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D.C. Memo: Dour, sullen, but always smiling

The former president gets sued, impeachment vote divides a family and the GOP braces for the Tea Party, Round 2.

photo of mitch mcconnell
Former President Donald Trump called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a “dour, sullen, unsmiling political hack.”
REUTERS/Tom Brenner

Welcome to the post-second Trump impeachment trial D.C. Memo. This week: The former president gets sued, impeachment vote divides a family and the GOP braces for the Tea Party, Round 2. Here we go:

So, what now?

Former president Donald Trump might have been acquitted at his second impeachment trial last week, but that’s probably not be the final word on whether he’ll have to answer for the Capitol riot, writes Colleen Long of The Associated Press.

As a private citizen, Long notes, Trump no longer has the protection from legal liability that the presidency afforded him — something even his fellow Republicans who voted for acquittal have pointed out.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, though he voted to acquit, provided the blockbuster quote after the Senate vote. “President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office, as an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations has run,” he said. McConnell argued that the courts were a more appropriate venue to hold Trump accountable than a Senate trial. “He didn’t get away with anything yet. Yet.”

That didn’t take long

It looks like that legal action has already started. In a lawsuit filed earlier this week, the House Homeland Security chair accused Trump of inciting the insurrection and conspiring with his lawyer and extremist groups to try to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election.

The lawsuit, filed by U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages and also names Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, and the extremist groups Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers as defendants, according Eric Tucker of The Associated Press. “All I wanted to do was do my job, and the insurrection that occurred prevented me from doing that,” Thompson told reporters.

Trump adviser Jason Miller said in a statement that Trump did not organize the rally that preceded the riot and “did not incite or conspire to incite any violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6th.”

Tea Party 2.0?

With the impeachment trial laying bare a giant rift between Trump loyalists and mainstream Republicans, some observers see a new Tea Party-like internecine war in the GOP, writes The Hill’s Reid Wilson.

In one corner, McConnell; in the other, Trump.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, McConnell said Trump “bears moral responsibility” for the riot. “His supporters stormed the Capitol because of the unhinged falsehoods he shouted into the world’s largest megaphone.”

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Trump, still banned from Twitter, responded through his political action committee. After taking some predictable shots — calling McConnell “a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack” — the former president pledged to back like-minded candidates over incumbent Republicans in the 2022 mid-terms. “Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First,” he wrote. “This is a big moment for our country, and we cannot let it pass by using third rate ‘leaders’ to dictate our future!”

Wilson reports that Trump’s Save America PAC had more than $31 million in the bank at the end of 2020 — “money he could use to finance those intraparty challenges.”

One unhappy family

Several Republicans in the House and Senate who voted to either impeach or convict Trump have been catching hell from their constituents, but U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger might be the poster child for intra-family squabbles.

The congressman from the Chicago suburbs, who voted to impeach Trump, is unwelcome not just in his party but also in his own family, some of whom recently disowned him, writes the New York Times Reid J. Epstein.

Two days after Kinzinger called for removing Trump from office following the Capitol riot, 11 members of his family sent him a handwritten two-page letter, saying he was in cahoots with “the devil’s army” for making a public break with the president. “Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God!” they wrote. “You have embarrassed the Kinzinger family name!”

The author of the letter was Karen Otto, Kinzinger’s cousin. Besides Kinzinger’s father, she sent copies to Republicans across Illinois, including other members of the state’s congressional delegation. “I wanted Adam to be shunned,” she said.

Kinzinger told Epstein that he was not deterred by the Senate’s failure to convict Trump. “We have a lot of work to do to restore the Republican Party,” he said, “and to turn the tide on the personality politics.”

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Schools re-opening

At a CNN town hall in Milwaukee earlier this week, President Joe Biden said his goal was to open the majority of K-8 schools by the end of his first 100 days in office as the COVID pandemic eases – many of them five days a week, in person.

His response, NPR’s Alana Wise reports, contradicts what White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier — that the president’s goal was to have the majority of schools open at least one day a week in person over the same time frame, without specifying K-8. Biden dismissed the discrepancy as a “mistake in the communication.”

As you probably know by now, Minnesota is on its own school-reopening trajectory, with Gov. Tim Walz announcing this week that all K-8 and high school students can begin returning to school starting Monday. The governor said he expects all schools to offer students “some form” of in-person education by March 8. MinnPost’s own Walker Orenstein explains what the governor’s decision means here.

What I’m reading

The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election,” by Molly Ball of Time magazine. Ball writes that there really was a conspiracy — not QAnon, but rather one cooked up by lefties and righties alike to make sure the election went smoothly and without civil unrest. Who were these altruistic players? The AFL-CIO labor union and the business-friendly U.S. Chamber of Commerce were two of them, Ball reports. Their respective leaders signed a statement, issued the day of the election, calling on Americans to be patient and to have faith in the electoral system. Writes Ball: “The handshake between business and labor was just one component of a vast, cross-partisan campaign to protect the election – an extraordinary shadow effort dedicated not to winning the vote but to ensuring it would be free and fair, credible and uncorrupted.”

ICYMI, don’t forget about these MinnPost reads

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That’s it for this week. As always, you can contact me at gaamot@minnpost.com or find me on Twitter.