FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump is facing a second impeachment in his final days in office after inciting a riot at the Capitol that killed a police officer, but his party’s national leadership on Friday reelected his hand-picked chair to another term anyway.
Ronna McDaniel, like many others in the Republican National Committee, spoke out against the mayhem created by thousands of Trump supporters whom the president had encouraged to block Wednesday’s certification of the November election.
“This committee rightly condemned the violence in the strongest possible terms,” she said at the group’s winter meeting at the Amelia Island Ritz-Carlton. “I call on individuals to respect law enforcement.”
But she had nothing but praise for the man who repeatedly encouraged his most fanatical supporters to converge on the nation’s capital for a “wild” protest designed to undo by intimidation the election that Trump had lost by 7 million votes.
McDaniel said she had been a stay-at-home mom making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when Trump called on her.
“And there’s not many people who would say, let’s take that woman, a mom from Michigan, and have her run the national party,” she said. “I think that says a lot about his support of women.”
She followed that by pledging to go to state legislatures “and make sure that what we saw in this election never happens again” — apparently echoing Trump’s numerous and often-repeated lies about a “stolen” election that enraged his supporters into attacking the Capitol in the first place.
McDaniel’s public support for Trump matched the general tone from the 168 members from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five overseas territories.
Bill Currier, of Oregon, said it was unfair to blame Trump for inviting his followers to come to Washington to express their support for “election integrity” and that Trump had never supported violence. “I hope it’s been pretty clear that the party, at every level, condemns the violence,” he said.
Mary Buestrin, of Wisconsin, said she was heartbroken by the afternoon-long riot, but claimed that Trump bore no responsibility for the unrest. “Oh, absolutely not,” she said.
In fact, at the protest on Wednesday, Trump actively encouraged the many thousands in attendance to march on the Capitol to pressure his own vice president and Republican lawmakers not to be “weak” and “pathetic” and to overturn the election and install him as leader. Then, as his supporters broke into the Capitol to do exactly that, Trump remained silent for hours as one of them was shot to death trying to enter the House chamber and a Capitol Police officer was beaten with a fire extinguisher. Brian Sicknick, 42, died from his injuries on Thursday.
New Jersey RNC member Bill Palatucci was among the few willing to lay the blame for what happened on Trump. “When you incite a riot, and the riot happens, you have some responsibility for that,” he said. “There’s a lot of denial in this room.”
The RNC observed a moment of silence for the murdered officer prior to its leadership elections, but the brief elegy did not reference the cause behind the riot or its intended result.
And in her own remarks, McDaniel — who had used the name Ronna Romney McDaniel but dropped the “Romney” at Trump’s request because of his dislike of her uncle, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney — spoke against the attack on the Capitol without mentioning the man who incited it.
“We need this to stop,” she said. “As the leader of the Republican Party, please, don’t do this.”
McDaniel, like Trump, presided over a party that lost control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections, and then the White House and Senate in the 2020 election. She alluded to that only briefly — “I’m so pissed about losing critical elections!” — but mainly spoke about what she described as her successes.
“We’ve raised the most money ever in the history of our party,” she said, failing to mention that President-elect Joe Biden and his Democratic Party had raised even more in the crucial final months of the campaign. “No ‘Blue Wave’ materialized on Election Day.”
Trump must leave office at noon on Jan. 20, but has, on a number of occasions, mentioned running again in 2024. If he does, he will have as allies both McDaniel as chair and Tommy Hicks, a Dallas investor who is close to the Trump family, as co-chair. Hicks won re-election on the first ballot against three challengers on Friday.