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Republican senators who voted to convict Trump face political peril at home

It is a time of political peril for the seven Republican senators who voted to convict the dominant figure of their party. State and local Republican parties have censured -- or are thinking about censuring -- several of those senators. And Donald Trump himself is set to re-emerge for his first public appearance as former president this coming weekend. Yamiche Alcindor reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It is a time of political peril for the seven Republican senators who voted to convict the dominant figure of their party.

    State and local Republican parties have censured or are thinking about censuring several of those senators. And Donald Trump himself is set to reemerge for his first public appearance as former president, this coming weekend.

    Yamiche Alcindor reports.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    For weeks, the GOP identity crisis has been in freefall. Differences deepened soon after this moment:

  • Sen. Patrick Leahy:

    Is the respondent, Donald John Trump, guilty or not guilty?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The moment when the Senate formally acquitted former President Trump, largely along party lines.

    The votes of seven Republicans in favor of convicting him set off a firestorm amid local GOP officials. The first senator targeted by his home state was Louisiana's Bill Cassidy.

    The state Republican Party censured him that very same day. Just two days later, North Carolina's Richard Burr was also censured by his state GOP. And Republicans are considering censuring at least three others, Maine's Susan Collins, Nebraska's Ben Sasse, and Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey.

    After he was censured, Cassidy spoke to ABC News and stood by his vote.

  • Sen. Bill Cassidy:

    I'm attempting to hold President Trump accountable. And that is the trust I have from the people that elected me.

    And I am very confident that, as time passes, people will move to that position.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In a statement, Burr also defended himself. He said — quote — "My party's leadership has chosen loyalty to one man over the core principles of the Republican Party."

    Despite voting to acquit the former president, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined in. He blasted President Trump in a speech, saying he was — quote — "practically and morally responsible" for inciting the siege at the Capitol.

    At the heart of these battles is a fight to define what being a Republican really means, says Perry Bacon Jr. of the news site FiveThirtyEight.

  • Perry Bacon:

    I think the Mitch McConnell view of Republicanism is focused on lower taxes, smaller governments, and that kind of fiscal conservatism.

    And the view of the — more of the Republicans at the state level, really the ones allied with Trump, is, we're talking about the kind of anti-multiculturalism identity politics of the right.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Bacon says the backlash against Republicans criticizing former President Trump is a reflection of how state and local parties have changed during the Trump era.

  • Perry Bacon:

    The average state party in America is run by somebody who's gotten picked in the last two or three years and is very, very pro-Trump. And in their view, being a Republican and being pro-Trump are the same thing.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Indeed, the Wyoming GOP censured the number three House Republican, Liz Cheney, for voting to impeach President Trump. But most House Republicans recently voted to keep her in leadership.

    In neighboring Nebraska, local GOP pressure has been building to censure Senator Ben Sasse. He has been ratcheting up criticism of President Trump's post-election behavior. Before Senate trial proceedings began in earnest, he taped this video confronting local critics:

  • Sen. Ben Sasse:

    That politics isn't about the weird worship of one dude.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But one county chair in Nebraska told me outright, the Trump agenda remains the party's north star.

    Kolene Woodward of Scotts Bluff County wants Sasse punished.

  • Kolene Woodward:

    Nebraska overwhelmingly voted for President Trump, meaning President Trump's values and the make America great agenda. We wanted Senator Sasse to go ahead and reflect those values in D.C.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Senator Pat Toomey also faces a possible censure.

    But one local party leader who disagrees with the senator's vote to convict said it's a waste of time to go after Toomey.

    Sam DeMarco chairs the GOP Committee in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh.

  • Sam DeMarco:

    In order to be a big tent party, you have to be open to many. And I want moderates to recognize that they have a home here in the Republican Party and that they're welcome as well.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Still, Bacon thinks state and local Republicans' loyalty to the former president means, in some places, he has already won the battle for the party's future.

  • Perry Bacon:

    At that local level, the civil war is over.

    In Washington, it's a little more complicated because Mitch McConnell is still the leader of the Republican Party in the Senate. And he's on the other side of the civil war.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    This weekend, former President Trump plans to speak at a popular conservative conference. That could ratchet up even more pressure on the Republicans who defied him.

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