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Analysis: Transition turmoil splits Mississippi delegation

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi won a 2018 special election and a 2020 regular election by making a single overarching promise — to support President Donald Trump. She stuck with Trump even as he made unfounded claims about the November election that he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

Hours after a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Hyde-Smith joined Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and a few other Republican senators in voting to reject the certified Electoral College votes that Biden won in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Hyde-Smith said “unacceptable violence and destruction” had occurred at the Capitol, but that she was “alarmed with the erosion of integrity of the electoral process.”

“The people I represent do not believe the presidential election was constitutional and cannot accept the Electoral College decision; therefore, I cannot in good conscience support certification,” Hyde-Smith said.

Mississippi’s senior U.S. senator, fellow Republican Roger Wicker, voted to accept the certified votes that showed Biden won the presidency.

Shortly before the violence at the Capitol, Wicker said he had supported Trump but that the Republican incumbent “lost a close election, and it is time to acknowledge that.”

“Congress cannot — and should not — get into the business of deciding the results of our elections,” Wicker said. “Under the Constitution and federal law, Congress’ power is limited to counting electoral votes duly submitted by the states. Anything further would not be compatible with our Constitution or the conservative principles of limited government that I have sworn to defend.”

Mississippi has three Republicans and one Democrat in the House. They split along party lines on Jan. 6. Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson accepted the certified electoral votes from all states. Reps. Steven Palazzo, Trent Kelly and Michael Guest voted with 118 other House Republicans to reject certified results from Arizona and with 135 other House Republicans to reject those from Pennsylvania.

On Jan. 13, Thompson voted with the majority of House members to impeach Trump on a charge of incitement to insurrection. Palazzo, Kelly and Guest voted against impeachment.

Kelly said on Twitter that impeaching Trump is “not helpful to our Nation. This is a time for healing, not division.”

Thompson, who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, tweeted Jan. 13: “President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States, threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government.”

Guest issued a statement Jan. 11 that did not specifically mention the violence at the Capitol but said the previous week had been “one of the more difficult weeks for our nation in recent history.” Guest also said impeachment of the departing president would “prevent our nation from beginning the healing process.”

After Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, Palazzo said: “I expect our new President to put the best interests of America and our people first. Let it be known that America’s problems are not best met with socialist proposals that are going to further erode our years of historic economic success, grow our national debt, and stifle job creation.”

Hyde-Smith and Wicker both issued statements after Biden’s inauguration calling for national unity.

“I am committed to working with the new administration and my colleagues to find common-ground solutions to defend our nation and to rebuild an economy damaged by a pandemic that continues to claim too many of our fellow citizens,” Hyde-Smith said. “Overcoming these challenges will require the Senate, now divided 50-50, to work together.”

Wicker said Friday: “We should all work to lower the temperature and move forward as one unified nation. … A second impeachment trial is sure to inflame partisan tensions and could poison the cooperative spirit we need in a 50-50 Senate.”

Although Hyde-Smith’s statement did not mention a Trump impeachment trial, her record of support for the former president makes clear that she is highly unlikely to vote to convict.

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