Summary of the day
That’s it from the blog today. Thanks for following along with our coverage of the fallout from the impeachment trial.
Here’s how the day unfolded:
- Republicans considered the future of the party now that Donald Trump has been acquitted of incitement of insurrection. Some of Trump’s closest allies, such as Senator Lindsey Graham, embraced the fact that the former president remains the most dominant force in the party. “The Trump movement is alive and well,” Graham said today. But the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, said that he is open to supporting anti-Trump Republican candidates in primaries if he does not believe they could win a general election.
- The seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump faced criticism from other members of their party. Senator Bill Cassidy was censured by the executive committee of the Louisiana Republican party, and some Trump loyalists suggested those who supported convicted should be expelled from the party.
- The House impeachment managers defended their decision not to call any witnesses in the Senate trial. The Senate voted to allow the managers to request witness testimony yesterday, but the managers instead chose to simply add a Republican congresswoman’s statement to the official trial record without calling any witnesses. “I know that people are feeling a lot of angst, and believe that maybe if we had this, the senators would have done what we wanted,” impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett told CNN this morning. “We didn’t need more witnesses, we needed more senators with spines.”
- The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, characterized the impeachment trial and Trump’s acquittal as a “kerfuffle”. “The clear message that we get from the proceedings in America is that after all the to-ings and fro-ings and all the kerfuffle, American democracy is strong and the American constitution is strong and robust,” Johnson said on CBS News’ Face the Nation.
The Guardian’s US politics live blog will return tomorrow morning, so tune back in then.
Now that he has been acquitted, Donald Trump is free to run for president again in 2024, but he has certain strategic disadvantages when it comes to launching another White House bid.
The AP explains:
[A]fter being barred from Twitter, the former president lacks the social media bullhorn that fueled his political rise. And he’s confronting a Republican Party deeply divided over the legacy of his jarring final days in office, culminating in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol. Searing video images of the day played on loop during his impeachment trial, which ended Saturday.
Trump remains popular among the GOP base, but many Republicans in Washington have cooled to him. Never before have so many members of a president’s party — seven GOP senators, in his case — voted for his removal in a Senate trial.
Some may work to counter efforts by Trump to support extreme candidates in next year’s congressional primaries.
In a statement yesterday, Trump celebrated his acquittal in the Senate trial and said his movement “has only just begun,” signaling he plans to remain a dominant force in the Republican party for years to come.
Former Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez said that the party needs to reconsider whether Iowa and New Hampshire should vote first in the presidential primary.
“The status quo is clearly unacceptable,” Perez told the New York Times. “To simply say, ‘Let’s just continue doing this because this is how we’ve always done it,’ well, Iowa started going as an early caucus state, I believe, in 1972. The world has changed a lot since 1972 to 2020 and 2024. And so the notion that we need to do it because this is how we’ve always done it is a woefully insufficient justification for going first again.
“This is the Democratic party of 2020. It’s different from the Democratic party in how we were in 1972. And we need to reflect that change. And so I am confident that the status quo is not going to survive.”
A number of Democrats have argued that Iowa and New Hampshire, two largely white states, do not reflect the racial diversity of the party and thus should not be the first and second voting states in the presidential primary.
That criticism intensified after the disastrous Iowa caucuses in 2020. Joe Biden may also be particularly open to the idea of changing the primary schedule, given that he performed dismally in Iowa and New Hampshire before going on to win the Democratic nomination.
According to the AP, Nevada Democrats have already been making the case to party leaders that their state should vote first in the presidential primary.
Joe Biden congratulated the prime minister of Italy, Mario Draghi, a day after the new leader was sworn in.
“Congratulations, Prime Minister Mario Draghi. I look forward to working closely with you to deepen our strong bilateral relationship, cooperate during your leadership of the G20, and address global challenges from COVID to climate change,” Biden said on Twitter.
Draghi, the former European Central Bank chief, was sworn in yesterday, after the coalition formed by former prime minister Giuseppe Conte’s fell apart over disagreements on how to spend the money that Italy will receive from the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund.
Draghi interestingly faces a challenge not entirely dissimilar to Biden’s. The new prime minister has promised to be a unifying force in a divided country, and he is now tasked with overseeing a coronavirus vaccine distribution program and reinvigorating a struggling economy.
The decision by 43 Republican senators to acquit Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial has been condemned by many observers as a racist vote which upholds white supremacy.
In his speech before the riot, Trump exhorted his followers to “fight” the vote and called his mostly white audience “the people that built this nation”. His efforts to overturn the election results concentrated in cities with large populations of Black voters who drove Biden’s win.
Kimberly Atkins, a senior opinion writer at the Boston Globe, tweeted that the mob was trying to stop the votes of Black people like her from being counted.
Atkins said: “When this is done at the urging of the president of the United States, the constitution provides a remedy – if members of the House and Senate abide by their oaths. A republic, if you can keep it. Is it a republic for me?”
The Washington Post’s global opinions editor, Karen Attiah, said: “White supremacy won today.”
“History will reflect that leaders on both sides of the aisle enabled white extremism, insurrection and violence to be a permissible part of our politics,” Attiah added. “America is going to suffer greatly for this.”
Seven Senate Republicans voted to convict Donald Trump of incitement of insurrection, but only one of them is facing voters again next year.
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is up for re-election 2022. The other six Republicans who supported conviction were either just r-eelected or plan to retire soon.
Speaking to Politico yesterday, Murkowski said she knew that her vote to convict may complicate her reelection bid, but she argued she had made the moral decision by finding Trump guilty.
“If I can’t say what I believe that our president should stand for, then why should I ask Alaskans to stand with me?” Murkowski said.
“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.”
The senator added she was “sure that there are many Alaskans that are very dissatisfied with my vote, and I’m sure that there are many Alaskans that are proud of my vote”.
But Murkowski has something working in her favor: Alaska uses ranked-choice voting, so they do not hold traditional party primaries. That means Murkowski does not have to live in fear of a pro-Trump challenger ousting her in a primary, as her colleagues do. The elimination of that threat may have made Murkowski’s decision a little easier.
The Guardian’s Daniel Strauss reports:
Donald Trump will be 78 in 2024 and has not committed to running again. But his post-acquittal statement did preview a resumption of a more visible role in US politics in the coming months.
“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. There has never been anything like it!”
Trump’s allies argued that he remains the center of the Republican universe.
“Donald Trump is the most vibrant member of the Republican party,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close Trump ally, told Fox News Sunday. “The Trump movement is alive and well.”
At the same time, there are indications that unity remains elusive within Republican ranks. In an interview with Politico, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate minority leader who excoriated Trump after the impeachment trial but nonetheless voted for acquittal, indicated he would wade into primaries in which a Trump-backed candidate seemed set to win.
“My goal is, in every way possible, to have nominees representing the Republican party who can win in,” McConnell said. “Some of them may be people the former president likes. Some of them may not be. The only thing I care about is electability.”
McConnell added: “I’m not predicting the president would support people who couldn’t win. But I do think electability – not who supports who – is the critical point.”
Some conservatives are wondering whether Donald Trump’s acquittal in his second impeachment trial may have sealed the Republican party’s fate as it careens toward extremism.
Here’s what CNN analyst Ronald Brownstein wrote about the future of the GOP:
Congressional Republicans have crystallized an ominous question by rejecting consequences for Donald Trump over the January 6 riot in his impeachment trial and welcoming conspiracy theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia into their conference: Has the extremist wing of the GOP coalition grown too big for the party to confront?
Sanctioning Trump or Greene offered the party an opportunity to draw a bright line against extremist groups and violence as a means of advancing political goals. But the vast majority of congressional Republicans conspicuously rejected the opportunity to construct such a barrier through their decisions to oppose impeachment or conviction for Trump over his role in the US Capitol attack and to support Greene during the recent Democratic effort to strip her of her committee assignments. ...
While Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has called conspiracy theorists like Greene a ‘cancer’ on the party and denounced Trump’s role in the riot, the recent decision by House Republicans to accept the Georgia Republican into the conference, and the overwhelming refusal by House or Senate Republicans -- including McConnell -- to sanction Trump, suggests the party has very limited appetite at this point for any serious effort to excise that disease. And that could provide more oxygen to the White nationalist extremist groups that have viewed Trump as a galvanizing figure and already gained strength during his presidency.
The House impeachment managers said yesterday that they decided not to call witnesses in the Senate trial in part because they feared the request could hold up the proceedings for months.
Impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett told reporters yesterday that some of the witnesses they wanted to talk to, who could testify to Donald Trump’s actions and mindset on 6 January “were not friendly ... to us and would have required subpoenas and months of litigation”.
If the trial were held up for months as subpoenas were issued and then litigated, Senate Republicans may have had the opportunity to grind Joe Biden’s agenda to a halt because the chamber is not supposed to conduct other business while an impeachment trial is underway.
In the end, it seems Democrats chose to prioritize Biden’s agenda, specifically his coronavirus relief package, over their desire to uncover more details about the Capitol insurrection that resulted in five deaths.
Rather than calling any witnesses, the impeachment managers simply added the statement from Republican congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler about Trump’s 6 January call with the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, to the official trial record.
That decision was criticized by some liberals, who argued Democratic lawmakers had missed out on a prime opportunity to uncover more details about that violent day and potentially win more Republican votes for conviction.
Impeachment managers have responded to that criticism by noting that Trump would almost certainly have been acquitted in the end anyway, given that it would take 17 Republican votes to convict him.
The House impeachment managers are defending their decision not to call witnesses in the Senate trial, allowing the proceedings to come to a quick end yesterday.
Impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett addressed the “angst” among some liberals, who complained that Democratic lawmakers caved on the witnesses issue.
“I know that people are feeling a lot of angst, and believe that maybe if we had this, the senators would have done what we wanted,” Plaskett told CNN this morning.
“We didn’t need more witnesses, we needed more senators with spines. We believe that we proved the case, we proved the elements of the article of impeachment. It’s clear that these individuals were hardened, that they did not want to let the [former] president be convicted, or disqualified.”
Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin echoed that logic on NBC, saying: “There’s no reasoning with people who basically are acting like members of a religious cult.”
Senate Republicans are apparently not eager to face questions over their votes to acquit Donald Trump of incitement of insurrection.
Closing out Face the Nation this morning, anchor Margaret Brennan noted that the show asked more than 24 Republican senators for interviews today.
“We did offer invitations to over two dozen Senate Republicans to join us today. No one accepted,” Brennan said.
After the impeachment trial ended yesterday, Republicans who voted to acquit Trump said their votes were largely based on jurisdictional concerns.
The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, said that Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the 6 January insurrection, but he said he voted to acquit because he did not think it was constitutional to hold an impeachment trial for a president who had already left office.
The Senate held a vote on the constitutionality of the trial on Tuesday, and the chamber voted 56-44 that the trial was constitutional, but many Republicans seemed to ignore the outcome of that vote when deciding whether Trump was guilty.
On a non-impeachment note, the US is celebrating Valentine’s Day today, and even the country’s most senior officials are getting in on the fun.
Kamala Harris shared a photo of Joe Biden’s recent visit to her office, where he pointed out a window that was once decorated by his wife.
“During a @POTUS visit to my office (his old office), he showed me where - on Valentine’s Day in 2009 - @FLOTUS wrote ‘Joe loves Jill’ on all the window panes. I love that story! To @POTUS, @FLOTUS, and all Americans: #HappyValentines,” Harris said in a tweet.
This is Joan Greve in Washington, taking over the blog for the next few hours.
Washington in general, and the Republican party specifically, is still trying to figure out the path forward now that Donald Trump has been acquitted in his second impeachment trial.
The Senate voted to acquit Trump of incitement of insurrection yesterday. Seven Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in finding Trump guilty of inciting the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, but those 57 votes fell short of the 67 needed to convict the former president.
Now that he has been acquitted, Trump is free to run for the White House again in 2024 if he so chooses. The verdict guarantees that Trump will continue to wield a lot of power over Republican lawmakers and voters over the next few years.
The blog will have more updates and analysis of the fallout from the impeachment trial coming up, so stay tuned.
Rochelle Walensky, the head of the CDC, has said she does not believe all teachers in the US need to be vaccinated before returning to in-person classes.
“I’m a strong advocate of teachers receiving their vaccinations, but we don’t believe it’s a prerequisite for reopening schools,” said on Sunday during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union. However, she added that those who are in higher-risk categories should be allowed to teach from home until they receive a vaccination.
“We have in the guidance clear language that specifies that teachers that are at higher risk ... teachers and students that are higher risk, and their families, should have options for virtual activities, virtual learning, virtual teaching,” she said.
Richard Burr’s vote to convict Donald Trump did not bring down the former president but it may have made Lara Trump “almost certain” to be nominated for the US Senate, key Trump ally Lindsey Graham said on Sunday.
“Certainly I would be behind her because she represents the future of the Republican party,” the South Carolina senator said of the former president’s daughter-in-law, adding that the future should be “Trump-plus”.
Burr, a former chair of the Senate intelligence committee, will retire as a senator from North Carolina at the end of his current term.
On Saturday, he and six other Republicans voted to convict Trump on a charge of insurrection linked to the US Capitol attack. It made Trump’s second impeachment the most bipartisan ever but he was acquitted nonetheless.
Burr’s state Republican party condemned what it called his “shocking and disappointing” vote.
Lara Trump is married to Eric Trump, the former president’s second son. She has been reported to be interested in running for Senate in her native state.
“The biggest winner I think of this whole impeachment trial is Lara Trump,” Graham told Fox News Sunday. “My dear friend Richard Burr, who I like and I’ve been friends to a long time, just made Lara Trump almost a certain nominee for the Senate seat in North Carolina to replace him if she runs.
“Now certainly I would be behind her because she represents the future of the Republican party.”
You can read the full article below:
Guardian US columnist Lawrence Douglas says Republicans did not just acquit Trump – they let themselves off too.
Whatever else we might think about the Republicans’ vote of acquittal, it answers a question that millions of Americans have been pondering since Donald Trump took office four years ago. At what point would congressional Republicans say “enough”? Having first indulged and then endorsed Trump’s trampling of constitutional norms and abuse of the presidency, when would Republican lawmakers say, “No more”?
Now we have our answer. Never. If Trump’s act of inciting a mob to attack the Capitol in an attempt to subvert the certification of a fair and democratic election does not constitute impeachable conduct, then it’s hard to imagine what does. Still, history will record that the vast majority of Republican senators voted to acquit, a group that included eleven lawmakers who, two decades ago, agitated for President Clinton’s removal.
You can read the full article below:
Rahm Emanuel, who served as Barack Obama’s chief of staff as well as Chicago mayor, says Donald Trump will be out for revenge against Republicans who have crossed him.
He told ABC’s This Week that Trump “won’t run [for president in 2024], but he is going to spend the next two years on retribution ... He is going after every Republican that either said something bad, or voted against them.”
Rahm also suggested Republicans’ decision to ignore Trump’s flaws contributed to their loss of power in Congress.
“[Republicans] didn’t want to cut him off. He made a Faustian bargain with them. And that’s what’s coming to the Republican party,” Emanuel added. “1932 ... was the last time a party – that is the Republicans – lost the presidency, the Senate and the House. That’s how far back you go for this moment in time to have a corresponding point in history.”
Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert in the US, says that schools need more financial help before they can reopen fully. Fauci was appearing on ABC’s This Week and said that a new stimulus bill was crucial to give schools the resources they need to ensure the safety of pupils and teachers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think that the schools really do need more resources and that’s the reason why the national relief act that we’re talking about getting passed – we need that”, Fauci said during his appearance on Sunday morning. “The schools need more resources.”
Fauci has been keen for schools to reopen when it is safe to do so, citing the negative effects on children’s development from studying at home.
“I think it can be done. I mean, obviously it’s not a perfect situation, but it’s really important to get the children back to school in a safest way as possible. Safe for the children, but also safe for the teachers and the other educators,” Fauci said.
There has been concern in the US – and around the world – that some vaccines may be less effective against new strains, such as the South African variant. However, Fauci expressed confidence in vaccines, even against new strains of the virus.
“We do know that it evades the protection from some of the monoclonal antibodies and it diminishes somewhat the capability and the effectiveness of the vaccine to block it. It doesn’t eliminate it but it diminishes it by multiple fold. There’s still some cushion left so that the vaccine does provide some protection against it,” Fauci said.