Daines says he still backs Trump, rejects calls for ouster
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana on Friday rejected calls for President Donald Trump to resign and said he continues to support the embattled president in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump loyalists.
Daines, just elected to a second six-year term, told The Associated Press that it’s “time to take the temperature down” amid growing pressure for Trump to leave or be forcibly removed from office.
His comments came after Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a centrist Alaska lawmaker, told the Anchorage Daily News that Trump “has done enough damage” and should resign immediately. Democratic leaders in Congress are threatening to impeach Trump and say he can’t be trusted as his term comes to an end.
Daines responded that it was more important that the nation unify to ensure a peaceful transition of power.
“That is what I want to see from both sides. And I’m just concerned that the rhetoric here today is not seeking to unify and move forward with President Biden’s administration,” he said.
Daines personally fanned distrust of the election results, including with fundraising solicitations that warned Democrats were trying to “steal” the election. He was among a dozen senators who said they would protest electoral votes from some states that backed President-elect Joe Biden in the November election.
Daines abruptly dropped his opposition to the certification of Biden’s victory following Wednesday’s mob attack that left a Capitol Police officer and several Trump supporters dead.
Daines had faced a backlash from Democrats at home when he joined the scheme to challenge the election results, ostensibly with the goal of conducting an audit into any ballot irregularities. Those criticisms of Daines exploded in the wake of the attack, with some Republicans also joining in.
Former Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, a Democrat, said it was time for Daines to resign and acknowledge he was wrong.
“You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube,” Cooney said. “I’m sure he’s really sorry he got himself in the middle of this. But as we learned this week, people in authority, their words have consequences.”
Daines said he will attend Biden’s Jan 20 inauguration and work with the new administration.
But he still counts himself a Trump supporter and declined to blame the president for inciting the attack when Trump told his followers to march on the Capitol after months of sowing doubt about the election’s legitimacy.
“No matter what flag they were flying, what shirt they had on, they’re criminals,” Daines said. “They don’t reflect the values of the vast majority of Trump supporters.”
“What (Trump) has accomplished, with his leadership, was so many great things for our country,” Daines continued. “We have seen lower taxes, less regulations ... When I step back and look at so many of the accomplishments, I support what the president has done, and I think it’s important he’s able to serve his remaining 12 days.”