Republicans quietly pressure McConnell to condemn Trump

(CNN) –– As the House of Representatives prepares to send the impeachment charge against Trump to the Senate on Monday, CNN learned that dozens of influential Republicans in Washington – including senior former Trump administration officials – have quietly lobbied Republican members of Congress to judge and condemn the former president. Now, effort is not coordinated. But, it reflects a broader battle within the GOP between those loyal to Trump and those who want to sever ties with him and make sure he can never run for president again.

The lobbying began in the House after the attack on the Capitol on January 6 and in the days leading up to the impeachment impeachment. But now he’s more focused on Sen. Mitch McConnell. Precisely, the powerful Republican leader who has shown signs that he could support Trump’s condemnation.

“Mitch told me he wants Trump to go,” a Republican member of Congress told CNN. “He makes it in his political interest for (Trump) to leave. It is in the interest of the Republican Party that he leave. The question is, will we get there? ”He added.

McConnell had proposed to delay the trial until February. But, with the charges coming to the Senate this Monday, the process is likely to start earlier. It would take 17 Republicans to join the 50 Democrats to convict Trump. While the threshold is high, some Republican sources believe there is more appetite for punishing the former president than publicly appears.

Ten Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for impeachment. There were probably more than 150 who supported him, “said Charlie Dent, a former Republican congressman and CNN contributor.

The whispering campaign among Republicans, according to more than a dozen sources who spoke to CNN, is based on the shared belief that a successful conviction is critical to the future of the Republican Party. Several sources describe this moment as a reckoning for the party.

“Trump created a cult of personality that is difficult to dismantle,” said a senior former Republican official. Condemnation could do that.

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The lobbying effort has included behind-the-scenes pressure from Republican donors and calls from senior former Trump White House officials. Also a series of discussion topics that circulate among Republicans who advocate impeachment of the former president.

The 9-point memorandum states that “it is difficult to find a more anti-conservative outburst by a president of the United States than Donald Trump in the past two months.” Other points include that Trump “urged supporters across the country to come to Washington to disrupt” Congress on January 6. Likewise, he incited the crowd, which “was widely known to include people who planned to physically fight and were prepared to die in response to his false claims of a ‘stolen election.’

In addition, the document notes that Trump “tweeted and made other statements against the vice president when the Secret Service had to remove Mike Pence from the Senate chamber and take him to a protective bunker.” It’s unclear how widely the memo is among Republicans in Washington.

“A fight for the party”

McConnell also faces pressure of a faction of Senate Republicans to side with Trump. And some tell CNN that supporting the conviction against the former president could threaten McConnell’s leadership.

“No, no, no,” Republican Senator Ron Johnson, a Trump ally, responded to CNN when asked if he could support McConnell should he vote to convict Trump. Johnson called that possibility a “dangerous precedent.” And he added: “I don’t even think we should have a political trial.”

“If you want to remove Donald Trump from the party, they will remove you,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on Fox News Wednesday. “This idea of ​​moving forward without Donald Trump in the Republican Party is a disaster for the Republican Party,” he completed.

There were also public calls for Republican lawmakers to take action against Trump. Former White House Secretary General John Kelly told CNN that if it were up to him, he would vote to impeach Trump. Former Attorney General William Barr he accused the former presidente of “orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress.” He also called Trump’s conduct a “betrayal of his position.”

Among some former officials in the Trump administration, the former president’s actions surrounding the January 6 riots aroused feelings of disgust.

“I almost threw up when I saw the president tweeting against Mike Pence,” said a senior former Trump official.

Additionally, more than 30 former Republican members of Congress they signed a letter in which they urged members of the House to vote for impeachment. Simultaneously, current and former Senate aides encourage their bosses to seriously consider voting in favor of the conviction.

And in the days after January 6, a handful of House staff whose bosses supported Trump resigned. Among them, a member of the Republican Party on the House Armed Services Committee and assistants to Representatives Lauren Boebert and Jim Jordan.

How will the impeachment trial against Trump proceed? 1:09

“Many people see this as a fight for the party,” said a former Republican Capitol aide.

Others hope that more Senate Republicans will step up.

“In the Senate, there is more institutional respect and understanding of the long-term consequences,” said Gabriel Noronha, a former Trump administration appointee. “There is also real resentment towards Trump and the damage he has done. And awareness of what this means in the next four to eight years, “he completed.

Noronha made the news recently when the white house fired him for a tweet in which he condemned Trump’s actions on January 6.

McConnell’s signs on Trump’s impeachment

Republican leader Mitch McConnell, center, wears a protective mask as he walks to his office from the Senate House on the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021.

The consensus among Republicans who spoke to CNN is that McConnell’s decision to convict Trump will influence others. On Tuesday, in his strongest remarks yet, McConnell linked Trump’s actions to the attack on Capitol Hill during a speech.

“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said. “It was provoked by the president and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific process of the first branch of the federal government that they did not like. But we move on, “he continued.

With McConnell known as moderate and prudent, his words gave hope to Republicans who would like to see the party part ways with Trump.

“I hope that Mitch’s institutional reverence for the Senate overcomes his natural political caution and leads him to the conclusion that Trump is crossed in the future of the party,” said the senior former Republican official.

Legal arguments

Former President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media as he leaves the White House on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.

Other Republican senators have said they will vote for acquittal. And they cite an opinion column published on January 12 in The Washington Post by former federal judge and conservative legal expert J. Michael Luttig. Luttig wrote that an impeachment trial after Trump left office would be unconstitutional.

“I think a lot of people would like to have a reason not to convict,” said a former Republican Senate staff member.

But other Republican legal experts are fighting with Republican senators.

“It appears that the weight of energy in Washington with legal conservatives is very much in favor of impeachment,” said Gregg Nunziata, a former adviser to the Senate Republican conference who reached out to lawmakers.

However, fears of retaliation from Trump’s allies in the media may prevail – Fox News anchors Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have already criticized McConnell’s remarks about Trump – and from the former president’s base.

The senior former Republican official who would like to see Trump convicted characterized it as an internal war within the party. In that sense, he expressed his pessimism that enough senators would rise to the occasion.

“I have learned through sad experience that no one has lost money gambling on the seemingly bottomless capacity of Congressional Republicans for humiliation and cowardice,” said the former official.

Pamela Brown and Manu Raju, both from CNN, contributed to this story.

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