Jeremy Herb for CNN:
Seven Senate Republicans defied former President Donald Trump by voting to convict him for inciting an insurrection after losing the 2020 election. But eight months later, they’re largely responding with a collective shrug to warnings again he’s taking steps to try to overturn the 2024 election, telling CNN they see no reason yet to be alarmed.
CNN surveyed the lawmakers this week in the very halls of the Capitol where the Trump-inspired insurrection occurred on January 6, less than a year after the lawmakers took a bold stand against the powerful leader of their party and voted to remove him from office in response. The months that followed have been filled with recriminations by Trump against the lawmakers who opposed him, as he now systematically attacks and tries to run them out of office with the support of his MAGA base that’s kept a stranglehold on the Republican Party.
The Republican senators say they it’s too early to be concerned that Trump would seize on another election conspiracy to try to overturn a 2024 result that doesn’t go his way: He’s not even a candidate yet, and even if he runs, Trump won’t have the power of the federal government at his disposal like he did in 2020….
CNN spoke to six of the seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump about the concerns democracy experts are raising. The seventh, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, declined to answer questions when approached by CNN, and a spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
“That’s kind of premature,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican. “He obviously tried to miscommunicate the one that already did happen.”
“I have no idea what President Trump’s plans are,” said Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican. “I’m really not focused on that. I’m focused on all the issues we have going on.”
The response from the Senate Republicans who voted that Trump’s conduct was impeachable after the 2020 election is starkly different than the urgent warnings coming from scholars who study democracies and election law. They’ve held conferences about election subversion, penned multiple opinion articles asserting a constitutional crisis is already here and argued Congress has an pressing need to act to put new guardrails in place.
Democracy experts say Trump and his allies already pose a grave threat to a close 2024 election — and American democracy. He’s convinced significant chunks of the Republican Party base to buy into his lies about the 2020 election being stolen, he’s got a stranglehold on the GOP to launch a presidential bid and he’s endorsed candidates echoing his election conspiracies who are seeking to run elections in the key battleground states.
“What Republicans discovered in 2020, maybe to their surprise, was that it’s possible to overturn the election, and that the base will not only tolerate it but support it,” said Steven Levitsky, a Harvard University political scientist and co-author of “How Democracies Die.””And now, much more than 2020, there will be Republicans on the ground ready to exploit opportunities to either toss out ballots from rival strongholds or overturn the results,” he added.