'Sad day': GOP has abandoned core principles, Sen. Burr says after being censured

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Tuesday, February 16, 2021
NC GOP votes to censure Sen. Richard Burr
NC GOP votes to censure Sen. Richard Burr

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The North Carolina Republican Party unanimously approved a resolution Monday to censure Sen. Richard Burr over his vote for conviction of former President Donald Trump during Trump's second impeachment trial.

Michael Whatley, the state party chairman, said the central committee's decision serves as a symbolic gesture of the party's opposition to Burr's action.

"Tonight, the North Carolina Republican Party Central Committee voted unanimously to censure Senator Richard Burr for his vote to convict former President Trump in the impeachment trial which he declared to be unconstitutional," Whatley said.

Burr, who has been in Congress for 26 years, including the last 16 as a senator, is one of several Republicans to be censured by state and county parties for voting for Trump's impeachment.

"It is truly a sad day for North Carolina Republicans," Burr said Monday night after the censure. "My party's leadership has chosen loyalty to one man over the core principles of the Republican Party and the founders of our great nation."

The senator announced in 2016 that he would retire from politics after his final term and not seek reelection in 2022. Burr previously voted to dismiss the impeachment trial on the basis that it was unconstitutional to impeach a president who was no longer in office.

But in a move that startled some members of his party, Burr joined six of his GOP colleagues in convicting Trump of "incitement of insurrection." He then said in a statement that the Senate's vote to proceed with the trial established a precedent that a former president could be impeached.

"I do not make this decision lightly, but I believe it is necessary," Burr stated. "By what he did and by what he did not do, President Trump violated his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Ultimately, Trump was acquitted of the charge because the 57-43 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for conviction.

"The NCGOP agrees with the strong majority of Republicans in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate that the Democrat-led attempt to impeach a former President lies outside the United States Constitution," Whatley said. "Now that the Senate has voted to acquit President Trump, we hope that Democrats will set aside their divisive partisan agenda and focus on the American priorities of tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, safely reopening schools and restarting the economy."

Burr faced his own controvery when he was investigated for allegations of insider stock trading. He ultimately was not punished for his stock dealings.

The North Carolina Democratic Party sought to portray the censure as a sign of the division in their party rivals.

"The North Carolina Republican Party is in an all out civil war," NCDP Chair Wayne Goodwin said in a statement. "Today's censure vote against their senior Senator for a vote of conscience in the most bipartisan conviction of a president in history proves this is the Donald Trump Party above all else. North Carolinians are already fleeing the party by the thousands, donors are closing their checkbooks, and political leaders are withdrawing their support after North Carolina Republicans helped incite a dangerous attack on our Capitol, and the fallout is only growing. It's clear -- North Carolina Republicans are already in a bitter civil war that will shape not only the messy primary to replace Senator Burr but also the party for years to come."

Whatley, however, said he believes Trump played a strong role in helping down-ballot Republican North Carolina candidates in 2020, including newly re-elected GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, who voted Trump not guilty of the incitement of insurrection charge. He wants to see Trump's North Carolina supporters convert into reliable Republican voters.

"The president will have the ability to help excite the base and turn voters out," Whatley said.

Tillis responded to the censure news by saying. ""Richard Burr is a great friend and a great senator who has a distinguished record of serving the people of North Carolina. He voted his conscience."

The Associated Press contributed.