Former Vice President Mike Pence said it would have been “un-American” for him to overturn the election at Donald Trump’s request, while the Republican Party’s grassroots members decisively voted to punish two Republicans for probing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
While the party’s top activists and fundraisers huddled in Utah, Pence and other of the party’s senior executives were welcomed by a renowned conservative legal group in Florida, Trump hovered over the day’s proceedings.
[In both cases, dealing with Trump’s repeated bogus assaults on the 2020 election results — as well as the pro-Trump mob that ransacked the Capitol one year ago — was a source of division at a time when the party was seeking to stay unified ahead of the midterm elections.
The Republican National Committee took the unprecedented step of formally condemning two Republican lawmakers, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, for their work on the House Jan. 6 committee, and made moves that would allow the party to send money and political help to Cheney’s primary opponent in Utah, where activists and donors gathered for the party’s winter meeting.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel pushed for the censure, and the vote was overwhelming, passing without debate. It only took one minute.
There was no pretense that the punishment was related to anything other than the investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurgency — the most serious attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812 — and what transpired before and after it.
When Congress gathered on Jan. 6 to certify the election, Pence, Trump’s ever-loyal vice president, took his most explicit shots at the former president, saying “President Trump is wrong” when he called for Pence to overturn the election by rejecting electors from several states who supported Joe Biden. The assembly of conservative lawyers at the Federalist Society convention erupted in cheers.
“Broadly speaking, I think Trump’s influence is waning, particularly among the reasonable people,” said Christopher Krebs, a former senior cybersecurity officer in the Trump administration who was sacked by Trump. But it’s crystallizing in the most heinous way possible. It’s concentrating and becoming far more intense — and dangerous — among the most ardent followers.”
The moves, which took place in luxury hotels, resulted in unusual schisms, with a former vice president criticizing a former president with whom he was often obsequious in ways he had never been before, and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, harshly criticizing the party his niece runs for its treatment of Cheney and Kinzinger.
“Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol,” he tweeted. “Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost.”
Even as party leaders say they want to focus on President Biden’s policies as his polling numbers lag and Republicans argue they are poised to make major gains in November’s midterm elections, the day demonstrated that Trump’s efforts to overturn the election and his continued focus on his false insistence that he won continue to dominate the party.
According to most public and private polling, Trump remains the most popular figure in the Republican Party. His political organization has $122 million in its coffers, more than any other major political party committee, with much of it raised on the basis of his fraudulent accusations that the election was rigged. Even Pence’s defenders expected a forceful rebuke from Trump on Friday, which may be politically unpleasant for the former vice president, despite the fact that many in the party are unwilling to criticize him, even for his role in the Jan. 6 attack. Trump continues to get a larger audience than any other Republican.
However, some of the former president’s advisers believe he is losing political steam as he continues to talk about the election, various federal and state investigations loom over him, and polls show his Republican support has dwindled in recent months. A request for comment on the events of the day was not returned by Trump’s spokeswoman.
Late Friday, Trump issued a statement on Pence’s speech but omitted to mention the RNC censure.
“Just saw Mike Pence’s statement on the fact that he had no right to do anything with respect to the Electoral Vote Count, other than being an automatic conveyor belt for the Old Crow Mitch McConnell to get Biden elected President as quickly as possible. Well, the Vice President’s position is not an automatic conveyor if obvious signs of voter fraud or irregularities exist. That’s why the Democrats and RINOs are working feverishly together to change the very law that Mike Pence and his unwitting advisors used on January 6 to say he had no choice,” Trump said.