US President Donald Trump’s firm grip on the Republican Party in Washington is beginning to crumble, leaving him more politically isolated than at any other point in his turbulent administration.
After causing a ruckus in the crowd that later launched a violent siege on the US Capitol, Trump appears to have lost some of his strongest allies, including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
Two Cabinet members and at least half a dozen aides have resigned. A number of Republican members of Congress are openly considering whether to join the new push for impeachment.
A Republican senator who has split with Trump in the past asked him to resign and questioned whether he would stay in the party.
“I want him out,” Senator Lisa Murkowski, from Alaska, told The Anchorage Daily News. “He’s done quite a lot of damage.”
The uprising after a bruised election defeat in Georgia that hurt Republican control in the Senate achieved what another low point in Trump’s presidency did not: compel Republicans to fundamentally reassess their relationship with a leader who has long abandoned tradition and decency.
The result could reshape the party, threatening the influence Trump craves and creating divisions between those in Washington and activists on various swaths of the country where the president is very popular.
“At this point, I won’t stand up for him anymore,” said Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary for George W Bush and a Republican strategist who voted for Trump. “I’m not going to defend him for stirring up the pot inciting the masses. He’s alone.”
As the week began, Trump was undoubtedly the most dominant political force in Republican politics and a monarch of 2024, if not the next GOP presidential candidate himself. Currently, there is a growing feeling that he is forever tarnished – and will probably be forced out of office before his term expires in 12 days.
Without resigning, the calls for a second impeachment on Capitol Hill are getting louder today. Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress will continue with impeachment due process unless Trump leaves office “imminently and voluntarily”.
presidential election Joe Biden didn’t put his weight behind the effort however, it shows that there is not enough time between now and his inauguration on January 20 to pursue impeachment or other constitutional remedies.
“I’m now focused on us taking control as president and vice president on the 20th and getting our agenda moving as fast as we can,” Biden told reporters.
Trump still has supporters, especially among many Republican voters and conservative activists outside Washington.
Yesterday, there was loud applause and chants of “We love you!” when Trump called into a Republican National Committee breakfast meeting in Florida.
“Most of the committee is in complete denial,” said Republican National Committee member Bill Palatucci, from New Jersey, who attended the breakfast. “They are willing to condemn the violence, but without referring to the president’s role in it all.”
The president insisted he had done nothing wrong. He continued to tell his aides, at least personally, that the election was stolen from him.
Republican officials in the state’s critical battlefield, the attorney general who recently left and a number of judges – including those appointed by Trump – have dismissed the claims as inappropriate.
Trump had to be persuaded to shoot a video released yesterday in which he ended up condemning the rioters and admitting defeat in November for the first time, while initially rejecting the prospect of speaking negatively about “my people”.
He finally agreed to shoot the video after White House adviser Pat Cipollone warned he could face legal danger for inciting unrest.
Others, including chief of staff Mark Meadows and daughter Ivanka Trump, urged Trump to send messages that might quell talk of forced dismissal from office, either by impeachment or the constitutional procedures outlined in the 25th Amendment.
And while Trump acknowledged in the video that a new administration would take over on January 20, he said so today he will not attend Biden’s inauguration. That makes Trump the first outgoing president since Andrew Johnson 152 years ago to miss the inauguration of his successor.
Trump has no plans to disappear from political debate once he leaves office, according to aides who believe he remains immensely popular among Republican ranks.
Lest there be any doubt, Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in the November defeat resonated with hundreds of thousands of Republican voters in this week’s Georgia Senate second round election.
About seven in 10 agree with his false statement that Biden is not a legally elected president, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 3700 voters.
The leading poll from the Republican Party, Frank Luntz, has had extensive conversations with grassroots voters and Republican officials about Trump’s position since the siege.
“The professionals are fleeing the sunken ship, but his own supporters have not abandoned him, and they actually want him to continue fighting,” Luntz said. “He will be the voice of God to tens of millions of people, and they will follow him to the ends of the earth and off the cliffs.”
And because of continued voter loyalty, elected officials in the crimson region must remain loyal to the outgoing president as well, even if his own cabinet is not. Hours after this week’s unrest, 147 Republicans in Congress still voted against Biden’s victory, including eight senators.
The dramatic split within the party is reflected in the different paths adopted by the initial list of prospects for the Republican 2024 presidency.
Senators Josh Hawley, from Missouri, and Ted Cruz, from Texas, accepted Trump’s calls to reject Biden’s victory before and after the mob attacks. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton rejected Trump’s wishes, drawing angry tweets from the President earlier this week.
Such attacks were less impactful at the end of the week as they had been given Trump’s weak political state. Yesterday, Cotton slammed fellow Republicans such as Hawley and Cruz, for giving voters “false hope” that Trump’s November defeat could be undone.
Nikki Haley, who served as the US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, tried to follow suit when she condemned Trump’s actions this week during a closed meeting with the Republican National Committee.
He praised some of Trump’s accomplishments but predicted that, “His actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history.”
Meanwhile, there is no clear path for Republicans without Trump. Speaking to reporters today, even Biden raised concerns about the health of the GOP.
“We need the Republican Party,” said Biden, noting that he spoke with Republican Senator Mitt Romney, a prominent Trump critic. “We need a principled and strong opposition.”
Meanwhile, Trump has planned ways to maintain his political influence once he moves from the White House to his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, at the end of the month.
Trusting that his supporters will stay with him no matter what, he continues to address the major challenges pushing against Republicans who are not yet loyal enough to him. And he has hinted publicly and privately that he is likely to challenge Biden in a 2024 rematch.
Doug Deason, a Texas-based donor who served on Trump’s campaign finance committee, said this week’s events did nothing to shake his confidence in the Republican president.
“He has been the best president of my life, including Reagan,” said Deason.