Republicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost

The majority of House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump in January saw fundraising gains in the first three months of the year despite intense backlash from members of their own party, according to new financial disclosures.

Most of the Republicans who publicly went against Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol saw their 2021 first quarter hauls increase from their 2019 hauls during the same period. Two of Trump's most high-profile critics in the House received a major financial boost in particular: House GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (Wyo.) raised $1.5 million at the start of 2021 compared to $321,000 during the same period in 2019, while Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) brought in $1.2 million during the first three months of the year compared to $326,000 in 2019.

The fundraising hauls come amid a growing divide within the party, as Trump and his allies threaten to support primary challengers against those who voted to impeach him - some of whom are also raking in money.

"It still means they'll have serious races where they'll have to work hard to beat back a challenge, but the funding will be there for them," said GOP strategist Doug Heye of the Trump critics raking in cash.

Ten House Republicans voted to impeach the former president for his role in inciting the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, which came after Trump repeatedly sought to cast doubt on the results of President Biden's victory in the general election. Thought the trial ultimately didn't end in conviction, seven Republican senators crossed the aisle to join their Democratic colleagues, making it the most bipartisan impeachment vote in American history.

Trump has vowed to take down Republicans who supported his impeachment, and recently blasted Cheney as well as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who voted to convict. Both of them are up for reelection in 2022.

"Senator Lisa Murkowski said she is 'still weighing whether she will run again' for the Senate in Alaska. In other words, there is a chance that she won't run! Wouldn't that be great?" Trump said in his statement.

He also took aim at Cheney, mocking her for being "so far down in Wyoming polls that the only way she can win is numerous candidates running against her and splitting the vote."

Yet Cheney has easily outraised her primary challengers, as has Kinzinger.

Video: Sen. Rand Paul recieves endorsement from former Pres. Trump as he prepares his re-election campaign for 2022 (WLKY Louisville)

Cheney's two primary challengers raised a collective $509,000, while Kinzinger's challenger Catalina Lauf brought in roughly $163,000 during the period.

Other Republicans who supported Trump's impeachment have also seen a massive cash windfall.

Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), arguably the most surprising impeachment vote in January, raised $405,000 in the first three months of the year, up from his 2019 first quarter total of $151,150.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) raised $745,000 during the first quarter of the year, up from 2019's first quarter total of $287,000. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) raised $616,000 this quarter, compared to $210,000 during the same period in 2019.

Rep. Pete Meijer (R-Mich.) raised $519,000 during the first three months of 2021, while Rep. Jon Katko (R-N.Y.) raised $436,000. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) raked in $289,000 in the same period.

Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), raised $321,000 in the first quarter of 2021.

Some of the Trump-aligned Republicans challenging incumbents this cycle also raised impressive sums during the first quarter. In Ohio, for instance, Gonzalez's Trump-endorsed primary challenger, Max Miller, raked in more than $500,000 during the period, including a $50,000 loan he gave his campaign.

And high-profile Republicans who supported Trump's challenge of Biden's Electoral College victory have also gotten a fundraising boost.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), one of the most controversial pro-Trump Republicans on Capitol Hill, announced she brought in a record $3.2 million during the first three months of the year, while Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) raised $3.2 million.

In the upper chamber, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who played a key role in working to block the certification of the Electoral College results, raised $3 million in the same time period, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) raised $5.3 million, despite neither being up for reelection until 2024.

Regardless of Trump's impact on the party, experts say the record hauls from both sides of the GOP are the result of digital fundraising and increased coverage of members in the spotlight.

"If you are a prominent politician with a high name ID that gets talked a lot about in the media, regardless of how you're being talked about, you are going to be able to appeal to a broader set of donors and raise more money," Heye said.

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Indianapolis Mass Shooter Legally Purchased 2 Assault Rifles Despite FBI Concerns

My column suggesting a ban on assault weapons in Pennsylvania drew heavy criticism from gun owners who questioned my manhood, as well as the definition of an assault weapon.

The state’s protective “red flag” law didn’t keep firearms out of the shooter’s hands at a critical time, according to the police chief.

The teenager police say fatally shot eight people at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis this week legally purchased the two semiautomatic rifles he used even though the FBI questioned him last year after a disturbing warning from his mother, police said Saturday.

Agents interviewed Brandon Hole a year ago after his mother told law enforcement that she feared her son might attempt “suicide by cop.” Hole, 19, took his own life after the FedEx shooting on Thursday.

Paul Keenan, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, said agents found no evidence of a crime then.

But the Indianapolis Metro Police Department at the time placed the teen on a “mental health temporary hold” at a local hospital to assess his state of mind. They also confiscated a shotgun Hole had purchased within the previous 24 hours. The police report noted that the shotgun was seized from a “dangerous person,” The Indianapolis Star Tribune reported.  

The shotgun was never returned to Hole, Metropolitan Police Chief Randal Taylor told The New York Times. Yet the teen was nevertheless able to legally purchase the two powerful assault rifles last July and September, according to police.

The state’s “red flag” law was not used to keep firearms out of Hole’s possession. Such laws, which exist in at least a dozen states, bar people deemed a danger to themselves or others from owning guns. 

It wasn’t immediately clear if officials ever initiated a court action under the law to bar Hole from gun possession, according to Taylor, or if a judge may have ruled against such an action. In any case, red flag laws usually only temporarily restrict gun ownership.

Investigators are still seeking a motive for the devastating killings. Hole was a former FedEx employee.

Hole’s family on Saturday apologized for the tragedy.

“We are devastated at the loss of life caused as a result of Brandon’s actions; through the love of his family, we tried to get him the help he needed,” said a statement from the family.

“Our sincerest and most heartfelt apologies go out to the victims of this senseless tragedy. We are so sorry for the pain and hurt being felt by their families and the entire Indianapolis community.”

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Liberty University Sues Jerry Falwell Jr Seeking Millions In Damages

In this, Nov. 13 2019, file photo, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. talks to Donald Trump Jr. about his new book "Triggered" during convocation at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The complaint alleges that Falwell withheld key details about a personal scandal from the school that later became public.

Liberty University has filed a civil lawsuit against its former leader, Jerry Falwell Jr., seeking millions in damages after the two parted ways acrimoniously last year.

The complaint, filed Thursday in Lynchburg Circuit Court, alleges Falwell crafted a “well-resourced exit strategy” from his role as president and chancellor in the form of a 2019 employment agreement while withholding from the school key details about a personal scandal that exploded into public view last year.

“Despite his clear duties as an executive and officer at Liberty, Falwell Jr. chose personal protection,” the lawsuit says.

It also alleges that Falwell failed to disclose and address “the issue of his personal impairment by alcohol” and has refused to fully return Liberty’s confidential information and other personal property.

Falwell responded to a phone call from The Associated Press on Friday with a text saying he was not available to talk.

It wasn’t immediately clear if he has an attorney representing him in the matter. The AP left a message seeking comment with an attorney who has represented him previously.

Falwell’s departure from the Virginia university in August 2020 came soon after Giancarlo Granda, a younger business partner of the Falwell family, said he had a yearslong sexual relationship with Falwell’s wife, Becki Falwell, and that Jerry Falwell participated in some of the liaisons as a voyeur.

Although the Falwells acknowledged that Granda and Becki Falwell had an affair, Jerry Falwell denied any participation. The couple alleged that Granda sought to extort them by threatening to reveal the relationship.

The lawsuit says that Falwell had a “fiduciary duty to disclose Granda’s extortive actions, and to disclose the potential for serious harm to Liberty.”

Instead, Falwell “furthered the conspiracy of silence and negotiated a 2019 Employment Agreement that contained a higher salary from Liberty,” the suit said.

A Liberty spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about whether the school had additional comment.

Before the Granda scandal exploded, Falwell had already been on leave after he posted a photo on social media that sparked an uproar. It showed Falwell on a yacht with a drink in his hand and his arm around a young woman who was not his wife, their pants unzipped and his underwear exposed.

The lawsuit, which alleges three counts - breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and statutory conspiracy - is seeking more than $10 million in damages.

Falwell, an attorney and real estate developer, had led the evangelical school since the 2007 death of his father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who also founded the Moral Majority, the political organization that made evangelical Christians a key force in the Republican party.

In early 2016, Falwell become one of the first conservative Christians to endorse Donald Trump for the presidency, and defended him after Trump’s lewd remarks about women and sexual assault, captured in a 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording, became public late in the campaign.

Falwell went on to court controversy and stay in the news, vigorously criticizing Democrats online.

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Our American way of policing is on trial Law enforcement officers respond to Chauvin trial

As he prepares for work each morning, Tighe O’Meara, the police chief in Ashland, Oregon, tunes in to coverage of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged in the killing of George Floyd last year.

O’Meara doesn’t watch to decide whether he thinks Chauvin is guilty; he sees Chauvin’s culpability as “an open-and-shut case.”

He watches for signs of hope for his profession.

He found some in Chauvin’s former colleagues and bosses who broke the so-called blue wall of silence to testify against him. “We need as much of that as possible,” O’Meara said in an interview this week. “We need transparency and integrity above all else.”

But O’Meara, who is white, also sees the trial as a test of whether police can regain the trust of many Americans, most of all the Black and the Latino residents who disproportionately live in high-crime, highly policed neighborhoods.

“If he’s convicted, it will be a strong declaration that we as a society hold police officers to account for their actions,” he said. “If he’s acquitted, it will be an event that takes us in the exact opposite direction.”

When Michael Persley, the police chief in Albany, Georgia, watches the trial, he sees the profession he loves at a crossroads. As a 28-year law enforcement veteran, he says, the trial is a reminder how damaging Floyd’s killing was for policing — and a lesson for his officers to follow use-of-force policies. At the same time, he is a Black man who understands why Floyd’s killing damaged public trust in police.

“It’s hurtful to the law enforcement profession and then it’s a disappointment in my viewpoint from the Black community,” Persley said. “It’s a disappointment to us that that was not a trust-building day.”

Across the country, police officers and commanders, active and retired, are watching Chauvin’s trial with a mix of interest and angst. Their responses, in interviews conducted this week, share some common themes, notably that the trial illustrates how one incident can shift the public conversation about policing.

But the responses also vary. While some officers see the trial as an encouraging example of the criminal justice system holding a rogue officer accountable, others see it as a sign that a growing portion of the country, led by the media, politicians, prosecutors and top commanders, has turned against them.

A woman protests outside the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin is being held, in Minneapolis on March 31, 2021. (Kerem Yucel / AFP - Getty Images) A woman protests outside the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin is being held, in Minneapolis on March 31, 2021. (Kerem Yucel / AFP - Getty Images)

No one interviewed justified Chauvin’s act of pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. (Chauvin’s defense team has said that Floyd’s underlying health conditions and drug use — not Chauvin’s restraint methods — caused Floyd’s death.) But some officers complained that the trial has not sufficiently examined Chauvin’s frame of mind, or the fear that officers feel while trying to arrest someone who does not want to be taken into custody. Some see Chauvin as doomed for conviction, and said their profession felt doomed as well.

“It’s disheartening to hear the prosecution throw cops under the bus and leave the defense to build them up, which is the opposite of what normally happens,” said a white detective with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of losing his job. “It sucks.”

A sergeant in the New York City Police Department, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for the same reason, said he and other officers saw Chauvin’s trial as a reason to think twice before using force against someone who is resisting arrest.

“It has an effect on police officers, no doubt about it, and for some officers it can even affect the way they approach certain situations,” the sergeant, who is white, said. “They may be more hesitant to use force. I’d hate for officers to get killed or injured because they hesitated to use force.”

The trial is unfolding at a time of deep soul-searching among American police officers after a year in which they were tested by the coronavirus, targeted in nationwide protests against police brutality and subjected to calls to limit their power, either by cutting budgets or restricting the tactics they can use. Since the trial began, protests erupted in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, after a white officer shot and killed a Black motorist, and Virginia authorities announced an investigation of a December roadside stop in which officers threatened and pepper sprayed a Black Army officer.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, right, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. on March 30, 2021. (Pool via NBC News) Defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, right, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. on March 30, 2021. (Pool via NBC News)

Officers say they feel exhausted and disillusioned by what they see as a lack of support from the public.

Many departments report a wave of resignations and retirements, and a difficulty in recruiting new officers. A National Police Foundation report on the Los Angeles Police Department’s response to last year’s protests, released this week and titled “A Crisis of Trust,” includes a section on officer morale, which it says is “at an all-time low.”

Cedric Alexander, the former public safety director in DeKalb County, Georgia, and the former police chief of Rochester, New York, said it has been relatively easy for law enforcement officials to condemn Chauvin’s actions because it is “a pretty straightforward case of abuse.” That is a good thing, he said.

But Alexander, who is Black, questioned whether police leaders can be just as “objective” in cases of officers killing Black people that aren’t as clear-cut.

“We’ve got to be just as objective when these shootings of unarmed citizens occur, when incidents occur that are not as straightforward as the Chauvin case,” Alexander said. “We’ve got to have the same courage to call that wrong too.”

Jake VerHalen, a sergeant who oversees patrol officers with the Folsom Police Department in California and is president of the local officers union, has been following the trial daily, and said it seemed to have been conducted fairly. He called Chauvin’s actions “indefensible,” although he said it remained unclear to him whether they caused Floyd’s death.

But VerHalen, who is white, said he is frustrated that the trial has become entwined with a larger narrative that policing is systemically racist, and that any negative encounter between a white officer and Black person is driven by racial animus.

The vast majority of police are not racist, he said.

“A lot of people have their minds made up that this was a racial injustice. Not a bad cop doing a bad thing but a racial injustice, harkening back to the ’50s and ’60s and police unleashing dogs on people,” VerHalen said. “We are so much better than that, and have come so much further than that.”

While many police departments have enacted reforms aimed at making enforcement more equitable and transparent, disparities persist. For example, Black Americans are arrested at higher rates than white people and are more than twice as likely to be shot and killed by police. Black adults are five times as likely as whites to say they have been unfairly stopped by police because of their race, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

Image: Murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (Jane Rosenberg / Reuters) Image: Murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (Jane Rosenberg / Reuters)

Lynda Williams, a former deputy director of the Secret Service and president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, said the Chauvin trial must be viewed as part of a long history of police using their power against Black and brown people disproportionately. The trial can play a part in helping the country, and policing, finally come to terms with that and spur reform, she said.

“This is almost like our American way of policing is on trial,” she said.

Lou Dekmar, the police chief in LaGrange, Georgia, said the Chauvin trial has illustrated the importance of police and elected leaders improving the training and supervision of officers and holding accountable those who violate department policies or use excessive force.

“I hope it’s a wakeup call for police leaders who don’t follow this stuff,” Dekmar, who is white, said. “I hope it’s a wakeup call that agencies that hold officers accountable in the long run are saving officers’ careers. That’s what I hope the message of this trial is.”

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