North Carolina Republicans censure Senator Richard Burr over vote to convict Trump

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The North Carolina GOP Central Committee on Monday night censured home state Sen. Richard Burr over his vote to convict in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.

“A large number of members of the Central Committee reached out to me to express their disapproval,” NC GOP Chairman Michael Whatley told Fox News. “Over the course of the last 72 hours, we have had conversations with hundreds of party leaders across the state.”

Burr was one of seven Republican senators who on Saturday joined all 50 Democrats in the chamber in voting to convict Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by right-wing extremists and other Trump supporters intent on disrupting congressional certification of President Biden’s election victory. The former president was acquitted as the tally was 10 votes shy of the 67 needed to convict Trump.

“The NCGOP agrees with the strong majority of Republicans in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate that the Democrat-led attempt to impeach a former President lies outside the United States Constitution,” the NCGOP said in a statement on Monday night.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., walks in the Capitol as the Senate proceeds in a rare weekend session for final arguments in the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The North Carolina GOP Central Committee voted unanimously to censure Burr, who is retiring next year rather than run for a fourth six-year term in the Senate. The committee has 25 voting members.

“It is truly a sad day for North Carolina Republicans,” Burr said in response to the censure. “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.”

“Our reaction right now is that we are very glad the Senate voted to acquit President Trump, and we think that it is time for the Democrats in the House and the Senate and administration to focus on American families’ priorities,” Whatley said.

The censure was no surprise, as state GOP chair Michael Whatley charged minutes after Saturday’s acquittal that Burr’s vote “to convict in a trial that he declared unconstitutional is shocking and disappointing.”

Burr was one of 45 Republican senators who voted last Tuesday to declare that convicting a former president of impeachment was unconstitutional. But in a statement at the end of the trial, the senator explained that while he still personally believed that holding the trial was unconstitutional, “the Senate is an institution based on precedent, and given that the majority in the Senate voted to proceed with this trial, the question of constitutionality is now established precedent.”

“The evidence is compelling that President Trump is guilty of inciting an insurrection against a coequal branch of government and that the charge rises to the level of high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” Burr said in a statement. “Therefore, I have voted to convict. I do not make this decision lightly, but I believe it is necessary. By what he did and by what he did not do, President Trump violated his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee spokesman and North Carolina native who used to work for Mr. Burr, discounted the move by the state party, saying it just “demonstrates a fealty to Trump from party apparatus. But that doesn’t represent voters.”

Burr is far from the only GOP member of Congress to be punished by Republican committees back home.

Another GOP lawmaker who voted to convict Trump — Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana — was unanimously censured Saturday night by the executive committee of the state Republican Party.

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who along with Burr is retiring in 2022 rather than run for re-election, also voted to convict Trump. He’s been censured by several county GOP committees across the Keystone State since his vote on Saturday.

Among the other GOP senators who voted to convict Trump,, Sen Ben Sasse of Nebraska faces likely censure by his home state’s GOP next month, and Maine’s Republican Party is considering a censure of Sen. Susan Collins.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah were the other two GOP senators to vote to convict the former president.

Murkowski, who’s up for re-election next year, will be the first of the 7 Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump to face voters back home.

The Utah Republican Party praised Romney as well as the state’s other GOP senator – Sen. Mike Lee – despite their very different votes on impeachment.

“Disagreement is natural and healthy in a party that is based on principles – not on persona. In fact, those principles are the reaseon behind unprecedented American prosperity during the last four years, the Utah Repubilcan Party said in their statement.

Trump was impeached by the House on Jan. 13, one week after the attack on the Capitol. Ten Republicans joined all 222 Democrats in the chamber in voting to impeach the then-president.

Some of those lawmakers have already been punished by state and local GOP committees. That includes the most high profile of those 10 GOP representatives – House Conference Chair Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming – who was censured by her home state’s GOP.

Fox News’ Mark Meredith contributed to this report

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