Connect with us

Politics

Republicans acquitted Trump again, but this time is different

Published

on

Analysis by Maeve Reston, CNN
Updated 9:32 PM ET, Sun February 14, 2021

(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump’s second acquittal by the US Senate proved the enduring power he holds over the Republican Party, with the results Saturday setting the dangerous precedent that even an autocratic leader who violates his oath of office can escape punishment if he bullies enough senators into standing by him.

His win came after a feeble defense by his lawyers that amounted to little more than gaslighting and a presentation of falsehoods. And it showed the fundamental power imbalance that is part of Trump’s legacy in Washington. For four years, he abused the office of the presidency without impunity and made the founders’ insistence on co-equal branches of government look like a farce.
But Trump will also go down in history as a disgraced figure who escaped conviction on a technicality after a trial that undeniably proved that he endangered his own vice president, lawmakers in both parties, and scores of police officers as he sought to overturn the election results.
Seven Republicans joined 50 Democrats to convict him — falling short of the 67 guilty votes needed — but that was still six more senators than voted to convict him in 2020. Ten House Republicans voted to impeach him in January, including Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who was prepared to testify against Trump when managers initially said Saturday they’d call for witnesses after CNN on Friday night revealed new details of a heated phone call between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the insurrection.
    Many Republican senators were clearly shaken by the voluminous video evidence presented by Democratic House impeachment managers last week that showed how the former President spooled lies about the November election to his followers for months, then inflamed the anger of a mob to the point where they stormed the Capitol on January 6, violently beating police officers as they claimed to be carrying out Trump’s instructions to stop the certification of the electoral votes.
    And unlike Trump’s first impeachment trial, when he could claim that he’d been vindicated, few GOP senators rushed to defend him on Saturday.
    Clearly still afraid of the electoral consequences they would face if they crossed the former President, many senators who voted for acquittal pinned their votes on the weak procedural argument that they lacked authority to convict under the Constitution since Trump has already left office. (The vast majority of constitutional scholars disagreed with that premise and the Senate had already voted earlier in the week that the trial was constitutional).
    Trump played the victim, as usual, in his statement after the vote, claiming the impeachment trial was “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country” and that “no president has ever gone through anything like it.”
    Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, a potential presidential contender who hasn’t been afraid to call out the former President, said Sunday he was proud of the Republicans who voted against Trump and said he would have done the same.
    “It’s not easy to go against your party and the base of your party and the former President … it’s hard to do the right thing sometimes,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
    “I think the final chapter of Donald Trump and where the Republican Party goes hasn’t been written yet, and I think we’re going to have a real battle for the soul of the Republican Party over the next couple of years,” Hogan said.
    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — clearly looking to somehow wrest his party from Trump’s control despite the fact that polls show Trump still enjoys the support of a majority of Republicans — essentially affirmed the House impeachment managers’ case Saturday in a remarkable speech that was panned by Democrats as the epitome of hypocrisy given that the Kentucky Republican had just voted to acquit Trump.
    Signaling the tonal shift occurring in some corners of the Republican Party, McConnell said Trump could face criminal prosecution for the events surrounding January 6 and stated that he was “practically and morally responsible” for provoking the violence. (He claimed the Senate was “not invited to act as the nation’s overarching moral tribunal.”)
    Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, told CNN’s Ted Barrett that he voted to acquit Trump because it was a “jurisdictional issue” and called it “an uncomfortable vote.”
    “I don’t think there was a good outcome for anybody,” the South Dakota Republican said.
    McConnell hasn’t been out leading the charge against Trump’s election lies. He waited until mid-December to recognize Joe Biden as President. But on Saturday, he said the events of January 6 were a “foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet earth.”
    Biden cited McConnell’s speech in a statement Saturday night, playing up the bipartisan nature of the vote — adding that while it did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge against Trump “is not in dispute.”
    “Each of us has a duty and responsibility as Americans, and especially as leaders, to defend the truth and to defeat the lies,” Biden said. “That is how we end this uncivil war and heal the very soul of our nation.”
    Nikki Haley, Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations and a potential contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, made a similar argument as McConnell in an interview with Politico Magazine published last week where she said the party needed to acknowledge that Trump let them down.
    “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,” the former South Carolina governor said in that interview.
    In his speech Saturday, McConnell said “it was obvious that only President Trump could end this,” referring to the January 6 violence. But he noted that Trump failed to do so despite entreaties from former aides and allies, including McCarthy, whose expletive-laced phone call with the former President raised new questions about what Trump knew and when.
    “The President did not act swiftly. He did not do his job,” McConnell said. “Even after it was clear to any reasonable observer that Vice President (Mike) 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.”
    Pence, another potential contender for the GOP nomination in 2024, has stayed notably silent since the insurrection — choosing not to openly criticize Trump, but also choosing not to offer Trump political cover as it became clear that the way Trump endangered his vice president on that day was one of the issues that weighed most heavily on GOP senators during the trial.

    Republicans prepare for political consequences

    As Republicans try to sort out what their future looks like now that Trump is no longer in office, the reality is that the former President may still wield tremendous influence in 2022 and 2024, not only because of his grassroots fundraising prowess and cultish following, but because the most conservative, and sometimes the most extreme voters, are often the most reliable in Republican primary contests. His advisers expect him to return to the campaign trail to hold some of the big rallies that he adores, and he has not ruled out a run in 2024.
    Some GOP lawmakers had entertained the notion that Congress could censure Trump, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected that course of action on Saturday as an avenue that would let “cowardly” senators “off the hook.”
    “These cowardly Senators who couldn’t face up to what the President did and what was at stake for our country are now going to have a chance to give (Trump) a slap on the wrist?” Pelosi said when asked about censure during a news conference with impeachment managers after the vote. “We censure people for using stationery for the wrong purpose. We don’t censure people for inciting insurrection that kills people in the Capitol.”
    While Trump may not face any punishment in the halls of Congress, some of the GOP senators who voted to convict him are already facing the blowback back home — as have GOP members of the House who voted to impeach him — particularly at the local levels of the Republican Party where Trump loyalists still reign.
    Sen. Bill Cassidy, who surprised with his vote that the trial was constitutional earlier in the week, was immediately sanctioned by the Louisiana GOP Saturday for his conviction vote. But the GOP senator, who just won reelection in November and won’t face voters for another six years, was blunt in his statement explaining why he favored acquittal: “Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty,” he said.
    The most surprising vote for impeachment came from North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, who long ago announced he was not seeking reelection in 2022. Among the others who voted to convict were Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who isn’t running for reelection either, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
    Of the seven, only Murkowski is up for reelection next year. The GOP senator, who has overcome primary defeats before and doesn’t hesitate to buck GOP leadership, told CNN’s Ryan Nobles Saturday that she understood the potential consequences of voting to convict the former President.
    “It’s not about me and my life, my job,” Murkowski said. “This is really about what we stand for. And if I can’t say what I believe that our president should stand for, then why should I ask Alaskans to?”
    And Sasse, who has been reprimanded repeatedly for criticizing Trump by party officials in his state, unapologetically warned of the costs of allowing Trump to emerge unscathed, calling “tribalism a hell of a drug” as he explained his vote.
    He noted that Trump tried to intimidate the Georgia secretary of state to “find votes” that would shift the state in his favor after the election, and argued that Trump’s lies about the election “had consequences, endangering the life of the vice president and bringing us dangerously close to a bloody constitutional crisis.”
    With the final outcome, Sasse said he was concerned that Congress “is a weaker institution than the Founders intended, and it is likely to shrivel still smaller.”
    “A lot of Republicans talk about restoring Congress’ power from an already over-aggressive executive branch,” Sasse said in his statement.
      “If Congress cannot forcefully respond to an intimidation attack on Article I instigated by the head of Article II, our constitutional balance will be permanently tilted. A weak and timid Congress will increasingly submit to an emboldened and empowered presidency. That’s unacceptable. This institution needs to respect itself enough to tell the executive that some lines cannot be crossed.”
      This story has been updated with comments from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on “State of the Union.”

      Continue Reading
      Advertisement
      Click to comment

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

      Politics

      Biden to take first limited steps on gun control, including on ‘ghost guns’ and pistol braces

      Published

      on

      By Kevin Liptak, CNN
      Updated 10:57 PM ET, Wed April 7, 2021

      (CNN) — President Joe Biden will take his first, limited actions on gun control Thursday, directing his administration to tighten restrictions on so-called ghost guns and pistol stabilizing braces that allow the weapons to be used more accurately, according to a senior administration official.

      The steps — which also include nominating a gun control advocate to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — fulfill a commitment Biden made in the aftermath of two deadly shootings last month to take “common sense” steps right away to address gun violence.
      But they fall short of the sweeping actions Biden promised as a candidate that must be passed by Congress, including a ban on assault weapons or enacting universal background checks. Senior administration officials framed the upcoming announcements as initial steps that would be followed by additional actions later on, including applying pressure on lawmakers to act.
        Biden said last month following a mass shooting in Colorado, “I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future.” But he has acknowledged that passing a massive new infrastructure plan — and not new gun laws — is his top legislative priority.
          Biden will make the announcements Thursday from the White House alongside his attorney general, Merrick Garland, whose Justice Department will be responsible for drafting the proposed rules.
              The announcements will come as the President is expected to nominate David Chipman as the next director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a White House official told CNN. Chipman is a former ATF agent who serves as senior policy adviser at Giffords, the organization led by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who became a gun control advocate after being shot in 2011.
              The ATF has been without a permanent director since 2015.
              Biden also plans to announce new investments in intervention programs in violence-prone communities; a directive to the Justice Department to publish model “red flag” laws for states that allow the temporary removal of guns from people deemed at high risk of harming themselves or others; and a comprehensive report on firearms trafficking.
              Taken together, the actions amount to the first real steps by Biden’s administration to combat gun violence. Inside the White House, efforts to devise executive actions have been led by White House Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice and Office of Public Engagement Director Cedric Richmond, administration officials and gun safety advocacy groups told CNN.
              That included meeting with some of those groups and fielding ideas for steps that Biden could take on his own. Some advocates had been clamoring for steps earlier in the administration, pointing to Biden’s pledge to prioritize gun control during his campaign.
              But initial reaction from gun safety advocacy groups Wednesday evening was positive.
              “Each of these executive actions will start to address the epidemic of gun violence that has raged throughout the pandemic, and begin to make good on President Biden’s promise to be the strongest gun safety president in history,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement.
              “These much-needed executive actions will start saving lives right away, and our grassroots army of nearly 6 million supporters looks forward to standing behind President Biden as he urges the Senate to follow his lead and act,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement.
              While campaigning, Biden had said he would task his attorney general with instituting better enforcement of existing gun laws as a means of slowing gun violence. He also made a campaign pledge to send $900 million for community programs meant to combat violence, something the administration is sorting out how to fulfill.
              Following last month’s shootings, Biden called on Congress to take steps like reenacting an assault weapons ban, with Vice President Kamala Harris, who argued for executive actions on the campaign trail, telling “CBS This Morning” that “if we really want something that is going to be lasting, we need to pass legislation.”
              The Democratic-controlled House passed gun legislation that would expand background checks on all commercial gun sales last month, but the bills face tougher paths in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim 50-50 majority and would need significant Republican support to overcome a legislative filibuster.
              Biden acknowledged during a news conference that his main legislative priority was passing an infrastructure package and that he believed careful timing was key to the success of any proposed bills.
              And he has acknowledged that his political capital is limited.
              “I haven’t done any counting yet,” he said in March when asked whether he believed he had enough votes to pass significant reforms.
              As the nation’s posture on guns has evolved, Biden has been front-and-center at most every stop along the way for more than three decades, from the triumph of a 10-year ban on assault weapons in 1994 to the disappointment of a failed push for universal background checks in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre.
                Recent shootings in Georgia and Colorado had raised the question inside the West Wing over how much political capital Biden should expend on the matter, which has so often ended in frustration.
                This story has been updated with details about Biden’s executive actions and reaction to them.

                Continue Reading

                Politics

                Virginia lawmakers OK marijuana possession starting July 1

                Published

                on

                By Paul LeBlanc and Kay Jones, CNN
                Updated 9:45 PM ET, Wed April 7, 2021

                (CNN) — The Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill legalizing simple possession of marijuana, becoming the latest state to modify its laws around cannabis use and possession that disproportionately jailed Black people for nonviolent offenses.

                The new law, which goes into effect July 1, allows anyone in the state 21 or older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana. The law also “modifies several other criminal penalties related to marijuana, and imposes limits on dissemination of criminal history record information related to certain marijuana offenses,” according to a summary posted to the Legislature’s website.
                “Virginia led and made history once again today,” Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who cast the tie-breaking vote in the state Senate, said in a tweet.
                  “I was proud to cast the tie-breaking vote to legalize marijuana and bring long overdue justice, fairness, equity and opportunity to the people of our great Commonwealth.”
                    The bill had originally passed in late February, but Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam sent it back to the Legislature with a series of revisions, including a proposal to accelerate the timeline of its enactment to this July instead of 2024.
                        Still, the measure was met with fierce opposition from state GOP lawmakers Wednesday, including Del. Chris Head, who called it a “train wreck” during a virtual House floor speech.
                        “If this policy change is to be undertaken, it has to be undertaken prudently, and I understand the enormous pressure on the majority party to make this change right now. I understand that opposing immediate legislation and legalization is going to anger many of your constituents. And I understand that taking the time to do this right might possibly even lead to charges of racism,” he said.
                        “But we have to do this right. And doing it right takes time.”
                        Legalization advocates have long touted the righting of past criminal justice wrongs, eliminating illegal market activity and generating additional tax revenue when they’ve pushed for overhauling state cannabis laws.
                        “At the end of the day, economics talk and jobs talk,” Jessica Billingsley, chief executive officer of Akerna, which makes regulatory compliance software that helps states track cannabis sales from seed to sale, previously told CNN.
                          “I truly believe we’re going to see some very meaningful and important movement coming out of this as states and governors look for a way to bolster their economy.”
                          Cannabis sales in states that have legalized the plant for medical and recreational purposes totaled about $15 billion in 2019, and are expected to top $30 billion by 2024, according to data from BDS Analytics, which tracks dispensary sales.

                          Continue Reading

                          Politics

                          Biden’s planned pick for ATF director a fierce advocate for gun control

                          Published

                          on

                          By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
                          Updated 9:30 PM ET, Wed April 7, 2021

                          Washington (CNN) — David Chipman, President Joe Biden’s planned nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, has a long history at the agency and sports credentials in gun control advocacy sure to excite firearm safety groups.

                          If confirmed, Chipman will lead the agency that enforces gun laws at a critical point in Biden’s early tenure, as the President looks to take fresh action on the issue in the wake of two deadly shootings last month.
                          “I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save lives in the future,” Biden said last month. The President plans to announce new executive actions on guns Thursday, a person familiar with the plans said.

                            Longtime ATF special agent

                              Chipman, if confirmed, would return to the agency where he worked for 25 years as a special agent.
                                He lists “Violent Crime Reduction Strategist,” “Certified Explosives Specialist” and “Interagency Liason Specialist” among his specialties on his Linkedin profile, and Giffords notes his expertise includes ghost guns, the gun industry, law enforcement and assault weapons.
                                In the President’s first, limited actions on gun control Thursday, Biden will direct his administration to tighten restrictions on so-called ghost guns and pistol stabilizing braces that allow the weapons to be used more accurately, according to a senior administration official. Ghost guns are handmade or self-assembled firearms that don’t have serial numbers, and some can be fabricated in as little as 30 minutes using kits and parts purchased online.
                                The ATF has been without a permanent director since 2015.
                                In recent years, the bureau has become most visible in the aftermath of mass shootings around the US and at other crimes involving firearms. But the agency has a broader scope than just guns.
                                According to its website, ATF “protects our communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products.”
                                “We partner with communities, industries, law enforcement, and public safety agencies to safeguard the public we serve through information sharing, training, research, and use of technology,” the bureau’s website states.

                                Gun control advocacy

                                After leaving the ATF in 2012, Chipman became a senior adviser at Everytown for Gun Safety, where he was “consulted frequently” by lawmakers considering gun control legislation, according to his Linkedin.
                                Chipman then served as senior vice president of Public Safety Solutions for almost three years before arriving at Giffords as a senior policy adviser in 2016.
                                It’s in these roles that Chipman’s voice as a fierce advocate for gun control was elevated, as he frequently wrote op-eds and made media appearances to advance the cause.
                                “As a former ATF special agent with more than 24 years of experience at the bureau, I know all too well how serious our gun violence problem is and how desperately the agency lacks for the law enforcement tools that are necessary to help curb this national epidemic,” Chipman wrote in a 2013 Politico op-ed.
                                The country’s gun safety laws, he wrote at the time, “make it all too easy for guns to fall into the wrong hands — and since Congress has failed to address these gaps legislatively, ATF must chart a new course to combat the scourge of gun violence. This requires strong leadership.”
                                More recently, Chipman voiced support for limiting high-capacity magazines in a 2019 interview with PBS NewsHour.
                                “Talking to any gun owner, a 100-round magazine is just not traditional. It’s not normal. And I can’t think of a purpose, beyond killing a lot of people, for having it,” he said. “So if the debate is, should it be 10 or what have you, it can’t be 100. And so I think there’s room where we can have progress, although we will not have perfection.”
                                  And in light of FBI records last summer showing US firearm background checks having skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic, Chipman told CNN at the time: “My biggest concern involves the potential number of first time gun buyers who, before March, did not think they needed a gun.”
                                  This story has been updated with additional details Wednesday.

                                  Continue Reading

                                  Politics

                                  Andrew Giuliani, former Trump aide and son of Rudy Giuliani, says he plans for to run for governor of New York

                                  Published

                                  on

                                  By Devan Cole, CNN
                                  Updated 12:16 PM ET, Wed April 7, 2021

                                  Washington (CNN) — Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, says he’s planning to run for governor of the heavily Democratic state next year.

                                  “I plan to run,” Andrew Giuliani, who served as an aide to former President Donald Trump, told the Washington Examiner in an interview published Wednesday.
                                  Giuliani’s gubernatorial bid could set up a high stakes, headline-grabbing showdown with Andrew Cuomo, should the embattled incumbent Democratic governor decide to seek a fourth term. But Giuliani would face a steep uphill battle in the heavily Democratic state, and his candidacy could help hand another win to the party as his proximity to Trump would likely be seen as a liability in a state where the former President is widely unpopular.
                                    “I believe I can win the race,” Giuliani told the Examiner. “I think I’m the right candidate, and this is the right time to help change New York State, and we’ve got a playbook that works.”
                                      “Outside of anybody named Trump, I think I have the best chance to win and take the state back, and I think there’s an opportunity in 2022 with a wounded Democratic candidate, whether it’s going to be Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo, whether it’s going to be a radical (attorney general), Letitia James, whether it’s going to be a no-name lieutenant governor, I think there’s a very, very real chance to win,” he said, according to the magazine.
                                            Asked if he expected Cuomo to seek reelection to a fourth term next year, Jay Jacobs, the state party chair and a close ally of the governor, demurred.
                                            “I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. I think that he’s more focused on getting through his current troubles, then seeing where he’s going to go,” he said. “These investigations are going to be critical in all of that. It’s hard to tell. I’m sure that, given his druthers, he’d like to run for reelection.”

                                            Continue Reading

                                            Politics

                                            Stephen Breyer worries about Supreme Court’s public standing in current political era

                                            Published

                                            on

                                            By Joan Biskupic, CNN legal analyst & Supreme Court biographer
                                            Updated 9:07 PM ET, Tue April 6, 2021

                                            (CNN) — Justice Stephen Breyer, who may be nearing the end of his Supreme Court tenure, expressed concern on Tuesday about the standing of the high court and the possible erosion of public confidence in its decisions.

                                            In an expansive, two-hour lecture at Harvard Law School, Breyer bemoaned the common practice — by journalists, senators and others — of referring to justices by the presidents who appointed them and of describing the nine by their conservative or liberal approach to the law.
                                            “These are more than straws in the wind,” the 82-year-old Breyer said. “They reinforce the thought, likely already present in the reader’s mind, that Supreme Court justices are primarily political officials or ‘junior league’ politicians themselves rather than jurists. The justices tend to believe that differences among judges mostly reflect not politics but jurisprudential differences. That is not what the public thinks.”
                                              Breyer also warned against proposals to expand the size of the Supreme Court from its current nine members. Public trust was “gradually built” over the centuries, he said, and any discussion of change should take account of today’s public acceptance of the court’s rulings, even those as controversial as the 2000 Bush v. Gore case that settled a presidential election.
                                                “The public now expects presidents to accept decisions of the court, including those that are politically controversial,” he said. “The court has become able to impose a significant check — a legal check — upon the Executive’s actions in cases where the Executive strongly believes it is right.”
                                                  Some of Breyer’s most compelling opinions, it should be noted, have been written in dissent. In 2007, for example, he objected to an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts rejecting school integration plans in Seattle and Louisville. Roberts said districts could not consider a student’s race when making school assignments to reduce racial isolation throughout the school district.
                                                  “This is a decision that the Court and the Nation will come to regret,” wrote Breyer, whose father, Irving Breyer, was a long-serving school board member in San Francisco. Breyer still wears the wristwatch his father received upon his retirement from the district. Breyer said the Roberts opinion threatened “the promise of” the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.
                                                  Breyer said Tuesday that differences with his colleagues were based on their distinct views of the structure of the Constitution or how they interpreted statutes. He did not refer to instances in which his colleagues themselves have publicly questioned each other’s motives.
                                                    Breyer did allow that sometimes justices weigh public opinion or the future ramifications of a decision. And he acknowledged that the nine are products of their individual backgrounds and experiences.
                                                    Still, he said, “judicial philosophy is not a code word for ‘politics.'”

                                                    Continue Reading

                                                    Trending