What’s next for the GOP?

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) – After four years in the Oval Office, the former president is spending his first full day as a private citizen in Florida. But his shadow still looms large in Washington as he ponders his next moves while also facing a second impeachment trial.

It’s no longer Donald Trump’s White House, but it may still be his Republican party—depending on who you ask.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “This idea of moving forward without Donald Trump in the Republican party is a disaster for the Republican party.”

Not all Republicans agree as the GOP grapples with what the former president leaves in his wake: chaos, controversy, and crises. Like the attack on the Capitol that infuriated many in his party who blame him, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Republican Senator from Kentucky said, “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence.”

Senate Republicans will get a gut-check moment when they vote on whether to convict the former president in his upcoming impeachment trial, and even tacit approval from McConnell could sway enough senators to vote against Trump. But some allies are making a different argument.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said, “Most Americans will never understand why the first thing we’re going to do here potentially is an impeachment trial of a president who isn’t even in office.”

He’s not in office. He’s not even in Washington, with the former president decamping for his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Gone but, he hopes, not forgotten.

“I just want to say goodbye,” Trump said, “but hopefully it’s not a long-term goodbye, we’ll see each other again.”

President Trump is making clear he has no intention of fading quietly from a spotlight he’s sought for years, hinting he could run again. “We will be back in some form,” he said, reportedly toying with starting his own political party ahead of 2024. But, at this point, it seems unlikely his presence would clear a field that could include his now-former number two: former Vice President Mike Pence, whose relationship with the president broke down after the Capitol siege and who is widely believed to be planning a run for the White House himself.

After attending President Biden’s inauguration, Pence said goodbye, for now, to Washington and made an emotional return to Indiana. “It is great to be back home again,” he said. “Thank you for coming out.”

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