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North Carolina GOP Condemns Senator Over Vote to Convict Trump

Senator Richard Burr said the move to denounce his vote in the impeachment trial shows loyalty to Trump over adherence to Republican values.

RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) — The North Carolina Republican Party approved a resolution on Monday to censure GOP Senator Richard Burr for voting in favor of convicting former President Donald Trump during his historic second impeachment trial.

“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 state party’s central committee said in a statement following the decision to condemn Burr’s vote.

The resolution to censure, which is nothing more than a formal statement of disapproval, passed unanimously.

The three-term Republican senator, who has announced plans to retire in 2022, is one of seven GOP senators to side with Democratic leaders in finding Trump guilty of inciting a violent insurrection carried out by his followers at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

"It is truly a sad day for North Carolina Republicans," Burr said in a statement responding to the censure.

He added, "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.”

As the state GOP noted in its statement, Burr had previously voted to stop the impeachment trial from moving forward, subscribing to the constitutional objection made by Trump attorneys that Congress lacked jurisdiction to impeach a former president.

North Carolina Republicans contend that the trial was unconstitutional, even though the majority of the Senate had explicitly voted otherwise before proceeding with the trial.

“When this process started, I believed that it was unconstitutional to impeach a president who was no longer in office. I still believe that to be the case,” Burr said Saturday in a statement about his decision to break ranks with his party.

But he said his ultimate vote to convict came after the question of constitutionality was decided, making it established precedent in the Senate.

“As an impartial juror, my role is now to determine whether House managers have sufficiently made the case for the article of impeachment against President Trump,” he said.

The 65-year-old senator said he weighed the arguments presented by both sides, considered the facts and did not make his decision lightly.

“The president promoted unfounded conspiracy theories to cast doubt on the integrity of a free and fair election because he did not like the results. As Congress met to certify the election results, the president directed his supporters to go to the Capitol to disrupt the lawful proceedings required by the Constitution,” Burr said.

When the crowd of Trump-supporters became violent, Burr said, the then-president “used his office to first inflame the situation instead of immediately calling for an end to the assault.”

Trump was acquitted on Saturday with 57 votes to convict and 43 finding him not guilty.  

Two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 senators, needed to find Trump guilty of the inciting an insurrection charge to convict him. If that had happened, only a simple majority would have been required to disqualify him from holding office in the future.  

After the acquittal, the North Carolina Republican Party said it hopes Democrats will now “set aside their divisive partisan agenda and focus on the American priorities of tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, safely reopening schools and restarting the economy."

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was one of the few Republicans to join Burr in voting to convict Trump. She is up for reelection next year and is also facing backlash from Republican leadership in her home state.

But in Utah, the state Republican Party expressed a starkly different sentiment over the differing votes of its two GOP senators, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee. Romney voted to convict while Lee joined most Republicans in supporting acquittal.

"Our senators have both been criticized for their vote," the Utah GOP said in a statement. "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.' 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.”

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