden imagine everybody that supported you, or so it seems that way, your friends, your family, has turned against you. They think you're selling out,” the Illinois congressman said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I've gotten a letter, a certified letter, twice from the same people, disowning me and claiming I'm possessed by the devil.”

In the days after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, it appeared Republican leaders had decided to take a stand against Trump, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying Trump bore “responsibility” and that he must accept blame for the riot.

But GOP members have begun heading back to the former president. On Thursday, McCarthy met with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, in a meeting that was later described as “very good and cordial.” The readout was released with a photo of the two men smiling.

“I was disappointed over the last few weeks to see what seemed like the Republican Party waking up and then kind of falling asleep again and saying, ‘Well, you know, what matters if we can win in two years and we don't want to tick off the base,’” Kinzinger said.

“The photo," he added, "shows that the former president is desperate to continue looking like he’s leading the party.”

Kinzinger has launched a website,, as an effort to refocus the Republican Party’s “conservative principles.”

“I think the Republican Party has lost its moral authority in a lot of areas,” he said. “How many people think that conservative principles are things like build the wall, and you know, charge the Capitol and have an insurrection? That’s what Country1st ... is all about — is just going back and saying, ‘Here’s what conservative principles are.'"

The Illinois Republican Party is expected to censure Kinzinger for his vote to impeach the president — what he referred to as “GOP cancel culture.” The same has happened for others like GOP Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina after his vote to impeach. And last week, Rep. Matt Gaetz, (R-Fla.) went to Wyoming to rally against GOP. Rep. Liz Cheney for her moves against Trump.

“If you look at Matt Gaetz going to Wyoming because, what, a tough woman has an independent view and he doesn't want to have to go out and explain why he didn't vote for impeachment, that's totally GOP cancel culture," Kinzinger said. "What we're standing for, and I think what, frankly, a significant part of the base wants, is to say, ‘Look, we can have a diversity of opinion.’”

Outside of the intraparty chaos surrounding the former president’s impeachment, Republicans are also butting heads over the behavior of one of their own.

House Republicans are trying to distance themselves from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) after hours of Facebook videos surfaced in which she expresses racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views.

Kinzinger said the people have the right to choose their representatives, and that he isn’t sure he supports evicting the congresswoman. But he said he would vote her off committees to “take a stand.”

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Bill Cassidy says Trump defense should focus on impeachment charge

Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy said on Sunday that former President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense should focus on whether he contributed to an atmosphere that launched the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“I have said already, as I did a year ago, that I will wait to judge based upon the evidence presented,” Cassidy said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“The evidence, as I understand," Cassidy said, "is going to focus on whether or not the president contributed to an atmosphere to have people charge the Capitol, break in, threatening, if you will, both members of Congress and Vice President Pence. That's the charge. So, I would hope that whatever defense is put up refutes that charge.”

Cassidy’s suggestion that the defense should focus on the charge against the president follows reports that members of Trump’s legal team resigned just days before the trial following a disagreement over how the defense should be constructed. Trump reportedly wanted his team to continue spewing his false claims that the Nov. 3 presidential election was stolen.

Cassidy said he has “no clue” what the scattered legal team means for the set trial date of Feb. 9 in the Senate. He has been in the camp of Republicans who felt the president had inadequate time to form a rebuttal after the House impeached him. But the senator said Sunday he was not sure if the latest developments warrant a delay.

“I always thought the president had insufficient time to come up with a rebuttal and this makes it perhaps even more insufficient,” Cassidy said. “But in a sense it might be the president, I don't know that for sure, who has contributed to this, so I think this needs to be worked out.”

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