“It’d be great if he ran. He’s done a good job. I think he ought to run if he wants to run. Who knows what’s going to happen in ‘24?” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who said he is not focused on a presidential run at the moment. “He can sell the things he accomplished.”
In a series of interviews Wednesday, House and Senate Republicans made clear that the GOP has no intention of turning its back on Trumpism — or Trump himself. That’s in part because Trump remains an exceedingly popular figure in his party, far more than most congressional Republicans. Some Republicans declined to discuss the 2024 race, however, deeming it too speculative.
The political calculus is also clear. While he will soon lose the Oval Office, he’ll still have his Twitter handle and will still be in firm control of his base. Republicans are loath to get cross with Trump, who could play a central role in Senate and House primaries in 2022 and create trouble for incumbents that break with him. Future GOP presidential candidates will also be eager to court his supporters if he ultimately passes on another campaign.
Still, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of Trump’s fiercest allies on Capitol Hill, said Trump “should run and would have the support of the party.”
“The president is very popular in the Republican Party, and he would be very tough to beat,” added Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the incoming chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
As it slowly sinks in for Trump that he’s being replaced by Joe Biden, the president is starting to publicly toy with a comeback bid four years from now. And Republicans show little interest in defying the president who has rapidly transformed their party. Many have refused to recognize Biden as the president-elect, and few have condemned his baseless claims of election fraud.
The president may freeze the field as long as he weighs another presidential run, despite more than a dozen Republicans positioning themselves as potential candidates in 2024. Trump told Republican National Committee members on Tuesday that if his doomed bid to challenge the 2020 election results ultimately fails: “I’ll see you in four years.”
“I would encourage him to keep that option open. I would personally support him if he did,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who ripped Trump while running in the 2016 GOP primary and then became a close ally. “Most Republicans believe he’s done a very good job and that his presidency from a conservative’s point of view has been very consequential.”
“If President Trump runs in ‘24, I support it. That will be his decision, he’s come off a tough election,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who added that most congressional Republicans would be likely to back Trump.
Republicans also said they have little reservations about putting their faith in a freshly-defeated candidate to win back the White House, arguing Trump has defied the odds — and the polls — once before.
“Here you have a gentleman that won in 2016 and then in 2020, he not only outperforms, but overperforms by 15 million votes? That’s unheard of,” said conservative Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who noted Trump won a larger share of Black voters than he did in 2016. Trump, of course, also bled support in the suburbs — including in Arizona and Georgia, states Democrats hadn’t won in decades.
Still, not every Republican in Congress felt like chatting about the matter after five years of Trump’s dominance over the party. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he doesn’t talk about those kinds of hypotheticals. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a potential presidential candidate, declined to comment. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she hasn’t “thought at all about 2024” and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said it was “too speculative” a topic.
“I am going to try not to answer hypotheticals,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “It’s going to be a crowded field, I assume, unless he clears the field. I don’t know.”
“We’re so far away from that. I will tell you this. If he runs, I think he would clearly be the favorite. I think he would win,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who ran against Trump in 2016 and has mulled another run in the future. “I know it’s an interesting story, but I have no idea.”
While Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) predicted Trump would have many GOP supporters, Hawley guessed that some Republican senators would be dismayed if Trump ran again: “I personally suspect that Republican senators would gnash their teeth and wail and hate it.”
Some Republicans have tired of being asked about Trump’s various tweets and controversies, including this week’s threat to veto a popular defense bill and reports that he may pardon members of his inner circle. But many of the newer GOP senators, particularly those from red states, are openly supportive of Trump’s potential third run for president.
“The country benefited tremendously from the first four years of President Trump and it would benefit tremendously by a second four-year term from President Trump,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who said she hopes Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election is successful. “People in Tennessee are very enthusiastic about a second Trump term.”
If Trump does launch another bid, it could force other Republicans who have been waiting in the wings to put their presidential ambitions on hold for yet another four years. The idea of Trump as the GOP nominee for three cycles straight could stymie the ambitions of an entire generation of Republicans.
“I’m from Indiana, and I want to see my guy, Mike Pence, in the White House one day,” Banks said. “And hopefully, [in] 2024, we’ll have Mike Pence on the ballot one way or another.”
Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.
Pelosi to move forward with impeachment if Pence doesn’t act to remove Trump
“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said in the letter to Democrats on Sunday night laying out next steps.
The House will try to pass a measure on Monday imploring Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, through which he and the Cabinet declare Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting president.” If Republicans object, as is virtually certain, Democrats will pass the bill via a roll call vote on Tuesday.
“We are calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours,” Pelosi wrote. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”
But it’s not clear when exactly the Senate will take up the House’s measure. The Senate isn’t scheduled to return until Jan. 19, but will hold pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday. In theory, a senator could try to pass the House resolution by unanimous consent, but as of now it appears unlikely that it would pass.
On Monday, multiple House Democrats plan to introduce impeachment resolutions that would become the basis of any impeachment article considered by the House later this week.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will introduce an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, said on Sunday that roughly 200 Democrats have co-sponsored the measure.
Currently, 211 voting members (plus three nonvoting members) support Cicilline’s legislation, and they are hoping to reach 217 voting members by Monday morning, enough for the House to impeach Trump, one Democratic source familiar with the matter told POLITICO.
A small number of Democrats have opted not to co-sign the bill, but privately say they will vote to support the resolution on the floor, the source added.
The impeachment effort in the House is likely to be bipartisan, with Democrats expecting at least one GOP lawmaker — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to sign on. A handful of other House Republicans are seriously weighing it, according to several sources, though those lawmakers are waiting to see how Democrats proceed, and some are concerned about dividing the country even further.
Among the GOP members whom Democrats are keeping an eye on are Reps. John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.
Across the Capitol, at least two Republicans — Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have called on Trump to resign. On Saturday, Toomey told Fox News, “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” but told CNN the next day that he does not believe there is enough time to impeach.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has also said he would consider articles of impeachment.
Another option has emerged among some Republican and moderate Democratic circles — censuring Trump — though it remains highly unlikely to advance.
A censure resolution would gain far more support in the GOP than impeachment. Some Republicans have privately been pushing for that route and are trying to get Biden on board, according to GOP sources. That group of Republicans is also warning that impeachment could destroy Biden’s reputation with Republicans.
But censure is considered a nonstarter in an incensed House Democratic Caucus, where members see it as a slap on the wrist that gives Republicans an easy out.
The Democrats’ enormous step toward impeachment on Sunday comes after Pelosi and other top Democrats held a private call on Saturday night in which they discussed the potential ramifications that a lengthy impeachment trial could have on Biden’s presidency.
Democratic leaders discussed several options to limit the political effects on Biden’s first 100 days, with one option — floated by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — for the House to delay the start of an impeachment trial in the Senate by holding on to the article of impeachment.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sent out a memo to senators explaining that the Senate could not take up impeachment until Jan. 19 at the earliest, absent unanimous consent.
A final decision has not been made, and House Democrats will discuss the matter on a 2 p.m. caucus call on Monday.
Lawmakers are already privately expressing concerns about returning to the Capitol for multiple days this week, worried about both a potential coronavirus outbreak and whether the building is secure, given how easily an armed pro-Trump mob invaded on Wednesday.
The Capitol physician urged House lawmakers and staff to get tested in a memo Sunday, saying they might have been exposed to someone who had the virus while huddling for safety in a large committee room for hours on Wednesday. During the hourslong lockdown, several Republican members refused to wear masks despite being offered them by Democrats worried about the spread of the deadly virus.
Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.
Matt Hancock Scraps “Unnecessary Training Modules” Blamed For Slowing Vaccine Rollout
5 min read
Matt Hancock said people will no longer need to undertake training including an anti-terrorism course to give the coronavirus jab after MPs said “bureaucratic rubbish” was delaying mass vaccination.
It comes as MPs called for the government to produce targets for the number of people given immunity before lockdown can be lifted.
The health secretary said a series of “unnecessary training modules” are being scrapped to speed up the process of getting people qualified to deliver the jab.
Speaking in the Commons, Sir Edward Leigh said he was shown by his fellow the Tory MP, a qualified GP, the “ridiculous form” he had filled out to start delivering the vaccine.
“When he’s inoculating an old lady, he’s not going to ask her if she’s come into contact with Jihadis or whatever, so the Secretary has got to cut through all this bureaucratic rubbish,” he said.
In response Mr Hancock said: “I am a man after Sir Edward’s heart and I can tell the House that we have removed a series of the unnecessary training modules that had been put in place, including fire safety, terrorism and others.
“I’ll write to him with the full panoply of the training that is not required and we have been able to remove, and we made this change as of this morning and I am glad to say it is enforced.
“I am a fan of busting bureaucracy and in this case I agree with him that it is not necessary to undertake anti-terrorism training in order to inject vaccines.”
Dr Fox had earlier challenged Boris Johnson to drop the “bureaucracy” and “political correctness” of the forms vaccine volunteers must fill out.
He told MPs: “As a qualified but non-practising doctor, I volunteered to help with the scheme and would urge others to do the same.
“But, can I ask the Prime Minister why I’ve been required to complete courses on conflict resolution, equality, diversity and human rights, moving and handling loads and preventing radicalisation in order to give a simple Covid jab?”
Mr Johnson said he had been “assured by the Health Secretary that all such obstacles, all such pointless pettifoggery has been removed”.
The government has been attempting to recruit thousands of volunteers to help with a mass vaccination programme, and with the recent approval of the more easily deliverable Oxford/AstraZeneca version has today revealed the location of seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told journalists at a briefing they would be at Robertson House in Stevenage, the ExCel Centre in London, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham, and it is expected they will be run with a combination of NHS staff and volunteers.
But so far the government has not said how many people need to be inoculated before it has an impact on the coronavirus restrictions.
Mr Hancock was asked by a number of MPs if the measures could be eased once the top few tiers in the vaccine priority list had been clear.
Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said once the top four groups, which includes care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable and everyone over 70 “we’ve taken care therefore of 80% of the risk of death”.
Adding: “What possible reason is there at that point for not rapidly relaxing the restrictions that are in place on the rest of our country?”
The health secretary replied: “We have to see the impact of that vaccination on the reduction in the number of deaths, which I very much hope that we will see at that point, and so that is why we will take this – an evidence-led move down through the tiers, when we’ve broken the link, I hope, between cases and hospitalisations and deaths.”
The ex-Tory minister and another doctor, Andrew Murrison, said: “The logic of anticipating what is going to happen in two or three or four weeks’ time from the number of cases we are getting at the moment is that we can do the same in reverse.
“That is to say, when we have a sufficient number of people vaccinated up we can anticipate in two or three or four weeks’ time how many deaths have been avoided.
“That means, since it cuts both ways he will be able to make a decision on when we should end these restrictions.”
Mr Hancock replied: “The logic of the case that Dr Murrison makes is the right logic and we want to see that happen in empirical evidence on the ground.
“This hope for the weeks ahead doesn’t take away, though, from the serious and immediate threat posed now.”
The Cabinet minister said the challenge for the government is to increase the amount of doses available, claiming “the current rate-limiting factor on the vaccine rollout is the supply of approved, tested, safe vaccine”.
He added: ”We are working with both AstraZeneca and Pfizer to increase that supply as fast as possible and they’re doing a brilliant job.”
But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the government to ramp up its vaccination programme to six million doses a week.
He told the Commons: “The Prime Minister has promised almost 14 million will be offered the vaccine by mid-Feb. That depends on around two million doses a week on average.
“Both [Mr Hancock] and the Prime Minister have reassured us in recent days that it’s doable based on orders.
“But in the past ministers have told us that they had agreements for 30 million AstraZeneca doses by September 2020 and 10 million of Pfizer doses by the end of 2020.
“So, I think people just want to understand the figures and want clarity. Can ministers tell us how many of the ordered doses have been manufactured?”
Mr Ashworth added: “Two million a week would be fantastic but it should be the limit of our ambitions, we should be aiming to scale up to three, then five, then six million jabs a week over the coming months.”
How South African police are tackling pangolin smugglers
Quiet, solitary and nocturnal, the pangolin has few natural enemies, but researchers believe it is the most trafficked mammal in the world. The tough scales covering its body are sought after for use in Chinese medicine, in the erroneous belief that they have healing properties.
The animal has also been of interest to researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. Related viruses have been found in trafficked pangolins, though there is continued uncertainty around early theories that pangolins were involved in the transmission of the virus from animals to humans.
After South African police seized a pangolin from suspected smugglers, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding witnessed how vets tried to save the animal’s life.
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