Senate Republicans are trying really, really hard to pretend that Donald Trump doesn't exist and that he's not the leader of the GOP so that they can get reelected in November, but Trump keeps making that hard with his continuing campaign to crucify those left in the party who aren't loyal.
In interviews on Monday evening, GOP senators lashed out at their own national party's overwhelming vote to censure Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) for working on the House's investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. They warned that alienating a portion of the party for being overly anti-Trump is not a political winner heading into the midterms, a sharp message from sitting members that goes far beyond criticism already aired by a handful of GOP pundits.
Several Republican senators took more direct action: Both Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) were in communication with RNC chair Ronna McDaniel about the censure, with Graham calling her and Romney texting his niece.
“A very unfortunate decision by the RNC and a very unfortunate statement put out as well. Nothing could be further from the truth than to consider the attack on the seat of democracy as legitimate political discourse,” Romney said in an interview. Graham said the party is going in the “wrong direction” when it’s not talking about taking back control of Congress.
The RNC is supposed to be a unifying organization within the party. But its passage of a resolution censuring Cheney and Kinzinger for the “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse” is having the opposite effect — reopening divisions between the large pro-Trump wing of the party, the smaller anti-Trump wing and the rest of a GOP still trying to find its way amid a favorable midterm cycle.
The intrigue will continue to play out later this week, with internal discussions in the House over the censure and future of Cheney and Kinzinger in the party.
The RNC “did say in their resolution that the job was to win elections. I agree with that. But then they go on to engage in actions that make that more challenging,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is close to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I don’t think you can kick out of the party everybody you disagree with. Or it’s going to be a minority party.”
McConnell, who has defended Cheney in the past, said he would address the matter on Tuesday at his usual press conference. Several members of his leadership team expressed their concern about GOP infighting. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, the No. 5 GOP leader, said it shouldn’t be the job of the RNC to censure individual members of Congress: “I wish they wouldn’t. I would leave it up to the states.”
“We’ve got a lot of issues that we should be focusing on besides censuring two members of Congress because they have a different opinion,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who serves on McConnell’s leadership team. “I thought: Free speech for everybody.”
This is Mitch and the Senate GOP yelling "Don't make me pull this car over" while in the front passenger seat. Trump's been driving this clown car for nearly seven years now and nobody cares to listen to them anymore.
It's Trump's party and it will be for the foreseeable future.
What Senate Republicans are afraid of is Trump turning on them next.