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‘It’s a kangaroo court’: Trump supporters in key state reject January 6 hearings | Wisconsin

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mMillions of Americans spent Thursday night stunned, horrified, and amused by the season finale of Congressional Hearings into the storming of the Capitol in the waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency, and his part in the deadly insurgency.

The tightly-scheduled primetime hearing showed Trump refused to recall the insurgents for more than three hours while watching Fox News coverage from the White House dining room on Jan. 6, 2021. The House Committee heard Secret Service agents protecting Vice President Mike Pence told their families they might not make it home alive.

Committee members said the evidence showed Trump lied, betrayed his oath of office and called a mob to Washington to try to undo the presidential election. It was, said Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, “a blot on our history.”

But in the heart of Trump country, there is a different view.

“I went to the kangaroo court,” said Terri Burl, a Republican activist in rural northern Wisconsin, a major swing state that Trump won in 2016 but lost four years later.
“I’m like, yeah, that’s exactly what this is. What does it have to prove?”

Burl’s loyalty to the former president — she was an early member of Trump for Women — is not shaken by Thursday’s testimony from former Trump administration officials. She watched for nearly an hour before giving up, saying that while “the violence and destruction are not OK when people enter the Capitol,” the hearing was a unilateral attack on the former president rather than an attempt to the truth.

“There was an annoying and unsettling Hollywood movie look to these theatrical hearings, like they’re acting in a poorly done B-list movie,” she said.

But Burl, a former social worker and substitute teacher, agreed, unlike other members of the Oneida County Republican party and most other Trump supporters.

“I didn’t see it,” said Kathleen Silbernagel, the party secretary and a retired program manager of a Pepsi subsidiary. “It’s a joke. Most conservatives think it’s a kangaroo job. Liberals already hate it, so it won’t affect them. But how it will affect independent people, who are always in the middle, is hard to say.”

Polls suggest the hearings have not led to the devastating shift in public opinion against Trump that some Democrats had hoped for. Nor have they loosened Trumpism’s grip on the Republican party. Even as evidence emerged that the then-president “ordered an armed mob to undo the election,” few Republican politicians have turned their backs on Trump. Those who pay the price.

A blue flag hangs from the balustrade of a Wisconsin home.  The flag reads 'Don't blame me, I voted for Trump'.
Polls suggest the January 6 hearings have not loosened Trumpism’s grip on the Republican party. Photo: Mark Hertzberg/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Representative Liz Cheney, who broke from her party leadership to serve as one of Trump’s chief accusers on the House select committee, is being drugged for her seat in Congress in next month’s primaries at the hands of a self-proclaimed rival positioned as a defender of the former chairman.

But while the hearings may not have shaken the faithful’s devotion, the weeks of testimonials have raised a sense of doubt among some Republicans that even if Trump carries the idea of ​​running for president again, there’s too much baggage. to win another election.

A poll by Wisconsin’s Marquette Law School released Thursday showed most Republican voters nationally heard only “a little” or “none at all” about the Jan. 6 hearings. Only 35% of Republicans paid attention compared to a clear majority of Democrats.

It’s no surprise, then, that opinion on Trump’s guilt is divided along partisan lines, with Republicans overwhelmingly exonerating him and Democrats sure of his guilt.

Oneida County Republicans are making many of the arguments heard across Trump country to discredit the Jan. 6 hearings.

“They’re painting Trump as if he initiated this uprising,” said County Republican Vice President Peter Biolo, who also avoided the hearings. “They got to the Capitol and the Capitol Police let them in. They did not storm the Capitol, as reported. And the only person who was shot, that female veteran, was shot by a Capitol police officer.

The hearings are instead seen as part of a wider witch hunt against the former president, alongside official investigations into whether his company has tampered with taxes and fraudulently inflated real estate values ​​to obtain cheaper loans.

The bad news for those who want to see Trump run again is that a significant portion of the electorate doesn’t see it that way. Two-thirds of independent voters following the hearings closely say Trump bears “a lot of responsibility” for storming the Capitol, according to the Marquette Law School poll. Even among independents who aren’t paying close attention, a majority say he bears some responsibility.

Burl describes herself as heartbroken that Trump is not still president, even though she was critical of his style while he was in the White House, especially his aggressive tweets. “I miss him. I’ve never felt this way about any other Republican president, except maybe Ronald Reagan,” she said.

But Burl looks at her own state where both Trump’s 2016 win and loss four years later were each decided by just over 20,000 votes, less than 1% of the vote. “I am totally a Trump supporter. But he has too much baggage now, just piled up. Baggage that makes it more difficult for him to win those middle voters,” she said.

Silbernagel agrees. Not biologic. He wants to see Trump run again because he thinks no one else can keep Trumpism alive. “There are probably people like Trump, but would they have his qualities? Would they be just as direct and confrontational?” he said.

Donald Trump is seen from behind raising a fist to a crowd.  A sign behind the crows reads 'Wisconsin welcomes President Donald Trump!'
Donald Trump attends a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on October 30, 2020. Most Republicans want to see him run again. Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters

That divide can be heard across Wisconsin, where the commitment to Trumpism remains strong, but there are creeping doubts that Trump is the man to continue leading it. While most Republicans want the former president back to work, a sizable minority is against it.

They warn that “he has alienated a segment of the voting population that he is unlikely to come back” and say it is “time to move on with Trump. He had his day, did a lot of good and showed a lot. But his level of chaos and division must be left behind. We need a younger man with less baggage and fewer bills to settle.”

Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette poll, said his surveys reflect that gap.
“We continue to see Donald Trump as very popular within the party, but Republicans love him more than want him to run for re-election. One difference — in both state and national polls — is between 75% and 80% of Republicans who say they have a favorable view of Trump. But it’s more that 60% of Republicans would like to see him walk again,” he said.

“In theory, 60% is enough to win a primary, so it hardly means they’re letting him down. But you see a shift between looking back on him and having a positive image and looking to the future.”

That raises fears among some Republicans who suspect that while Trump could run the primaries, especially if others fear the political cost of running against him, he has already lost to Biden once by a massive 7 million votes in the popular vote. They also fear the House committee hearings will provide Democrats with a plethora of material to flood the airwaves with clips of former Trump loyalists accusing him of leading a coup attempt.

Still, any Republican fighting Trump had better be sure to beat him or risk killing his own political career.

For now, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, loyalty to Trump remains a litmus test for most Republican voters they vote for. Franklin said this also includes buying the claims that the 2020 election was stolen and that the Jan. 6 hearings are part of the plot.

“If you want to be a good Republican in the current party, you have to send a signal to the voters who bought the election fraud story,” he said.

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