Republican senator Richard Burr is facing possible censure in North Carolina after voting to convict Donald Trump, making him the latest GOP lawmaker to confront a backlash over breaking with the former president.
Republican officials in North Carolina said the state party’s central committee would meet on Monday night to discuss Burr’s vote finding Trump guilty of inciting an insurrection.
Burr was one of seven Republican senators who voted against the president at the conclusion of his senate trial at the weekend. His colleague Bill Cassidy of Louisiana was already censured by his state party, which said it “condemned” his vote finding Trump guilty of inciting the January 6 siege at the US Capitol that left five people dead.
Trump was acquitted because the US constitution stipulates that conviction requires the support of two-thirds of the 100-member Senate. Fifty-seven senators found Trump guilty after a five-day trial, while 43 voted not guilty.
The result — in which more lawmakers voted against a president of their own party than in any impeachment trial in US history — exposed sharp divisions in the Republican party, as lawmakers wrestle over how to move forward now that Trump is no longer in the White House.
Republican operatives are at war over whether to field rightwing, Trump-supporting candidates in next year’s midterm elections, or endorse more centrist GOP hopefuls in an attempt to win back the moderate Republicans and independents who abandoned the party at the ballot box last November.
Burr and Cassidy joined Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey in voting to convict the president at the weekend. Burr’s vote came as a surprise to many in Washington, given he had been less publicly critical of the president than many of his colleagues.
Burr, who last won re-election in 2016, has long said he will not seek re-election in next year’s midterms, when Republicans will be looking to take back control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
An ABC News-Ipsos poll published on Monday found 58 per cent of Americans thought Trump should have been convicted in his senate trial. But while 88 per cent of Democrats and 64 per cent of independents said the former president should have been convicted, just 14 per cent of Republicans said Trump should have been found guilty.
Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina and a fierce Trump ally, said at the weekend that Burr’s impeachment vote had paved the way for Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law, to run for his senate seat next year. Trump supporters argue the impeachment result has fired up the former president’s base of supporters and will motivate them to turn out in primaries to nominate candidates for the midterms.
“My dear friend Richard Burr . . . just made Lara Trump almost a certain nominee for the senate seat in North Carolina to replace him,” Graham told Fox News on Sunday. “She represents the future of the Republican party.”
North Carolina is one of a handful of key swing states where previous elections have been won on narrow margins, and where Republicans and Democrats alike are expected to throw resources at trying to pick up seats in 2022.
Senate races in Pennsylvania, where Toomey is not seeking re-election, and Georgia, where Democrat Raphael Warnock will look to defend the seat he won in a special election last month, are also likely to be hotly contested.
Donald Trump has not ruled out running for president again in 2024, though he is facing multiple criminal probes, including an investigation into the Trump Organization’s finances in Manhattan, and one into his efforts to interfere in the presidential election in Georgia.