Don’t be fooled; Trump remains a force in GOP


Steve Peoples - Associated Press



FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 file photo, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., stand with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., as Trump speaks while departing after a Senate Republican Policy luncheon, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican Party still belongs to Donald Trump. The GOP privately flirted with purging the norm-shattering former president after he incited a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol last month. But in the end, only seven of 50 Senate Republicans voted to convict Trump in his historic second impeachment trial on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 file photo, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., stand with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., as Trump speaks while departing after a Senate Republican Policy luncheon, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican Party still belongs to Donald Trump. The GOP privately flirted with purging the norm-shattering former president after he incited a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol last month. But in the end, only seven of 50 Senate Republicans voted to convict Trump in his historic second impeachment trial on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the chamber after the Senate voted not guilty in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on the charge of inciting the January 6 attack on the Congress by a mob of his supporters, at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the chamber after the Senate voted not guilty in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on the charge of inciting the January 6 attack on the Congress by a mob of his supporters, at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)


The Republican Party still belongs to Donald Trump.

After he incited a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol last month, the GOP considered purging the norm-shattering former president. But in the end, only seven of 50 Senate Republicans voted to convict Trump in his historic second impeachment trial on Saturday.

For Trump’s loyalists, the acquittal offers a vindication of sorts and a fresh connection to the former president’s fiery base. And for Trump’s GOP antagonists, it marks another alarming sign that the party is lurching further in a dangerous direction with little desire to reconnect with the moderates, women and college-educated voters Trump alienated.

Ultimately, the resolution of the impeachment trial brings into clear relief a divide in the GOP that party leaders, donors and voters will have to navigate as they try to regain control of Congress next year and aim to retake the White House in 2024.

That tension was on display in the immediate aftermath of the vote. After supporting Trump’s acquittal, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., delivered a speech that echoed some of the very points Democratic impeachment managers emphasized in seeking Trump’s conviction.

The former president, McConnell said, was “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events” that led to the insurrection. But he argued that there were no constitutional grounds for the Senate to convict Trump now that he’s out of office, a procedural point embraced by many in the GOP.

The history books will show that 10 members of the president’s party in the House and another seven in the Senate ultimately believed that Trump’s behavior was egregious enough to warrant conviction — and even a lifetime ban on holding future office. Never before have so many members of a president’s party voted for his removal.

But by most objective measures, Trump’s grasp on the GOP and its future remains airtight.

Gallup reported last month that Trump’s approval among self-described Republicans stood at 82%. And more recently, Monmouth University found that 72% of Republicans continue to believe Trump’s false claims that President Joe Biden won the November election only because of widespread voter fraud.

Lest their be any doubt about Trump’s strength, House Republicans voted overwhelmingly last week to defend a diehard Trump loyalist, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., even after evidence surfaced that she had repeatedly embraced violence, bigotry and conspiracy theories on social media.

Just days after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called Trump responsible for the violent attack, McCarthy reversed himself and made a personal visit to Trump’s Florida estate to ensure there was no lingering animosity.

In Trump’s Republican Party, there are very few willing to cross him if they harbor future political ambitions.

One of them, 2024 prospect Nikki Haley, who was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, drew attention after telling Politico that Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack essentially disqualified him from running for office again.

“He’s fallen so far,” Haley said. “He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.”

Sarah Longwell, a Republican strategist who leads the anti-Trump group known as Defending Democracy Together, said that “what the last two months have shown is if Donald Trump was a cancer on the country and the party, he’s metastasized.”

“I thought we could push past him,” she said. “But now I don’t think that.”

Still, the Republican Party faces tremendous political risks should its leaders continue to embrace Trump and his brand of norm-shattering politics.

Already, scores of Republican-friendly businesses have vowed to stop giving money to Trump’s allies in Congress, cutting off a critical revenue stream just as Republicans hope to reclaim the House and Senate majorities in next year’s midterm elections.

But Trump himself is not going away. Immediately after his acquittal, he issued a written statement promising to reemerge “soon.”

“Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun,” Trump said. “In the months ahead I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people.”

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 file photo, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., stand with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., as Trump speaks while departing after a Senate Republican Policy luncheon, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican Party still belongs to Donald Trump. The GOP privately flirted with purging the norm-shattering former president after he incited a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol last month. But in the end, only seven of 50 Senate Republicans voted to convict Trump in his historic second impeachment trial on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/02/web1_126242074-6116e03690dd4b53a93d6e2b3dfc7239.jpgFILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 file photo, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., stand with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., as Trump speaks while departing after a Senate Republican Policy luncheon, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican Party still belongs to Donald Trump. The GOP privately flirted with purging the norm-shattering former president after he incited a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol last month. But in the end, only seven of 50 Senate Republicans voted to convict Trump in his historic second impeachment trial on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the chamber after the Senate voted not guilty in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on the charge of inciting the January 6 attack on the Congress by a mob of his supporters, at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/02/web1_126242074-4cc8f27fc0334b39a230321c35412005.jpgSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the chamber after the Senate voted not guilty in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on the charge of inciting the January 6 attack on the Congress by a mob of his supporters, at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Steve Peoples

Associated Press

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