In an effort to set up the Republican Party for long-term success, he has magnified intraparty tensions.
State Republican leaders in North Carolina voted to censure Senator Richard Burr over his vote to convict Donald Trump during last week’s impeachment trial, making Burr the latest to be rebuked for opposing the former United States president.
Burr, a third-term North Carolina Republican who has said he does not plan to seek re-election in 2022, was one of just seven out of 50 Republican senators to vote to convict Trump for inciting his supporters’ January 6 attack on Congress, which left five people dead.
The North Carolina Republican Party Central Committee voted unanimously to censure Burr, saying it agrees “with the strong majority of Republicans” that the effort “lies outside the United States Constitution”.
Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial concluded on Saturday with a 57-43 vote in favour of convicting. The tally fell short of the two-thirds needed to secure conviction.
North Carolina Republican Chairman Michael Whatley condemned Burr for voting against the former president, calling the move a “shocking and disappointing” abdication of his duty to voters.
— NCGOP (@NCGOP) February 16, 2021
Burr, who said last week there was “compelling” evidence that President Trump was guilty of inciting an insurrection, said after the committee vote that 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,” he said.
Censures are essentially statements of disapproval, considered a “slap on the wrist”, but are notable as the post-Trump presidency Republican Party wrestles with its messaging moving forward.
Some in the party want to make a clean break from Trump, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who despite voting to acquit, spoke out forcefully against Trump’s actions leading up to and during the riot. McConnell has suggested that Trump is not the driving force behind the GOP moving forward.
McConnell said in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece Monday that there was no question Trump “bears moral responsibility” and said “His supporters stormed the Capitol because of the unhinged falsehoods he shouted into the world’s largest megaphone. His behavior during and after the chaos was also unconscionable.”
Others, such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, initially spoke out against Trump after the riot but quickly re-embraced him, stating that the former president is key to the party’s success in the 2022 midterm elections.
Burr is not the only Republican to be rebuked for his vote to convict. Louisiana’s Republican Party voted on Saturday to censure Senator Bill Cassidy. Republican Party leaders in Pennsylvania and Maine are preparing to censure Senators Pat Toomey and Susan Collins respectively for their votes to convict.
Toomey, who is not seeking re-election in 2022, has already been censured by several county-level Republican parties, some of which voted to censure him even before his Saturday vote.
“As far as we’re concerned, his political career is over in this state, even if he were to try to run again,” Washington County Republican Party Chairman Dave Ball told the Associated Press news agency. “His legacy is tarnished beyond repair.”
In addition to Burr, Cassidy, Toomey and Collins, the other Senate Republicans who voted to convict were Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Utah’s Mitt Romney and Nebraska’s Ben Sasse.
In contrast to the growing number of censures, the Utah Republican Party released a statement in support of Romney’s vote to convict, saying his difference in opinion compared to fellow Utah Senator Mike Lee’s vote to acquit shows “a diversity of thought”.
Utah GOP out with a statement supportive of both Mitt Romney and Mike Lee on impeachment: "The differences between our own Utah Republicans showcase a diversity of thought." pic.twitter.com/WzfYrsn7Lt
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) February 15, 2021
The punishment of Senate Republicans who voted to convict echoes the response to the 10 House Republicans who voted last month for the underlying article of impeachment charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection”.
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, the number-three Republican in the House, was roundly criticised by her colleagues for her vote to impeach, but an effort to remove her from her leadership position was soundly rejected in a closed-door anonymous vote of House Republicans.
Meanwhile, Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who has been a longtime vocal Trump critic, is being slammed by his own family for opposing the former president.
“Oh, what a disappointment you are to us and to God! … You have embarrassed the Kinzinger family name!” Kinzinger’s relatives wrote in a letter printed by The New York Times and dated January 8, two days after the riot and when Kinzinger called for Trump’s removal from office.
“We are thoroughly disgusted with you!! And, oh, by the way, we are calling for your removal from office.”
Kinzinger responded to the letter on Twitter by saying “I’m ok, more sad that someone would be willing to choose a man over family.”
— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) February 16, 2021