Live politics updates: Arizona GOP censures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and ex-Sen. Jeff Flake

USA Today

Rubio and Romney take contrasting stances ahead of second Trump impeachment trial

Republican senators have publicly diverged in their assessment of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. The Senate trial comes after the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting a mob of his supporters that stormed and ransacked the U.S. Capitol in a bid to overturn the results of the November presidential election.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was receptive to impeaching the president.

Romney, the only Republican senator who voted to convict Trump in his first Senate impeachment trial, indicated he was open to voting to convict Trump again given the severity of the charge against the former president.

“There’s no question that the article of impeachment sent over by the House suggests impeachable conduct, but we have not yet heard either from the prosecution or from the defense,” Romney said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“I believe that what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offense,” Romney asserted on CNN. “If not? what is?” he asked.

Other GOP senators have taken a more skeptical view of the trial.

“Well, first of all, I think the trial is stupid,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said on “Fox News Sunday.” Rubio argued that it would be “arrogant” for the Senate to convict Trump after he’s left office, and that while the former president “bears responsibility” for the Capitol insurrection, it is wrong to “stir up” the controversy again.

“All I’m arguing is we have some really important things to work on,” Rubio said, asserting that impeachment was an impediment to unity. “It’ll be bad for the country, it really will,” Rubio said.

Romney expressed a different view on Fox News, arguing “If we’re going to have unity” there must be “accountability” for wrongdoing from all actors, including Trump.

In recent days, other senators like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., claimed impeaching Trump would “destroy” the Republican Party. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, threatened that a post-presidency impeachment of Trump would eventually result in the impeachment of Democratic presidents like Barack Obama.

Conversely, senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Ben Sasse, R-Neb., have also expressed openness to impeaching Trump.

– Matthew Brown 

Poll: Americans positive about Biden COVID-19 response, ability to unite country

Americans are broadly supportive of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus response and his prospects for bringing the nation together, according to a recent ABC News poll.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans approve of Biden’s plans to address the coronavirus pandemic while 57% believe Biden can follow-through on his promise to unite a divided America.

Notably, 40% of Republicans also approve of Biden’s early coronavirus response, signaling a bipartisan honeymoon that may help the president implement his more ambitious plans to tackle the virus. Ninety-seven percent of Democrats and 70% of independents back Biden’s early steps to contain the pandemic.

After taking office on Wednesday, Biden imposed a mask-wearing mandate on federal property, issued orders to ramp up vaccine and personal protective equipment distribution, and issued an order requiring international travelers to test negative for COVID-19 before they can enter the U.S.

On Sunday, Biden signed executive orders which streamlined the delivery of stimulus checks and expand federal food aid programs.

Eighty-one percent of Americans back the executive order requiring masks on federal property. Fifty-five percent of Americans also supported Biden’s reversal of Trump’s ban on travel from several majority Muslim countries, as well as his halting of border wall construction on the southern border with Mexico. Sixty-five percent of Americans support Biden’s decision to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program for undocumented youth.

Republicans overwhelmingly oppose Biden ending each of those measures, indicating the president’s bipartisan honeymoon on coronavirus response may have its limits in a hyper-polarized nation.

Unity was the central topic of Biden’s inauguration. “We stop the shouting and lower the temperature. Without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury,” Biden cautioned during his speech. “Unity is the only path forward.”

Seventy-one percent of those polled who heard Biden’s speech found it convincing, according to the ABC News poll.  But nearly a quarter (24%) said they are deeply skeptical of his ability to bridge the nation’s divides.

– Matthew Brown 

Arizona GOP censures Cindy McCain, Jeff Flake, Doug Ducey

The Arizona Republican Party on Saturday passed three resolutions censuring high-profile Republicans: Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain.

It was another sign of the party’s move to the right.

The party censured Ducey over his decision to impose emergency rules during the pandemic that the GOP said “restrict personal liberties and force compliance to unconstitutional edicts.”

It said McCain, who endorsed President Joe Biden, “has supported globalist policies and candidates” and “condemned President Trump for his criticism of her husband and erroneously placed behaviors over actual presidential results.”

And it declared Flake has “condemned the Republican Party, rejected populism, and rejected the interests of the American people over globalist interests.” The party suggested Flake join the Democrats.

Sara Mueller, Ducey’s political director, took the censure in stride.

“These resolutions are of no consequence whatsoever, and the people behind them have lost whatever little moral authority they may have once had,” she said.

– Ronald J. Hansen, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Arizona Republic 

Trump weighed firing acting AG to pursue unfounded voter fraud claims

In his last weeks of office, then-President Donald Trump weighed a plan to oust acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and replace him with a loyalist inside the Justice Department when Rosen refused to pursue Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud, a person familiar with the matter told USA TODAY.

The source who is not authorized to comment publicly said the plan, which Trump ultimately dropped, prompted remaining top Justice officials to threaten a mass resignation.

“Until the very end, the pressure never stopped; the pressure was real,” the source said, describing Trump’s efforts to coerce federal prosecutors to take up a campaign ultimately aimed at overturning the election of President Joe Biden.

The plan, first reported by The New York Times, entailed replacing Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, who Trump had appointed to lead Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and who later served as acting chief of the Civil Division.

Had the effort proceeded, Clark, who had earlier raised concerns about voter fraud within the department, would have been in a position to act on Trump’s behalf to challenge election results in Georgia where the president had previously pressured state officials.

– Kevin Johnson and Sarah Elbeshbishi

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