The TAKE with Rick Klein
The question of conviction is hardly a question at all. That makes it only a piece of a broader and more complex puzzle for the Republican Party as it seeks a new path in a post-Trump era that is far from rid of Trumpism.
The result of former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial this week seems certain, with perhaps only Trump's ability to restrain himself standing between him and a second acquittal in the Senate.
Still, the words and actions of the former president and some of his supporters up to and even after Jan. 6 have forced a GOP reckoning that has become louder and more contentious over the past month. It's convinced a growing minority of Republican elected officials that the party needs to be done with Trump once and for all.
"Politics isn't about the weird worship of one dude," Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said in response to a censure resolution pushed by his home-state Republican Party.
"That is a person who does not have a role as a leader of our party going forward," Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said of Trump on Fox News, just hours after being censured by her home-state GOP over her impeachment vote.
As for Republican voters more broadly, Trump's hold on the party is strong but not total. The ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday found 15% of Republicans supporting Trump's conviction in the Senate -- not a huge number, but a substantial share given that Trump's approval rating inside his own party was well into the 90s for much of his presidency.
While Trump himself will not testify this week, his lawyers have made clear that he does not intend to convey regret over his actions -- or even to concede the falsity of his claims to have won the election.
Senate Republicans appear likely to keep general unity on the question of whether an impeachment trial for a former president is constitutionally appropriate. But even ending the trial won't come close to ending the Trump era for the Republican Party.
The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema
Ongoing negotiations over the pandemic relief bill were further complicated over the weekend as some Democrats seemed to seize on President Joe Biden's implied openness to taking a targeted approach to the distribution of $1,400 checks to lower-income Americans. Beyond the politics, the conversation also serves up a real-time assessment of how difficult it is to define the middle class within policy-level parameters.
"Here's the deal, middle class folks need help, but you don't need to give any help to someone making 300,000 bucks or 250 [thousand]," Biden said in an interview with CBS, while adding that his current estimate of who would receive those cash payments could phase out from individuals making up to $75,000 and couples making up to $150,000.
"But again, I'm wide open on what that is," Biden said in reference to the income thresholds.
Biden's former campaign rival and the new Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders offered one of the strongest criticisms of negotiating terms that would lower the eligibility for direct payments, arguing such a move would be politically retroactive and economically damaging to people who fall just above revised income parameters.
"In other words, working class people who got checks from Trump would not get them from Biden. Brilliant!" Sanders said in a tweet.
The TIP with Kendall Karson
Another Georgian may have dominated the spotlight last week, but Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader in the Georgia statehouse, continues a delicate dance from the periphery as she is widely expected to mount a second gubernatorial run in 2022.
In a new op-ed on Sunday, Abrams pushed leaders of her own party in Congress to "go big" on their agenda, echoing the same arguments coming from the progressive flank. As she cast the moment as the "next real test of our democracy," Abrams called for passing the "John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act," overhauling the Senate filibuster and outlining a pathway for D.C. statehood.
"Democrats in Congress must fully embrace their mandate to fast-track democracy reforms that give voters a fair fight, rather than allowing undemocratic systems to be used as tools and excuses to perpetuate that same system," she wrote, invoking the name of her voting rights group. "This is a moment of both historic imperative and, with unified Democratic control of the White House and Congress, historic opportunity."
As questions linger about how long she will remain on the outside, the person eyeing her next move most is Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who will likely spend the next two years splitting his attention between a possible Trump-aligned effort to challenge him from the right and the possibility of a rematch against Abrams. The governor's allies have already begun targeting Abrams with the launch of a "Stop Stacey" group aimed at preemptively hindering her anticipated challenge in a general election.
ONE MORE THING
ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Monday morning’s episode features ABC News Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, who describes how the spread of the UK variant is being met with concern despite an overall decline of COVID-19 cases across the country. University of Chicago economics professor Austan Goolsbee describes the back and forth over who should get COVID relief stimulus checks. And volunteer worker Laura Kaye joins us from Myanmar as protests there against the military coup grow. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
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