Again acquitted by Senate, Trump remains a powerful force in Republican politics By Reuters

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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: US President Donald Trump Arrives at Palm Beach International Airport 2/2

By John Whitesides WASHINGTON (Reuters) – It‘s still Donald Trump’s Republican Party, at least for now. The vote of 43 of the 50 Republican senators to acquit Trump of the charge of inciting last month’s deadly riots in the US Capitol, with only seven voting in favor of the conviction, highlights how powerful control he has over the party he remade in his image. the last five years. The former president, who has remained largely out of sight at his Florida home since leaving the White House on Jan. 20, demands fervent loyalty among his supporters, forcing most Republican politicians to swear. loyalty and fear his wrath. But after two political trials, months of false claims that his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden was rigged, and an assault on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters that left five people dead, Trump is also a political poison in many. of the undecided districts that often decide. American elections. That leaves Republicans in a precarious position as they try to forge a winning coalition in the 2022 election for control of Congress and a 2024 White House race that could include Trump as a candidate. “It‘s hard to imagine Republicans winning national elections without Trump supporters anytime soon,” said Alex Conant, Republican strategist and aide to Sen. Marco Rubio during his 2016 presidential primary race against Trump. “The party faces a true Catch 22: it cannot win with Trump, but obviously it cannot win without him either,” he said. Trump has not signaled his long-term political plans for post-trial, though he has publicly hinted at another run for the White House and is reportedly ready to help top contenders for Republicans in Congress who voted to impeach him or condemn it. “Whether he runs again is up to him, but he will continue to have enormous influence both in the direction of policy and in the assessment of who is a serious champion of that message,” said one adviser. “You can call him a kingmaker or whatever you want to call him.” Trump has maintained strong support from Republicans in the polls even since the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol. Within days of the riots, a Reuters / Ipsos poll found that 70% of Republicans still approved of Trump’s job performance, and a subsequent poll found that a similar percentage believed he should be allowed to run again for office. But outside his party he is unpopular. A new Ipsos poll released on Saturday showed that 71% of Americans believed Trump was at least partially responsible for initiating the assault on the Capitol. Fifty percent believed that he should be convicted in the Senate with 38% against and 12% unsure. Trump’s defenders in the Senate argued that the trial was unconstitutional because Trump had already left office and that his comments before the riots were protected by the constitutional right to free speech. But most senators, including seven Republicans, rejected that view. Democrats said many Republican senators were afraid to vote conscientiously to convict Trump for fear of retaliation from his supporters. “If this vote were done in secret, there would be a conviction,” said Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was among Republicans who voted in favor of Trump’s acquittal on Saturday, though he later criticized the former president as “practically and morally responsible” for provoking the violence. His position illustrated how some Republican leaders are trying to distance themselves from Trump and limit his influence without unleashing full fury from Trump and his supporters. However, Trump’s continued influence was evident in House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s visit last month to the former president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, where they huddled over election strategy. Congress in 2022. That visit came just three weeks after McCarthy infuriated Trump by saying he was responsible for the disturbances on Capitol Hill. McCarthy then backtracked and said he did not believe Trump provoked the assault. POLITICAL RESPONSE The few legislators who have broken with Trump have suffered a backlash. Representative Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives and one of 10 who voted for Trump’s impeachment, quickly faced an effort by conservatives to remove her from her leadership position. She survived, but Trump has vowed to support a main rival for her. In Arizona, which endorsed Biden and elected a Democratic senator in November, the state party censured three prominent Republicans who had clashed with Trump while he was in office: Governor Doug Ducey, former Senator Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, widow of the late Senator John. McCain. When Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska was threatened with censure by his state party for criticizing Trump, he suggested it was due to a cult of personality. “Let’s be clear about why this is happening. It’s because I still believe, as you used to, that politics is not about strange worship of a guy,” Sasse said in a video directed at party leaders in Nebraska. He was one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump on Saturday. The fissures have led to an open debate in conservative circles about how far to lean to the right. On Fox News, the cable news network that played a key role in Trump’s rise to power, Fox Corp Chief Executive Lachlan Murdoch told investors this week that the outlet will remain in its position as “central right”. Trump stormed the network after his early, and ultimately accurate, screening of Election Night he lost in Arizona, presenting an opportunity for far-right video networks to attract disgruntled Trump supporters. “We don’t need to go any further to the right,” Murdoch said. “We do not believe that the United States is more to the right, and obviously we are not going to turn to the left.” Dozens of former Republican officials, disillusioned by the party’s failure to take on Trump, have held talks to form a new center-right. party, although several Republicans in Congress rejected the idea. [L1N2KH07V] Advisers say Trump himself has talked about forming a separatist Patriot Party, exacerbating Republican divisions. While Trump maintains control over the party for now, several Republican senators said during the impeachment trial that the stain left by the deadly siege of the Capitol and months of Trump’s false claims about widespread voter fraud would reduce his chances of winning again. power in 2024. “After the American public sees the whole story here … I don’t see how Donald Trump could get re-elected to the presidency again,” Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who also voted for the president, told reporters. a conviction, during the trial. With Trump out of office and blocked from Twitter, his favorite outlet, some Republicans said his grip on the party could fade as new issues and personalities emerge. Republican Sen. John Cornyn, a Trump ally, said the former president’s legacy had been permanently damaged. “Unfortunately, while President Trump did a lot of good, his handling of the post-election period is what he will be remembered for,” Cornyn said. “And I think it is a tragedy.”