Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has said that politics is about more than “the weird worship of one dude” in response to a reprimand from the state Republican Party for his vote to convict Donald Trump in his impeachment trial.
On Saturday, the central committee of Nebraska’s Republican Party said that Sasse had been “rebuked” over his impeachment trial vote. It stopped short of formally censuring him, reported the Omaha World Herald.
In a statement to CNN following the rebuke, Sasse retorted that that “Most Nebraskans don’t think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude.”
The Nebraska GOP’s vote had been delayed by bad weather and came several weeks after Trump’s acquittal in his second impeachment trial.
In a statement reported by the Herald, the central committee expressed its “deep disappointment and sadness with respect to the service of Senator Ben Sasse and calls for an immediate readjustment whereby he represents the people of Nebraska to Washington and not Washington to the people of Nebraska.”
Sasse is the latest Republican to face a backlash from their state party following their vote to convict Trump in the impeachment trial.
The US Senate is questioning the chief exeutives of SolarWinds and other tech firms in a hearing Tuesday after unknown attackers, with suspected links to Russia, infiltrated the company’s software last year, compromising thousands of organizations including major federal agencies.
SolarWinds is joined in the hearing by FireEye, the cybersecurity firm that first discovered the malware in December, as well as Microsoft, whose president, Brad Smith, is present at the proceedings. CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz will also testify; his cybersecurity firm was apparently able to stave off the hackers.
The cyberattack began in March of last year and went undetected for months. SolarWinds told the SEC that about 18,000 of its 300,000 clients were targeted in the attack. High-level government data was left exposed – the Trump administration confirmed in December that hackers had indeed infiltrated key networks, including the US Treasury and the Commerce Department.
Fortune 500 companies – including Microsoft, AT&T, and McDonald’s – were among SolarWinds’ vulnerable customer base. Microsoft has said its products, including its Office 365 suite and Azure cloud, were not used in the hack, but they were targeted, with the attackers making off with some of its source code. And FireEye researchers say the hackers appear to be able to send emails and access calendars on Microsoft’s 365 suite.
You can watch the live stream below. Follow along here for live updates from the hearing.
Chairman Mark Warner said the committee invited Amazon to attend the hearing but the company declined
Sen. Warner kicked off the hearing and noted that Amazon declined the Senate’s invitation to testify in Tuesday’s hearing. Sen. Marco Rubio also touched on the company’s lack of participation and said, “it would be most helpful in the future if they actually attended these hearings.” Amazon did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Microsoft president Brad Smith said the attack’s full scope is still unfolding
In his opening statement, Smith said there’s much that we still don’t know regarding the extent of the cyberattack and that there must be reform to the relationship between Silicon Valley’s cybersecurity arm and the federal government. He also said he believes that Russia is behind the attack.
FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia used his opening statement to declare the attack as behind “exceptionally hard to detect” and also later said that this was a planned hack. “The question is where’s the next one? And where are we going to find it?” Mandia said.
Microsoft’s Smith believes all the evidence points to Russia
Smith said earlier that “at this stage we’ve seen substantial evidence that points to the Russian foreign embassy and we’ve seen no evidence that points to anyone else.”
Mandia and CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz agreed that the attacker was a nation-state actor. However, neither confirmed who they thought was exactly behind it. Mandia did say that his company analyzed forensics and found that it’s “most consistent with espionage and behaviors we’ve seen out of Russia.”
Nearly all of the seven Republican Senators who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, which concluded February 13, are now facing significant blowback and potential censure votes in their home states.
The senators who voted to find Trump guilty on a charge of inciting the January 6 insurrection on the US Capitol are Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Burr and Toomey are both retiring their seats when their terms are up in 2022, but their state Republican parties still issued strong statements condemning their votes.
“It is truly a sad day for North Carolina Republicans,” Burr responded in a statement. “My party’s leadership has chosen loyalty to one man over the core principles of the Republican Party and the founders of our great nation.”
Censures are formal votes of disapproval or disavowal of a lawmaker’s decisions or actions, but often only carry symbolic consequences and not material punishment.
Perhaps the most surprising vote to convict came from Cassidy, who unlike some of the other Senators who moved to find Trump guilty, had not been a vocal Trump critic prior to his conviction vote. The Louisiana Republican Party’s Executive Committee censured Cassidy in a unanimous vote on Saturday evening, just hours after the impeachment vote.
“Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty,” Cassidy, who just won reelection for a six-year term in 2020, said in a short statement explaining his vote on Saturday night.
In Utah, a number of Republicans are circulating a petition to censure Romney, who is up for reelection next in 2024, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The petition asserts that Romney “appears to be an agent for the Establishment Deep State” and “misrepresented himself as a Republican” during his 2018 campaign.
The state Republican Party, however, is not backing any censure effort, and issued a statement that did not condemn either Romney or Sen. Mike Lee, who voted to acquit Trump. Their statement instead framed the healthy disagreement within their party as a positive thing.
“The differences between our own Utah Republicans showcase a diversity of thought, in contrast to the danger of a party fixated on ‘unanimity of thought,'” the statement read. “There is power in our differences as a political party, and we look forward to each senator explaining their votes to the people of Utah.”
In Maine, the chair of state’s Republican party told members in an email “to be prepared for an emergency state committee meeting in the near future” over Collins’ conviction vote, the Bangor Daily News reported.
Collins, who has long positioned herself as an independent-leaning Republican voice, handily won reelection to a six-year term in 2020. She was the only senator in either the 2016 or 2020 cycles to win in a state that voted for a presidential candidate of the opposite party.
And several Nebraska Republican activists were already pushing to censure Sasse, one of the bluntest and most vocal GOP critics of Trump’s role in the January 6 riots, prior to his vote to convict Trump. Sasse too is not up for reelection until 2026.
Murkowski is the only one of the seven senators up for reelection in 2022. She’ll be somewhat insulated from a primary challenge from the right, however, due to Alaska adopting nonpartisan top-four primaries and ranked-choice voting beginning in 2022.
“This was consequential on many levels, but I cannot allow the significance of my vote, to be devalued by whether or not I feel that this is helpful for my political ambitions,” Murkowski told Politico’s Burgess Everett after her vote on Saturday.
House impeachment managers last week brought their case against former President Donald Trump to the Senate for a five-day trial. Trump was charged with incitement of insurrection related to the deadly event at the Capitol on January 6. Trump was acquitted on Saturday.
Trump was photographed playing golf in Florida on Monday, as House impeachment managers prepared their case against him in Washington.
Over the weekend, a top conservative lawyer had dismissed Republican arguments against Trump’s impeachment. Republican senator Ron Johnson, speaking on Fox News on Sunday, suggested House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bore responsibility for the Capitol riot.
In a pretrial brief submitted Monday, lawyers representing Trump argued that his January 6 rally speech “was not and could not be construed to encourage acts of violence.”
As the impeachment trial began on Tuesday, 56 senators – including six Republicans – voted that the trial was constitutional. The House impeachment managers set the tone for the trial with a graphic video syncing up Trump’s January 6 rally speech with the march on the Capitol.
After Trump’s defense lawyers made their opening statements, CNN reported that Trump was “borderline screaming” and “deeply unhappy.” Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, said the defense needed changes, The Associated Press reported.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday said he wasn’t watching the trial. “I have a job,” he told reporters.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday reportedly said he hadn’t ruled out the possibility of voting to convict Trump.
“The mob was looking for Vice President Pence because of his patriotism because the vice president had refused to do what the president demand, and overturn the election results,” said Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett.
Trump’s tweets, speeches, and statements were focal points, but the former president didn’t testify. Trump reportedly was unmoved and mocked Democrats as they laid out their case against him on Wednesday.
House impeachment managers also showed footage of Officer Eugene Goodman urging Senator Mitt Romney to turn around and get to safety.
On Thursday, three Republican senators met with Trump’s lawyers. CNN reported that Sens. Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Mike Lee met with the defense team at the US Capitol.
“We were discussing their strategy for tomorrow, and we were sharing our thoughts, in terms of where the argument was and where to go,” Cruz said on Thursday.
The Daily Mail published photos of Trump playing golf on Friday. Trump reportedly “loved” it when his lawyers called the trial “constitutional cancel culture.”
Trump was acquitted on Saturday. Fifty-seven senators voted to convict. Cruz said he had previously advised Trump’s lawyers that they’d “already won” the case. McConnell voted to acquit Trump, but tore into the former president in a speech.
“There is no question – none – that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell said. “The people that stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.”
In a statement, Trump thanked his supporters. “This has been yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country,” he said.
He added: “No president has ever gone through anything like it, and it continues because our opponents cannot forget the almost 75 million people, the highest number ever for a sitting president, who voted for us just a few short months ago.”
Biden said the trial was a “sad chapter” that demonstrated how “fragile” US democracy was.
“While the final vote did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge is not in dispute,” he said in a statement.
“While the final vote did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge is not in dispute,” Biden said in the statement, noting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s remarks from earlier in the day.
McConnell, who voted to acquit, said Trump is “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”
Trump’s acquittal came one month after the House of Representatives voted to impeach him over incitement of insurrection, in a historically bipartisan vote.
The Senate trial was also the most bipartisan in US history, with seven Republicans joining all 50 Democrats to vote to convict Trump. The Senate needed 67 votes for a conviction, but 43 GOP senators voted to acquit.
In the statement, Biden recalled attending the funeral of Brian Sicknick, the Capitol police officer who died during the attack.
“Tonight, I am thinking about those who bravely stood guard that January day. I’m thinking about all those who lost their lives, all those whose lives were threatened, and all those who are still today living with the terror they lived through that day.” Biden said.
He also said “this sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile,” and that “violence and extremism” do not belong in the US.
“And that each of us has a duty and responsibility as Americans, and especially as leaders, to defend the truth and to defeat the lies,” Biden said.
“That is how we end this uncivil war and heal the very soul of our nation,” he said, adding that Americans must undertake that task together.
The Senate acquitted Donald Trump Saturday in the impeachment trial over his role in inciting an insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6. The vote was largely split along party lines, with all 50 Democrats and seven Republicans voting to convict, and 43 Republicans voting to acquit.
Six of the Republicans who voted for acquittal were also sitting senators in 1999, during the impeachment trial of then-president Bill Clinton. Five of them voted to remove Clinton from office:
Mitch McConnell of Kentucky
Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma
Richard Shelby of Alabama
Mike Crapo of Idaho
All five voted to convict Clinton of obstruction of justice, while all but Shelby voted to convict him of perjury, or lying under oath. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was also a sitting senator during Clinton’s trial but voted not guilty on both counts. She was among the Republicans who voted to convict Trump.
The Senate acquittal on Saturday came a month after Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for incitement of insurrection over the Capitol siege, which resulted in multiple deaths and delayed the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
Clinton’s impeachment stemmed from his testimony in a sexual harassment case brought on by a woman named Paula Jones, during which he infamously denied having an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. An investigation by an independent council ultimately concluded Clinton had committed impeachable offenses in four categories: perjury, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and abuse of power.
The Republican-led House of Representatives brought four articles of impeachment against Clinton in 1998, with two – perjury and obstruction of justice – getting the votes needed to advance to a Senate trial.
Some of the Republicans who were serving in the House then are also senators now.
These are the sitting GOP senators who voted to acquit Trump Saturday, and to impeach Clinton on at least one article when they were members of the House:
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
Roy Blunt of Missouri
Jerry Moran of Kansas
Rob Portman of Ohio
John Thune of South Dakota
Roger Wicker of Mississippi
Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina was also a representative at the time and voted to impeach Clinton. However, in a surprising vote, he was one of the seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump on Saturday.
The latest impeachment trial was Trump’s second. He was first impeached in January 2020 over concerns that he abused his power to interfere in the 2020 election. The House and Senate votes were also along party lines then, with only one Republican senator, Mitt Romney of Utah, voting to convict.
Sen. Lindsey Graham wants to leverage former President Donald Trump’s influence to ensure that the Republican party takes back the House and Senate in 2022.
In an interview with Politico, Graham said he’ll meet with Trump to discuss the future of the GOP and his role in it.
“I’m going to try and convince him that we can’t get there without you, but you can’t keep the Trump movement going without the GOP united,” Graham said on Friday.
“If we come back in 2022, then, it’s an affirmation of your policies,” he said. “But if we lose again in 2022, the narrative is going to continue that not only you lost the White House, but the Republican Party is in a bad spot.”
In the 2020 elections, Democrats took back the Senate from the House, giving President Joe Biden a Democratic stronghold in Congress.
In the remaining weeks of his presidency, Trump signaled that he’d stay involved in politics. He had at one point planned to hold a 2024 campaign event ahead of an eventual potential second run at president.
But support for Trump within the Republican party has dwindled.
Graham indicated he’s looking to channel that allyship with Trump into bolstering the GOP in the next mid-term election cycle.
“Trump’s got to work with everybody,” Graham said. “You got to put your best team on the field. If it’s about revenge and going after people you don’t like, we’re going to have a problem. If this is about putting your best team on the field, we’ve got a decent chance at coming back.”
Last week, freshman GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, an avid Trump supporter, received a slew of criticism over past expressions of support for political violence and conspiracy theories. However, the response from Republican leadership in each chamber was notably different.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the embrace of conspiracy theories was a “cancer for the Republican Party,” in an apparent reference to Greene. He said anyone who suggested some of the things Greene has, including that some school shootings were staged false-flag events, “is not living in reality.”
However, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy denounced Greene’s comments, he also defended her, saying she shouldn’t be judged on things she said before becoming a member of Congress.
“The divide between the more traditional or establishment wing and the more MAGA wing of the Republican Party is pretty clear on both sides of Capitol Hill,” Jonathan Krasno, a professor of political science at Binghamton University in New York, told Insider.
But, he said, a few key factors “have deepened the apparent disparity between the Senate and House.”
First, Krasno noted, senators represent whole states, which means they likely have a much more diverse base of constituents than members of the House, who represent single districts within their states.
“There are probably Republican House members from Kentucky who would find it suicidal to criticize Marjorie Taylor Greene as directly as McConnell has and others who wouldn’t be hurt as much,” Krasno said.
McConnell and other senators may feel like they can openly criticize Greene or other Trump loyalists without experiencing severe electoral consequences. This difference is also enhanced by the fact that senators serve six-year terms, rather than representatives’ two-year terms, so they may be less likely to have a single comment or decision come back to haunt them.
Kevin Kosar, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and co-editor of the book “Congress Overwhelmed,” echoed those sentiments, pointing to a pair of votes that took place in the House last week to demonstrate the point.
The first was a secret vote among the Republican members over whether Rep. Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump, should keep her leadership position. The second was a public vote, held among all members of the House, over whether Greene should be removed from her committee assignments.
“Like impeachment, this vote was a test of overt party loyalty. With GOP voters watching, most legislators felt obligated to toe the Trumpy line,” Kosar said.
However, Republicans also voted in favor of Cheney, in apparent opposition to the stance of the most loyal Trump supporters.
“There, legislators did not have to tell GOP voters how they voted, and an overwhelming number of them took the non-Trumpy position,” Kosar said.
He said the secret Cheney vote was, in part, a proxy for how House members really feel about impeachment and Trump: “in their heart of hearts only a minority of the House GOP are loyal Trumpists.”
But you wouldn’t know it based on their public votes and comments, like the Greene vote, which tend to overwhelmingly cater to Trump’s supporters.
Money is likely another reason the Senate seems more willing to separate from the MAGA wing of the party, Krasno said. Senate races typically cost much more money than House races. However, some corporate giants announced they were suspending funding to some Republican lawmakers in the wake of the Capitol siege.
“Senators realize they need the donors that have been communicating their reluctance or downright refusal to give to Republican campaigns and committees,” Krasno said, adding that representatives might be less concerned because their races are cheaper and they can raise what they need.
Ultimately, Senate leadership appears to be looking ahead more than House leadership.
Krasno said McConnell is clearly trying to position the GOP to regain the House majority in 2022 by succeeding in winnable races in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.
“McCarthy, on the other hand, has not managed to focus his caucus on electoral politics and seems intent on surviving each week,” he said. “It’s a pretty stark contrast.”
President Joe Biden said that he won’t be watching former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, which started in the Senate Tuesday and will likely continue throughout the week.
“I have a job,” Biden told reporters Tuesday. “We’ve already lost over 450,000 people. We’re going to lose a whole lot more if we don’t act decisively and quickly.”
“That’s my job. The Senate has their job. They’re about to begin it. I’m sure they’re going to conduct themselves well. And that’s all I’m going to have to say about impeachment,” he added.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated Biden’s priorities on Tuesday and would not say whether the president believes the impeachment trial is constitutional. Forty-five Republican senators voted last month to declare the impeachment trial unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president. Several legal scholars have rejected that argument.
“Biden is the president – he’s not a pundit,” Psaki told reporters during a press briefing. “He’s not going to opine on the back-and-forth arguments, nor is he watching them, that are taking place in the Senate.”
Every Democratic senator and 17 Republicans would need to vote “yes” in order for Trump to be convicted in his second impeachment trial. The trial is likely to end in Trump’s acquittal, as a majority of GOP members have previously said they do not support his impeachment.
The Senate unanimously passed a Republican amendment on Thursday that seeks to prevent Democrats from doing something they never wanted to do: double the minimum wage to $15 an hour during the pandemic.
In effect, Democrats, as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, joined with Republicans to drive the fact home.
The amendment from Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, appeared to be an effort to miscast Democrats’ position – to enact a $15 minimum wage “during a global pandemic” – and put centrist Democrats on the spot to highlight divides within the party on the wage hike plan.
Specifically, the amendment would grant the chair of the Senate Budget Committee the right to nix a wage increase as part of the reconciliation process – a parliamentary maneuver that allows the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass legislation in the upper chamber with a simple majority instead of the 60 votes usually required.
Sanders, an independent from Vermont and chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said during the floor debate that he would do “everything I can to make sure that a $15 minimum wage is included in this reconciliation bill.” He rejected Republican framing that Democrats are seeking to double the wage before the pandemic is over.
“It was never my intent to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour immediately during the pandemic,” Sanders said. “My legislation gradually increases the minimum wage to $15 an hour over a 5 year period, and that is what I believe we ought to do.”
Sanders put the amendment on a non-recorded voice vote in a move that likely deflected criticism of his drive to increase the minimum wage.
“We need to end the crisis of starvation wages in Iowa and across the United States,” he added.
A senior Democratic aide, granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, argued that Republicans had bungled the effort to force moderate Democrats to take a politically difficult vote.
“This isn’t Bernie’s first rodeo,” the aide said. “No one has to take a tough vote on a messaging amendment and we can still try to pass minimum wage through the reconciliation bill.”
It remains unclear whether Democrats will be successful in approving the minimum wage increase through the strict budgetary rules governing the reconciliation process.
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour was last raised in 2009.
Earlier this month, Ernst spoke out against including a wage increase as part of any stimulus package, saying such “liberal priorities” would hurt small businesses.
Ben Zipperer, an economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute, told Insider such an impact would be minimal, at worst, and arguably beneficial to businesses as well as workers, with higher wages reducing costly employee turnover.
Despite Republican opposition, however, raising the minimum wage is popular among voters. According to a recent poll from Quinnipiac University, 61% of Americans support Democrats’ effort to hike it to $15 an hour.
Twenty states have already raised their own minimum wage since 2021 started.