- The Senate acquitted Donald Trump in a 57-43 vote on Saturday, with seven Republicans joining all 50 Democrats to convict the former president for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
- The aftermath of the vote highlighted the growing divisions in the Republican party between those who have disavowed Trump, those who believe supporting him is the only way forward, and those who want to strike a balance between both.
- Despite his acquittal in the Senate, Trump could still be held accountable for his actions as the result of criminal probes by local officials and Congress.
- “President Trump is still liable for everything he did while in office,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said after voting to acquit Trump. “He didn’t get away with anything yet.”
Former President Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate on Saturday for the charges of inciting an insurrection with a vote of 57-43.
Seven Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to vote in favor of conviction: Sens. Mitt Romney (Ut.), Richard Burr (NC.), Bill Cassidy (La.) Susan Collins (Me.), Lisa Murkowski (Ak.), Ben Sasse (Ne.), and Pat Toomey (Pa.)
While the general outcome was to be expected, there has been a large focus on the broader implications for the Republican Party and Trump himself.
Growing Factions in the GOP
The divisions in the GOP have been growing for a while now, but there are three overarching rifts that have been exemplified in the aftermath of the trial.
In one camp, the seven Republican senators voting to convict Trump have effectively distanced themselves from the former president and signaled they do not want him in the party. Those members have already been met with widespread backlash from party leaders and local GOP officials in their states, many of whom likely still want to have the support of the many conservatives who still back Trump.
While several polls have shown that a majority of the country thought that Trump should be convicted and barred from running again, other recent polls indicate that around 70% of Republican voters still strongly support him. Out of the seven Republicans who voted to convict, only Murkowski is up for election in 2022. Both Burr and Toomey are set to retire.
Analysts have said the career risk that comes with abandoning Trump still remains high even though he is not in power anymore, which is why there is also a large group of Republicans who are trying to play both sides.
This second faction includes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who followed his “not-guilty” vote with a 20-minute speech where he gave arguably his strongest condemnation of Trump ever.
“There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” he said.“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president, and having that belief was 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.”
McConnell added that Trump did nothing to stop the riot but said that he believed the Senate did not have the constitutional power to remove a president who had left office. McConnell’s balancing act here is a transparent effort to cater to those who have disavowed Trump, while also keeping a hand out for those who still support him.
That effort is due to the fact that the third final major faction of the Republican party is composed of people who think embracing Trump and doubling down is the only way forward for the party.
Following Trump’s acquittal, some people have reaffirmed their commitment to him and his supporters in an even bigger way. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC.), who has flip-flopped in the past, emphasized his support for Trump in a series of interviews over the weekend.
“Donald Trump is the most vibrant member of the Republican Party. The Trump movement is alive and well,” he told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “All I can say is that the most potent force in the Republican Party is President Trump. We need Trump.”
Graham also argued that McConnell had made himself a target for pro-Trump Republicans running ads in 2022 and claimed that Burr’s surprise vote to convict paved the way for Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to run for the seat he’s leaving North Carolina as a more far-right candidate.
As for what happens now that Trump has been acquitted, there are a number of possible avenues that are being pursued
Last week, a District Attorney in Georgia opened an investigation into Trump’s efforts to interfere in the election in the state. Over the weekend, The Washington Post reported that a call Graham made to the state’s top election official is also being investigated as part of that probe.
That is also not where these inquiries will end. While speaking to Senators following Trump’s acquittal Saturday, McConnell indicated that the former president would still be held responsible for his actions.
“President Trump is still liable for everything he did while in office,” he said. “He didn’t get away with anything yet.”
According to reports, members of both parties have expressed support for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the lead-up to the insurrection.
While it is unclear if that body would have the power to punish anyone, Sen. Chris Coons (D-De.) told reporters Sunday that a number of his Republican colleagues have expressed support for holding Trump accountable either through a criminal trial or through some other path that would bar him from holding office.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena
The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.
Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.
Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.
Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee.
That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.
After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.
Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.
Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts
The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.
It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same.
The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively — are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.
Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.
As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.
Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December
The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.
Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily
The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.
The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.
After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.
The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.
“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.
The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession.
Major Hurdles Remain
While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.
Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain.
Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.
Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.
Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.
Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.
Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.
In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul.
As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported.
It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent
California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.
Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.
Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.
“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.
Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.
Others May Follow
The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.
Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.
“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”
The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.