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ANALYSIS: GOP grapples with future in Congress and beyond after Trump impeachment trial

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The dramatic shift in tone from Senate Republicans between two impeachment trials of former President Trump, just a year apart, reveals a party that has grown weary of defending its leader but lacks the fortitude to sever ties, with GOP lawmakers openly grappling with the difficult question of how to move forward after such a divisive trial.

After some last-minute drama over whether to call witnesses to testify, the Senate voted 57-43 on Saturday to acquit Trump on charges that he incited the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. A two-thirds majority was needed to convict the former president.

Republicans are divided on the power Trump will — and should — command in the Republican Party, including in the 2024 presidential election. Seven Republicans voted for conviction, a number so large that the vote will go down as the most bipartisan presidential guilty tally in American history; even so, the GOP votes represented just 14% of the Senate conference.

“Time is going to take care of that some way or another,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who voted not guilty and is the longest serving Republican in the Senate, said shortly after the verdict. “But remember, in order to be a leader you got to have followers. So we’re gonna find out, whoever leads.”

When Trump faced his first impeachment trial in 2020, Senate Republicans rushed to defend him, deriding the House effort as a politically motivated witch hunt. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged to work with Trump’s legal team to avoid conviction and referred to himself as “not an impartial juror.”

A year later, the reception from Senate Republicans was far different. As he stood trial for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol that left five dead, the only one calling it a witch hunt was Trump himself. Republicans refused to defend Trump’s actions on the merits, instead relying on a legal argument that the Constitution didn’t allow for conviction of a former president.

From the start of Trump’s second trial, McConnell signaled he was open to conviction. And even though he ultimately voted not guilty, he scorched Trump on the Senate floor after the vote, leaving no doubt about how the most senior Senate Republican felt about the former president.

“There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day,” he said.

His sentiment was widely held among Senate Republicans, some publicly and some only privately. Even Trump’s strongest defender in the Senate, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), declined to defend the former president’s conduct ahead of and on Jan. 6.

“His behavior after the election was over the top,” Graham said Sunday, although he quickly pivoted to ridiculing the House impeachment managers.

“The trial record was a complete joke, hearsay upon hearsay,” the senator told “Fox News Sunday.”

Conviction — and a ban on running again, a possibility if the Senate had voted for conviction — stood as the most concrete way to push Trump out of the party for good, an idea that the majority of Republicans did not embrace. Still, some national Republican figures who have previously clashed with Trump suggested that their view of the ex-president as a destructive force would eventually prevail.

“I think there are far more people who agree that we have got to move on from Donald Trump,” Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that had he been a senator, he would have voted to convict.

During the first impeachment trial, the 2020 election was a mere 10 months away and Republicans viewed the outcome as a likely pivotal factor in the race. At that time, Trump still had a Twitter account that he used to excoriate fellow Republicans who crossed him.

But during the sequel, Trump was no longer president, lacked a social media megaphone (he was permanently suspended from Twitter two days after the insurrection) and there is no immediately looming election. Republicans also viewed his actions as more grievous against the republic and against themselves.

“Before someone assumes the office of the presidency, they are required to swear to faithfully execute the office of the president and to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of the seven Republicans who voted for conviction. Trump, she said, “failed to uphold that oath.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who also voted for conviction, suggested Trump had used sheer menace to try to bend others to his will, including the members of Congress who had gathered Jan. 6 to formally certify President Biden’s election win.

Cassidy also pushed back against the notion of the former president’s grip on the GOP, asserting that Trump’s “force wanes” within the party. “The Republican Party is more than just one person,” he said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

The vote will serve as a dividing line among Senate Republicans that will become particularly important if Trump tries to resurrect his political career in the 2024 election.

While Trump’s standing is mixed within the ranks of Senate Republicans, he has many more allies in the House, though 10 joined Democrats in impeaching him last month.

The overwhelming majority of the chamber’s Republicans have stood by the former president, and attacked Democrats for engaging in what they described as a political vendetta.

“Remember what the Democrats were trying to do,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a staunch Trump ally, said on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures.” “They were trying to cancel the guy that 74 million Americans voted for because they didn’t want him to be on the ballot, have a chance to be on the ballot in 2024.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), who exchanged harsh words with Trump on Jan. 6 and criticized him in the days following the riot, has decided to keep Trump as an ally. Three weeks after the insurrection, McCarthy made a pilgrimage to Trump’s home in Florida and crafted an agreement with the former president to help House Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections.

While disappointed by the final vote tally, Democrats saw positive elements in the impeachment trial, saying they believed it might help Republicans move on from Trump. House managers who prosecuted Trump portrayed the Senate trial as a devastating revelation of the ex-president’s character — one they hope will eventually chip away at his standing in the party. Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands said the prosecutors’ vivid compilation of events surrounding the Capitol riot allowed Americans to see “truly who Donald Trump was.”

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Plaskett portrayed Republican votes to acquit as an act of moral cowardice.

”They just decided that they wanted to give him a walk,” she said of the 43 senators who rejected the article of impeachment. “And they found a technicality that they created to do so.”

Snow, clear skies, more snow

WENATCHEE — After booking a three-day weekend in Wenatchee, snowy weather hasn’t yet decided if it wants to ditch town or show off a little more.

Above-freezing temperatures and clear skies will be showing up come Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. By Thursday, it’s back to the snow, with 1 inch to 2 inches projected to hit Wenatchee.

Thursday’s snowfall is looking pretty light, but that could change, said Jeff Cote, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Spokane. “We’re still in the middle of winter so … ”

Wenatchee accumulated around 3 inches of snowfall Sunday night going into Monday morning, he said. Leavenworth had the highest reported snowfall in the Wenatchee Valley at 7 inches. Plain came in a close second with 6 inches reported.

Temperatures are looking to warm up to the mid-40s next weekend, he said. The warming may bring with it a mix of rain and snow. Morning lows will stay below freezing this week — meaning possible ice on the roads.

Drivers should be prepared to slow down, increase their following distance and take extra time when commuting, he said.

This past weekend’s snowfall also hit the mountains, causing an avalanche across Highway 2 on Saturday.

The State Department of Transportation (DOT) set off a controlled avalanche west of Stevens Pass on Monday morning by the highway due to an excess of snow over the weekend.

It is safe to say there will be more snow removals on Highway 2 before winter is over, said DOT spokesperson Lauren Loebsack. There are a couple of mountain chutes known for avalanches that DOT crews are keeping an eye on.

Scheduled snow removals can be checked on wsdot.com in order to avoid potentially long waits.

Loebsack said people need to be prepared for winter driving. Snow plows should be given plenty of rooms by drivers, especially when on the pass.

Drivers should also slow down and keep an eye out for any changing speed limits, she said.

Vaccine equity efforts could see a philanthropic boost

SEATTLE — A COVID-19 relief campaign started by All in WA is building a vaccine equity fund to raise $15 million from philanthropic partners to address hesitancy and increase access for minority groups and others with barriers.

The money raised will match state funding for vaccine outreach in Washington and go to community organizations and local groups through a grant program.

The goal of the campaign is to provide help to local, community-based groups that can increase access to culturally relevant information about the COVID-19 vaccine as well as improve access for people to actually getting vaccinated by eliminating barriers like language, transportation or internet access.

Inequities exist in COVID-19 case, hospitalization, death and vaccination data. Minorities have been hit hard by the pandemic, and on the whole, have had greater challenges thus far in accessing the vaccine.

Gov. Jay Inslee told reporters Monday that of the 3.6% of the state’s Hispanic population currently eligible for the vaccine, 2.5% had been vaccinated.

The All in WA organization will open up grants to community-based organizations in the coming weeks.

The funds can be used to pay community organizations to help register people for vaccine appointments or facilitate community-based clinics. The grants can also be used to train leaders, to create campaigns around vaccine hesitancy or to provide transportation assistance.

All in WA, a coalition of private and public companies and nonprofits, helps secure funding from from donors who want to contribute to statewide pandemic relief efforts. The group has also facilitated grant programs and community funds during the pandemic, with help from donors like Amazon, Microsoft and other companies.

On a press conference announcing the equity fund Monday, Inslee said that three of four mass vaccination sites are in eastern Washington in order to give more access to Hispanic communities, who have been hit harder by the virus.

Local leaders on the same call pointed out that these sites have some barriers to entry in some communities, however.

“It’s not reaching the people who can’t go online and register or don’t have transportation to get to those events,” Jesus Hernandez, CEO of Family Health Centers in Okanogan County, said.

All in WA hopes that grants to community-based organizations can help remedy those issues.

Some vaccination sites have already made adjustments to how Washington residents can access appointments. Initially, residents had to go online to make appointments at the mass vaccination sites, but now some appointment slots are reserved for people who do not have internet access and need to make an appointment via telephone.

Inslee said the state’s goals in vaccination are first to help people want to get the vaccine and also to increase vaccine access. About 20% of the state’s vaccine doses are being sent to community health centers in order to increase equitable access, Inslee said.

CAFÉ's COVID-19 efforts recognized by Gov. Jay Inslee

WENATCHEE — During Monday’s press conference announcing the vaccine equity fund, Gov. Jay Inslee recognized the efforts of the Wenatchee community group CAFÉ in helping Latinos schedule vaccination appointments at the mass vaccination center located at the Town Toyota Center.

World photo/Luke Hollister 

Alma Chacón

CAFÉ founder

Alma Chacón, co-founder of CAFÉ, said she felt honored by the governor’s recognition and was glad to know they had his support.

“We need to work together,” she said. “State government and local organizations need to work together so that we can really get services out to people that need them. Something as big as the pandemic is going to take all of us working together. I feel good about that.”

While grant applications have not opened up yet, Chacón said she envisions using the funds to hire more people to make and receive phone calls and also pay for their dedicated hotline numbers.

CAFÉ has an established network it will access in order to help Latinos who might qualify for the vaccine and have learned from experience that this is the most successful method so far, she said.