Politics

Republicans who voted to convict Trump in impeachment trial face backlash

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Key Points
  • The seven Republicans who sided with Democrats by voting to convict former President Donald Trump have been rebuked in their states and criticized by other factions within the party.
  • The rift over Trump comes as the GOP hopes to win back the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., speaks during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee nomination hearing for Michael Stanley Regan to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in Washington, DC, February 3, 2021.
Caroline Brehman | Pool | Reuters

Backlash has been swift and unrelenting for the few Republicans in Congress who voted alongside Democrats in Donald Trump's second impeachment trial.

Some of the seven senators who voted to convict Trump on the charge of inciting the deadly Capitol riot are facing censure and criticism from within the party. One Republican who voted to impeach Trump in the House was reportedly even denounced by members of his own family.

"Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God!" read a letter to Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., signed by multiple family members who support Trump, The New York Times reported Monday.

"It is now most embarrassing to us that we are related to you. You have embarrassed the Kinzinger family name!" read the letter dated Jan. 8, five days before he voted to impeach Trump.

The rift between Republicans who have vocally condemned Trump over the Jan. 6 invasion and those who want to keep him as a party leader comes as the GOP hopes to win back the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. Trump, who maintains high approval among Republicans, has strongly indicated he plans to remain active in politics.

After Trump's acquittal in the Senate on Saturday, several of the Republicans who sided with Democrats in the Senate trial have been rebuked in their states.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., was unanimously censured by the Central Committee of the North Carolina Republican Party following his vote to convict. The party said it "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."

Burr's move came as a surprise to many after he previously voted against proceeding with the trial on constitutional grounds that Trump had already left office.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has been censured by some county-level Republican parties for his vote to convict. "His betrayal of the Constitution and his oath of office required conviction," Toomey tweeted after the vote.

"We did not send him there to vote his conscience" or to "'do the right thing' or whatever he said he was doing," Washington County Republican Chairman Dave Ball told a local CBS affiliate. "We sent him there to represent us."

Neither Burr nor Toomey are seeking reelection in 2022. Only one GOP senator who voted for conviction, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, faces voters in the next election cycle.

"This was consequential on many levels, but I cannot allow the significance of my vote to be devalued by whether or not I feel that this is helpful for my political ambitions," Murkowski told Politico after the vote.

Maine's Republican Party could censure Sen. Susan Collins over her vote to convict, the Bangor Daily News reported Monday.

Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana broke ranks with Republicans twice — first by voting that the Senate had jurisdiction to try a former president, and then by voting to convict. "I have no illusions that this is a popular decision," Cassidy tweeted Monday.

His state's Republican Party censured him hours after the final vote.

Republican Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Mitt Romney of Utah also voted to convict.

"Obviously there is a move at county and state levels across the country to have the Republican Party focus even more on the personality of Donald Trump, but I don't think that's healthy," Sasse told NPR on Tuesday morning after some Nebraska Republicans moved to censure him.

Even senators who voted for acquittal have been criticized by other Republicans after accusing Trump of wrongdoing.

Minutes after voting "not guilty" in the trial, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Trump "is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., an ally of the former president, called McConnell's speech "an outlier regarding how Republicans feel about all this."

Other Republican leaders are divided on Trump's role in the party following his election loss to President Joe Biden and the Capitol invasion.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., met with Trump in Florida in late January. Weeks earlier, McCarthy said on the House floor that Trump bore responsibility for the Jan. 6 riot.

But after the private meeting in Palm Beach, McCarthy issued a statement that said: "Today, President Trump committed to helping elect Republicans in the House and Senate in 2022."

"A united conservative movement will strengthen the bonds of our citizens and uphold the freedoms our country was founded on," McCarthy added.

Even among the House Republican leadership, however, Trump has divided his party. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, was censured by her state's GOP earlier this month after she voted to impeach Trump.