The seven Republican senators who voted to impeach

The Briefing, Vol. IX, Issue 7-2

This week:

  • Trump beats the rap
  • Newsom recall election appears inevitable
  • A new Republican hope in Georgia?


Trump acquitted: The U.S. Senate trial of former President Trump ended with acquittal, as universally expected. But it was unusual that seven Republicans voted to convict. Only five had initially rejected the argument, advanced by Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, that the trial itself was unconstitutional. 

Of the seven Republicans voting to convict Trump, only one, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, is up for re-election in 2022. As the only Republican senator to vote against the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Murkowski’s ability to survive a primary was already in question. She may feel she has nothing to lose; she may believe she can survive anything (she was re-elected as a write-in in 2010 despite losing the Republican primary); or she might be planning to retire. 

The other six include three senators who were just re-elected in November and won’t face any repercussions from voters until at least 2026 (Bill Cassidy, Ben Sasse, and Susan Collins), two who had already announced they are retiring in 2022 (Richard Burr and Pat Toomey), and Mitt Romney, whose Republican base in Utah is unusually weak in its support of Trump. 

Collins and Sasse had both telegraphed their intentions at the beginning of the process. Romney even voted for the first (and far more obviously meritless) impeachment — he was always expected to be a yes. The only surprises have to be Burr and Cassidy.

Burr is leaving office under a cloud. His ethics came under fire when he hastily dumped stocks around the time of the coronavirus market crash. 

Cassidy spoke about his reasons for voting aye. He was simply incensed over Trump’s failure to act quickly and do what was in his power as president to stop the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Even so, the impeachment article really asks a lot of the reader. The notion that Trump intended to overthrow the U.S. government is rather fanciful even if you accept that his election fraud claims were harmful lies. To buy into such a trumped up (no pun intended) charge as “insurrection” is simply a bridge too far, even if one accepts arguendo that Trump’s conduct was vile and unconscionable, it is hard to accept that it is or should be considered illegal. The rhetoric he used.

Moreover, no evidence was presented showing that Trump had hindered or otherwise prevented a deployment of the national guard or done anything else that caused or exacerbated the situation. Nothing he said was pointed to as the proximate cause of the violence, which in any event appears to have been planned long before Trump said anything. This isn’t rock-solid evidence that votes to convict were mere virtue-signaling, but perhaps there is a lot less to the impeachment charge than meets the eye.

Biden administration: President Biden came into office with a laser focus on energy. His first move was not to rescind the Mexico City policy against funding of abortion internationally (he did that later), but to take action on what the Left increasingly call the “climate crisis.” He returned the U.S. to the Paris Climate accord, banned new oil and gas-drilling leases on federal lands, and rescinded permission to build the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Poetic justice is being served up this week as Texans experience the fossil-fuel free future he is planning for them.

A combination of frozen windmills (which produce no power) and lack of sufficient amounts of natural gas (more pipelines, please!) is forcing blackouts at peak demand in the Lone Star State. As with COVID school closures (more on this below) this is an issue where the new administration is vulnerable. 

Conservatives ought to be speaking out on the topic of energy, especially at a time when carbon-free natural gas power is becoming commercially viable. If the so-called “crisis” can be overcome in a way that moots the entire environmentalist movement forever, will Democrats be brave enough to take yes for an answer? 

Already, we see they can’t reopen schools even though it’s safe because it will upset one of their pet interest groups. So the answer is, probably not.

Governor 2021

California: Last week, petitioners seeking to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, reached the required 1.5 million signatures. They have another month — until March 17 — to pad that number (many signatures are thrown out as invalid in such petition drives), which means the recall is now very likely to happen. 

A new name being discussed as a Republican candidate (any number of them could run) is Ric Grenell, an early influential Trump devotee who served as President Trump’s ambassador to Germany and then Acting Director of National Intelligence. Grenell, a former aide to John Bolton, was in 2012 hounded out of taking a job as Mitt Romney’s spokesman because of conservative complaints about his open homosexuality. Trump’s quiet conversion of the Right on this issue has laid such political concerns to rest for most Republican voters. 

Grenell, whose intemperate tweets were already an issue in 2012, became controversial as ambassador to Germany for other reasons — among other things, an interview he gave to Breitbart in which he discussed empowering the European Right. But if we’ve learned anything since 2015, it’s that such things don’t necessarily stop a politician’s rise.

Even so, the smart money is probably on moderate former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, R. You can tell he’s the frontrunner by the fact that already, 2018 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Cox is running ads slamming him for an ill-fated city office real estate deal, even comparing him to Newsom. 

There will be a bevy of candidates on the ballot in the event that the recally occurs. Assuming Newsom is recalled, the winning candidate to replace him could realistically finish the race with as little as 30 percent of the vote — or, technically, even less than that.

Virginia: Republican Pete Snyder is doing something a lot of Republicans have been failing to do in recent years. He is focusing his campaign on an issue that most people can identify with. His new ad slams incumbent Gov. Ralph Northam, who cannot run for re-election, for failing to open the state’s public schools, even in the face of all the science and data showing it is safe to do so. 

In contrast with Northam’s “suggestion” that schools open two days a week, Snyder declares, “My plan is simple: Open our schools now. Five days a week, every week, with a teacher in every classroom.”

Coronavirus is putting the pinch on parents who are forced either to stay home or find expensive alternative arrangements for their children.With Democrats completely owned by teacher’s unions, this is something Republicans nationwide ought to emulate.

Governor 2022

Arkansas: We mentioned previously that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, R, would be hard to stop in her bid for governor. This is already panning out, as Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin has seen the writing on the wall and opted instead to run for the open attorney general slot with her blessing. The 2022 election season could prove a very quiet year in Arkansas as a consequence, less than a decade after the state’s final flip from total Democratic to total Republican dominance.

Senate 2022

Georgia: When Sen. Johnny Isakson retired in 2019 for health reasons, Gov. Brian Kemp asked for applications to succeed him. Harold Melton, the Republican-appointed chief justice of Georgia’s state Supreme Court, reportedly expressed interest in the position at that time and even met with Kemp about it. Although Kemp opted to appoint Kelly Loeffler instead, Melton might have been a very interesting alternative. 

A black conservative cancer-survivor who served as executive counsel to Gov. Sonny Perdue before his appointment to the court, Melton was also the first African American elected student body president at Auburn. 

He is in the news again now because he just announced that he will retire from the Supreme Court in July, just shy of his 55th birthday. His own rationale is that he has reached 30 years of government service. But the move has given rise to some speculation that he wants to run against Sen. Raphael Warnock next year. 

Melton is very highly regarded as an attorney, judge, and public figure. Depending on how well he holds up as a politician — it is, after all, a role with specific skills — he could be a very interesting prospect for Republicans, even a rising star in the party.