GOP senate leader Mitch McConnell and seven Republicans who voted to convict Donald Trump face a fractured party that the former president intends to mould in his image and mount a political comeback with the looming 2022 midterm elections.
Mr Trump was acquitted by the US Senate following his impeachment for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol on 6 January, though a bipartisan majority vote of 57-43 that found him guilty was shy of a two-thirds majority vote to secure a conviction.
The former president proclaimed in the hours after his second impeachment trial that his “Make American Great Again” movement “has only just begun”.
On Sunday, Lindsey Graham declared Mr Trump is “ready to move on and rebuild the Republican Party” as he proclaimed the former president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump “the future” of a GOP that has shed accountability for the deadly insurrection.
The senator claimed Republicans will attempt to impeach Vice President Kamala Harris if the GOP takes control of the House of Representatives in 2022, claiming that the trial “opened Pandora’s Box to future presidents”.
Republican senators who broke from the party to side with Democrats faced backlash at home – two senators were censured by their state party officials, and Mr Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr and his base have attacked them as “RINOs” and “traitors” following their vote.
While Mr McConnell voted with Republicans against convicting Mr Trump, he condemned his “disgraceful dereliction of duty” and said he is “practically and morally responsible” for his supporters’ assault on the Capitol.
Mr Graham said his “got a load off his chest, obviously, but unfortunately he put a load on the back of Republicans” with potential for negative adverts ahead of critical midterm elections.
“That speech you will see in 2022 campaigns,” Mr Graham told Fox News.
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