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Senator Merkley: Trump's Angry Base Puts GOP In Quandary

U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security
Flickr.com/U.S. Govt. work

An Oregon Democrat says Donald Trump’s following has put Republican lawmakers in a difficult position, as they weigh his role in inciting an insurrectionist riot.

Credit little plant / Unsplash
Newspaper headlines after the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol.

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley says many of his colleagues across the aisle are struggling with President Trump’s actions ahead of the January 6th violence which saw a pro-Trump mob assault police and occupy the Capitol. Five people died including a police officer who was attacked by the mob. Footage shows a gallows erected with rioters searching for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence.

While many Republicans have publicly challenged the constitutionality of an impeachment trial for now-former President Trump, Merkley says many are privately torn.

"My Republican colleagues are really struggling with the fact that much of their base has been living inside a Trump media bubble, in which these facts really have not been presented," Merkley said during a press call.  "And they don’t understand what a big role the president played. They struggle with that.”

Credit Rachael McDonald / KLCC
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) during today's Zoom press conference.

Trump’s inaction at the peak of the January 6th insurrectionist riot is a telling moment, added Merkley. 

The Oregon Democrat says accounts shared at this week’s impeachment trial show the outgoing president was aware of pro-Trump rioters assaulting police officers and overriding barricades, but chose not to intervene through his Twitter account.

“He did not say stand down, he did not say leave the premise, he did not say protect the police officer, he did not say cease and desist," continued Merkley. "In fact, he continued Tweeting essentially what could be constituted as an approval.

"In fact, those who were around him reported that he was delighted and excited by what the crowd was doing, and wondered why others at the White House weren’t as delighted and excited as he was.”

Trump would eventually tell rioters to go home and “stay peaceful.”  Five people died, including a Capitol police officer.  Twitter has since suspended Trump’s account.

Despite chilling new video footage presented during this weeks’ impeachment trial, most Republicans have indicated that they’ll acquit Donald Trump.

Copyright 2021, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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