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Trump cancels Jan. 6 event amid GOP complaints

Senate Republicans can now breathe easier on Jan. 6.

Former President Donald Trump’s announcement Tuesday evening that he would cancel a previously planned press conference is good news for Senate Republicans, who earlier in the day openly fretted that he would pull their party back into debating his false election claims.

It also ensures that Republicans won’t have to keep one eye on the TV on the anniversary of the Capitol attack, nor will they face a deluge of questions about Trump in the immediate days.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), when asked about the press conference earlier Tuesday. “I guess it depends on what he’s going to say. But early assumptions are that it’s going to be an aggressive statement. I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Similarly, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said she wanted to “stay focused on congressional activities.” And Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who voted to convict Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 attack, said the event wasn’t a “terribly good idea,” but added, “What am I going to do about it?”

And those were the members who decided to even talk about it. Even as the former president continues to defend the rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol, Senate Republicans largely prefer to ignore him, still seeing scant purpose in provoking a prickly Trump even a year after he’s left office. In interviews Tuesday, several declined to comment and instead said their attention is on moving forward.

Senate Republicans’ opting not to discuss Trump’s latest grievances highlights the ongoing tension within the GOP over how much attention to give to the former president, especially as he continues to falsely state that the 2020 election was stolen. While many Senate Republicans condemned Trump in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack — when pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol — he still holds substantial sway over the party, particularly in GOP primaries.

“It’s a free country and you’re entitled to say whatever you want to say subject to some limitations, but I think the country has moved on,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas.). “I think that’s where we ought to focus our efforts, is on getting things done for the American people and not re-litigating issues that have already been decided.”

In addition to talking about the 2020 election, Trump was also expected to decry the House select committee’s investigation into Jan. 6. In his statement announcing he was canceling the rally, Trump blamed the committee for his decision and said he would discuss “many of those important topics” at a rally in Arizona on Jan. 15.

“In light of the total bias and dishonesty of the January 6th Unselect Committee of Democrats, two failed Republicans, and the Fake News Media, I am canceling the January 6th Press Conference at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday,” Trump said, reiterating his false charges of widespread election fraud.

While Senate Republicans appeared to be dreading the press conference, House Republicans had taken a more friendly tack toward Trump. On Fox News on Monday night, Laura Ingraham asked Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.) if it was “smart” for Trump to do a speech on Jan 6.

“I welcome it. President Trump has important things to say,” Banks said. “I’m looking forward to hearing what President Trump has to say.”

Most Senate Republicans voted to acquit Trump in the impeachment trial centered on his role in the Capitol attack and most also voted to block a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission from being established. House Democrats instead set up a select committee to probe the circumstances around the attack.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are both scheduled to deliver remarks at the U.S. Capitol that day. Meanwhile, many Senate Republicans are expected to be out of town for GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson’s funeral.

Few Senate Republicans see an upside in talking about Trump, the 2020 election and his role in the Jan. 6 attack.

“There’s no benefit on commenting,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). “So I’m not going to comment.”

For many, ignoring him is often the path of least resistance. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly declined to engage in questions about Trump, merely saying he’s focused on the future. When asked about Trump’s press conference, McConnell said Tuesday: “It’ll be interesting to see what he has to say.” And Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the No. 4 GOP leader, said Tuesday he hadn’t given much thought to the press conference.

“He’s going to do what he’s going to do and … I think that most of us want to make sure that something like that never happens again,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.).

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