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Acquitted again by Senate, Trump still a powerful force in Republican politics – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By John Whitesides

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – It is still Donald Trump’s Republican Party – at least for now.

The vote by 43 of the 50 Republican senators to acquit Trump on the charge of inciting last month’s deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, with only seven voting for conviction, highlights just how powerful a grip he has on the party he remade in his image over the past five years.

The former president, who has largely stayed out of sight at his Florida home since leaving the White House on Jan. 20, commands fervent loyalty among his supporters, forcing most Republican politicians to pledge their fealty and fear his wrath.

But after two impeachments, months of false claims that his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden was rigged, and an assault on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters that left five people dead, Trump is also political poison in many of the swing districts that often decide American elections.

That leaves Republicans in a precarious position as they try to forge a winning coalition in the 2022 elections for control of Congress and a 2024 White House race that might include Trump as a candidate.

“It’s hard to imagine Republicans winning national elections without Trump supporters anytime soon,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and aide to Senator Marco Rubio during his 2016 presidential primary race against Trump.

“The party is facing a real Catch 22: it can’t win with Trump but it’s obvious it can’t win without him either,” he said.

Trump has not signaled his long-range political plans for after the trial, although he has publicly hinted at another run for the White House and he is reportedly keen to help primary challengers to Republicans in Congress who voted to impeach or convict him.

“Whether he does run again is up to him, but he’s still going to have an enormous amount of influence on both the direction of the policy and also in evaluating who is a serious standard-bearer for that message,” one adviser said. “You can call it a kingmaker or whatever you want to call it.”

Trump has maintained strong support from Republicans in polls even since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Just days after the riot, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found 70% of Republicans still approved of Trump’s job performance, and a later poll found a similar percentage believed he should be allowed to run for office again.

But outside his party he is unpopular. A new Ipsos poll published on Saturday showed that 71% of Americans believed Trump was at least partially responsible for starting the assault on the Capitol. Fifty percent believed he should be convicted in the Senate with 38% opposed and 12% unsure.

Trump’s defenders in the Senate argued that the trial was unconstitutional because Trump had already left office and that his remarks ahead of the riot were protected by the constitutional right to free speech. But a majority of senators including seven Republicans rejected that view.

Democrats said many Republican senators were afraid to vote with their conscience to convict Trump out of fear of retribution from his supporters.

“If this vote was taken in secret, there would be a conviction,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was among the Republicans who voted to acquit Trump on Saturday, though he later slammed the former president as “practically and morally responsible” for provoking the violence.

His position illustrated how some Republican leaders are trying to distance themselves from Trump and limit his influence without triggering the full-blown fury of Trump and his supporters.

Trump’s continued sway was evident, however, in House of Representatives Republican leader Kevin McCarthy’s visit last month to the former president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, where they huddled on strategy for the 2022 congressional elections.

That visit came just three weeks after McCarthy had enraged Trump by saying he bore responsibility for the Capitol riot. McCarthy later backtracked, saying he did not believe Trump provoked the assault.

POLITICAL BACKLASH

The few lawmakers who have broken with Trump have suffered a stinging backlash.

Representative Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives and one of 10 who voted for Trump’s impeachment, quickly faced an effort by conservatives to remove her from her leadership post. She survived it, but Trump has vowed to throw his support behind a primary challenger to her.

In Arizona, which backed Biden and elected a Democratic senator in November, the state party censured three prominent Republicans who had clashed with Trump while he was in office – Governor Doug Ducey, former Senator Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, widow of the late Senator John McCain.

When Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska was threatened with censure by his state party for criticizing Trump, he suggested it was down to a cult of personality.

“Let’s be clear about why this is happening. It is because I still believe, as you used to, that politics isn’t about the weird worship of one dude,” Sasse said in a video addressed to the party leadership in Nebraska. He was one of the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump on Saturday.

The fissures have led to an open debate in conservative circles over how far right to lean. At Fox News, the cable news network that played a key role in Trump’s rise to power, Fox Corp Chief Executive Lachlan Murdoch this week told investors the outlet would stick to its “center right” position.

Trump tore into the network after its early, and ultimately accurate, election-night projection that he lost in Arizona, presenting an opportunity for further-right video networks to draw disaffected Trump supporters.

“We don’t need to go further right,” Murdoch said. “We don’t believe America is further right, and we’re obviously not going to pivot left.”Dozens of former Republican officials, disillusioned by the party’s failure to stand up to Trump, have held talks to form a new center-right party, though multiple congressional Republicans rejected the idea. [L1N2KH07V]

Advisers say Trump himself has talked about forming a breakaway Patriot Party, exacerbating Republican divisions.

While Trump maintains control over the party for now, several Republican senators said during the impeachment trial that the stain left by the deadly siege of the Capitol and Trump’s months of false claims about widespread election fraud would cripple his chances of winning power again in 2024.

“After the American public sees the whole story laid out here … I don’t see how Donald Trump could be reelected to the presidency again,” Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who also voted for a conviction, told reporters during the trial.

With Trump out of office and blocked from Twitter, his favorite means of communication, some Republicans said his hold on the party could fade as new issues and personalities emerge.

Republican Senator John Cornyn, a Trump ally, said the former president’s legacy had suffered permanent damage.

“Unfortunately, while President Trump did a lot of good, his handling of the post-election period is what he’s going to be remembered for,” Cornyn said. “And I think that’s a tragedy.”

(Reporting by John Whitesides; Additional reporting by David Morgan and Steve Holland; Editing by Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis)

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Opinion | In Canadian politics, Erin O'Toole might be the pandemic's biggest loser – Toronto Star

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It was not so long ago — a bit less than a decade — that Canada was the scene of a heated debate as to whether the NDP and the Liberals needed to come together under a single roof or form a coalition of some kind.

Back then, the thinking was that the division of the country’s progressive forces between the federal parties could only lead to the dominance in government of the Conservatives.

And while Justin Trudeau’s 2015 majority victory combined with the second-best New Democrat score in that party’s history seemed to put the issue to rest, doubts lingered as to whether that result was mostly the product of circumstances.

Voter fatigue with the Conservatives after a decade of Stephen Harper’s rule combined with the eclipse of the Bloc Québécois certainly played a part in the election of Canada’s first majority Liberal government in 15 years.

From that angle, the 2019 election could have been construed as a correction of sorts. The Conservatives won the popular vote, the Bloc made a comeback, and had the NDP not underperformed to the degree that it did, Trudeau could be in political retirement today.

Then came the pandemic, an event of such profound consequences that it has the potential of altering — at least for a time — the political calculus.

Never have so many Canadians had to rely on governments for so much and for so long as they have over the past 12 months.

Given that, it should come as little surprise that the pool of progressive voters and the ranks of those who support government activism seems to have expanded over the course of the COVID-19 episode.

Consider the following:

A year into the pandemic, the Conservatives are the only federal party that is consistently falling below its last election score in voting intentions.

Even as a debate has raged over the federal delivery of vaccines, the Conservatives, who — based on their seat count — are best positioned to replace the Liberals in government, have failed to hang on to their 2019 audience, let alone add to it.

Every national poll published since Feb.1 has Conservative support hovering around the 30 per cent mark. That’s down four points from the party’s election finish.

It would be tempting to put the decrease mostly down to a failure to launch on the part of Erin O’Toole. Admittedly, it is a challenge for an incoming opposition leader to make an impression in the midst of a pandemic.

Still, the notion that the shoes Andrew Scheer left behind were so big that his successor is at a loss to fill them borders on mind-boggling.

The Green Party has also changed leaders over the course of the pandemic and, in the process, it has traded down on the profile front. Over the years, Elizabeth May had become a national fixture. Her successor, Annamie Paul, is still relatively unknown. Yet, the Greens sit at or around their 2019 score in the polls.

As support for the Conservatives has shrunk, that for the NDP has expanded. In all but one of the last six national polls, the New Democrats have scored better than in the last election.

That is not to say Jagmeet Singh is necessarily on a roll. Historically some of the NDP’s best polling results have been achieved between elections.

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In the summer before the 1988 campaign, Ed Broadbent seemed to be on the way to becoming prime minister.

At the start of the 2015 campaign, the polls gave Thomas Mulcair the inside track to beat Harper.

In each of those cases, the NDP’s polling gains were essentially achieved at the Liberals’ expense. But so far this year, Trudeau’s party is either holding its own or improving on its last election score.

The two — at least at this juncture — are not communicating vessels.

At the same time, a trend favourable to activist governments is emerging at the provincial level.

Among the premiers of the larger provinces, François Legault and John Horgan stand out for the high marks their management of the pandemic is earning them.

In last week’s Léger poll, satisfaction with Quebec’s Legault ran at 73 per cent, while 65 per cent of British Columbians approved of Horgan’s performance.

Despite political labels that could lead one to conclude the two premiers hail from opposite sides of the left/right divide, the fact is that Legault is every bit as much of a believer in government interventionism as his NDP counterpart.

Meanwhile, over on the Conservative side, the reviews range from decisively mixed in the case of Ontario’s Doug Ford and Manitoba’s Brian Pallister to outright negative in the case of Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe and Alberta’s Jason Kenney.

Even in the Conservatives’ heartland, the pandemic is doing the Canadian right no favours.

Chantal Hébert is an Ottawa-based freelance contributing columnist covering politics for the Star. Reach her via email: chantalh28@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter: @ChantalHbert

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Opinion | In Canadian politics, Erin O'Toole might be the pandemic's biggest loser – NiagaraFallsReview.ca

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It was not so long ago — a bit less than a decade — that Canada was the scene of a heated debate as to whether the NDP and the Liberals needed to come together under a single roof or form a coalition of some kind.

Back then, the thinking was that the division of the country’s progressive forces between the federal parties could only lead to the dominance in government of the Conservatives.

And while Justin Trudeau’s 2015 majority victory combined with the second-best New Democrat score in that party’s history seemed to put the issue to rest, doubts lingered as to whether that result was mostly the product of circumstances.

Voter fatigue with the Conservatives after a decade of Stephen Harper’s rule combined with the eclipse of the Bloc Québécois certainly played a part in the election of Canada’s first majority Liberal government in 15 years.

From that angle, the 2019 election could have been construed as a correction of sorts. The Conservatives won the popular vote, the Bloc made a comeback, and had the NDP not underperformed to the degree that it did, Trudeau could be in political retirement today.

Then came the pandemic, an event of such profound consequences that it has the potential of altering — at least for a time — the political calculus.

Never have so many Canadians had to rely on governments for so much and for so long as they have over the past 12 months.

Given that, it should come as little surprise that the pool of progressive voters and the ranks of those who support government activism seems to have expanded over the course of the COVID-19 episode.

Consider the following:

A year into the pandemic, the Conservatives are the only federal party that is consistently falling below its last election score in voting intentions.

Even as a debate has raged over the federal delivery of vaccines, the Conservatives, who — based on their seat count — are best positioned to replace the Liberals in government, have failed to hang on to their 2019 audience, let alone add to it.

Every national poll published since Feb.1 has Conservative support hovering around the 30 per cent mark. That’s down four points from the party’s election finish.

It would be tempting to put the decrease mostly down to a failure to launch on the part of Erin O’Toole. Admittedly, it is a challenge for an incoming opposition leader to make an impression in the midst of a pandemic.

Still, the notion that the shoes Andrew Scheer left behind were so big that his successor is at a loss to fill them borders on mind-boggling.

The Green Party has also changed leaders over the course of the pandemic and, in the process, it has traded down on the profile front. Over the years, Elizabeth May had become a national fixture. Her successor, Annamie Paul, is still relatively unknown. Yet, the Greens sit at or around their 2019 score in the polls.

As support for the Conservatives has shrunk, that for the NDP has expanded. In all but one of the last six national polls, the New Democrats have scored better than in the last election.

That is not to say Jagmeet Singh is necessarily on a roll. Historically some of the NDP’s best polling results have been achieved between elections.

Loading…

Loading…Loading…Loading…Loading…Loading…

In the summer before the 1988 campaign, Ed Broadbent seemed to be on the way to becoming prime minister.

At the start of the 2015 campaign, the polls gave Thomas Mulcair the inside track to beat Harper.

In each of those cases, the NDP’s polling gains were essentially achieved at the Liberals’ expense. But so far this year, Trudeau’s party is either holding its own or improving on its last election score.

The two — at least at this juncture — are not communicating vessels.

At the same time, a trend favourable to activist governments is emerging at the provincial level.

Among the premiers of the larger provinces, François Legault and John Horgan stand out for the high marks their management of the pandemic is earning them.

In last week’s Léger poll, satisfaction with Quebec’s Legault ran at 73 per cent, while 65 per cent of British Columbians approved of Horgan’s performance.

Despite political labels that could lead one to conclude the two premiers hail from opposite sides of the left/right divide, the fact is that Legault is every bit as much of a believer in government interventionism as his NDP counterpart.

Meanwhile, over on the Conservative side, the reviews range from decisively mixed in the case of Ontario’s Doug Ford and Manitoba’s Brian Pallister to outright negative in the case of Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe and Alberta’s Jason Kenney.

Even in the Conservatives’ heartland, the pandemic is doing the Canadian right no favours.

Chantal Hébert is an Ottawa-based freelance contributing columnist covering politics for the Star. Reach her via email: chantalh28@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter: @ChantalHbert

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Barcelona Soccer Club Is Getting Caught Up in Politics – Bloomberg

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FC Barcelona v Juventus - UEFA Champions League

FC Barcelona calls itself “more than a club,” an affirmation that its Catalan culture and identity within Spain goes beyond soccer. That motto could be about to take on wider significance as it gets more deeply embroiled in the nation’s politics.

The biggest club in the world by revenue will hold elections on Sunday to pick a new president. The outcome may have a bearing on the future of Catalonia’s independence movement, whose fight with the Spanish government has dominated the country over the past three years.

Known internationally for stars like Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Barcelona is a flag carrier for Catalonia and was a lightning rod for resistance against the Franco dictatorship. On 17 minutes and 14 seconds at home games—before the pandemic emptied the stadium—a faction of the crowd chants for independence to symbolize the fall of the city in 1714.

But the team is still considered the last big Catalan institution that remains largely outside the influence of secessionists.

During the campaign to elect a new president, candidates have mostly avoided speaking publicly about the Catalan issue. Behind the scenes, though, efforts are being made to ensure that whoever wins will be firmly aligned with the separatist cause, according to a person familiar with the plan.

“In a country where politics is as voracious as it is in Catalonia, where there’s a vengeful and fratricidal behavior in so many things, it’s no surprise that Barca has become a disputed power,” said Ramon Miravitllas, author of the 2013 book called “Barca’s Political Role.” “To those who favor independence, Barca needs to be a striker that plays against other forces beyond football.”

#lazy-img-369175232:beforepadding-top:66.55%;FC Barcelona v Real Valladolid CF  - La Liga
FC Barcelona fans display a banner reading “Independencia” during a match at the Camp Nou in 2019.
Photographer: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

The two main pro-independence parties—Esquerra Republicana and Junts per Catalunya—are currently negotiating to form a government in the region after elections last month. While Esquerra looks set to lead the administration, the more radical Junts appears to have the upper hand in the race for who will run Barcelona.

The party’s leader, former regional President Carles Puigdemont, is personally following every twist and turn of the election. He is in self-proclaimed exile in Belgium following the turmoil of the region’s failed bid for independence in October 2017, which also divided Spanish soccer as well as the nation.

Junts is interested in using Barcelona to develop television content, according to the person familiar with the party’s involvement. The club owns a television channel and has a content studio, Barca Studios, with capacity to build streaming services.

Puigdemont and his allies have been working with Joan Laporta, a former president and the frontrunner to get the post again.

#lazy-img-369176046:beforepadding-top:66.675%;Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont Presents Coalition Ahead Of Elections
Carles Puigdemont in 2017.
Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

People close to Puigdemont have been helping gather the necessary financial guarantees for candidates on the Laporta team. They need 100 million euros ($119 million)—or about 8.5 million each—and enlisted the help of an executive at one of Catalonia’s main banks, according to the person familiar with the situation. 

Should he prevail, Laporta faces the task of fixing a club in a mess, with debt of  about 1 billion euros and a cash crunch in May. Former President Josep Maria Bartomeu and three other directors were arrested earlier this week amid a prosecutor’s investigation into the previous administration’s use of the club’s funds.

In December, Laporta made an advertising splash when he put up a billboard outside the stadium of archrival Real Madrid in the Spanish capital. The slogan “Eager to see you again” referenced the rivalry, but the message was also that the independence movement is back, said a person familiar with the decision.

“Barca has been ‘more than a club’ since the dictatorship, but it can’t have the same role,” said Miravitllas. “Times have changed.”

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