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Sen. Ben Sasse slams Nebraska GOP committee’s plans to censure him for criticizing Trump

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on Feb. 4 criticized the Nebraska Republican Party for their plans to censure him for his criticism of former president Donald Trump. (Video: Ben Sasse)

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on Thursday released a pointed five-minute video directed at leading members of the Nebraska Republican Party, on the heels of reports that the party planned to censure him for his criticism and condemnation of former president Donald Trump.

Sasse is one of a handful of Republican senators who has spoken out against Trump and who has tied Trump’s rhetoric and actions to the violent siege of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. He is also one of the few GOP senators who supported moving forward with Trump’s impeachment trial.

Because of that, the Nebraska Republican Party’s State Central Committee has drafted a lengthy resolution of censure against Sasse and plans to formally censure the senator at its Feb. 13 meeting, according to News Channel Nebraska.

In his video Thursday, Sasse addressed committee members as “a friend and fellow Republican” but also said he wouldn’t try to talk them out of a censure. The senator said he had already angered the party in 2016, 2019 and 2020 when he refused to help Trump’s election efforts.

“Now, many of you are hacked off that I condemned his lies that led to a riot,” Sasse said. “Let’s be clear: The anger in this state party has never been about me violating principle or abandoning conservative policy. I’m one of the most conservative voters in the Senate. The anger’s always been simply about me not bending the knee to … one guy.”

Indeed, the draft of the resolution lists more than a dozen purported offenses by Sasse as reasons for the censure, including having “persistently engaged in public acts of ridicule and calumny” against Trump; for “questioning the president’s agenda, decisions, motives, and competency”; and for having “publically [sic] shown contempt for Donald J. Trump” and making “disparaging remarks towards the Trump family.”

As he has for weeks, Sasse in his video drew a direct line between Trump’s lies about the election to the pro-Trump mob that overran the Capitol, resulting in five deaths.

“He lied about the election results for 60 days, despite losing 60 straight court challenges — many handed down by wonderful Trump-appointed judges. He lied by saying that the vice president could violate his constitutional oath and just declare a new winner. He then riled a mob that attacked the Capitol — many chanting ‘Hang Pence,’ ” he said.

Sasse also accused party members of having double standards.

“If that president were a Democrat, we both know how you’d respond. But, because he had ‘Republican’ behind his name, you’re defending him,” Sasse said. “Something has definitely changed over the last four years … but it’s not me.”

Most Republicans — even those who initially spoke out against Trump after the Capitol insurrection — have backed away from confronting the former president and his supporters and embraced them instead, as reported by The Washington Post’s Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the insurrection had been “provoked” by Trump but then voted against proceeding with his impeachment trial. Similarly, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) initially said Trump “bears responsibility” for not responding more quickly to the riots but then flew to Florida to meet with Trump.

Those who have doubled down on their criticisms of Trump have faced repercussions from their own state or local party apparatuses. The Arizona Republican Party last month censured Gov. Doug Ducey, former senator Jeff Flake and lifelong Republican Cindy McCain, the wife of the late Sen. John McCain. Cindy McCain declared the censure a “badge of honor,” while Flake tweeted a picture of the three of them at President Biden’s inauguration saying he was in “good company.”

GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), who started the Country First PAC over the weekend to challenge the Republican Party’s embrace of Trump, was censured Thursday by his county GOP. The Scotts Bluff County Republican Party also censured Sasse on Thursday.

Like other high-profile Republicans who have been censured, Sasse brushed off the concerns of the committee as ones that were not shared by most of the electorate in the state.

“I listen to Nebraskans every day, and very few of them are as angry about life as some of the people on this committee — not all of you, but a lot,” he said. “Political addicts don’t represent most Nebraska conservatives.”