Donald Trump can celebrate: His party lets him get away with the impeachment process with a black eye. That fundamentally changes his outlook and that of his Republicans.
Donald Trump didn’t have good lawyers on his second impeachment lawsuit. He had neither the power of an incumbent president nor that of his Twitter account. Yet at no time did he run the risk of being convicted.
The US Senate has acquitted him of the charge of inciting a riot. Only seven out of fifty Republicans voted against him on Saturday. The necessary two-thirds majority was clearly missing.
The vote fell as it fell because an impeachment process is not a legal process, but a political one. And politically, the Republicans in Washington see no gain in messing with Trump.
Despite all the excitement, the Trump proceedings and the violent assault on the Capitol ended exactly with the expected result. Even if there was still a lot of chaos in the last few meters on Saturday over the question of whether one should still hear witnesses or not.
The option 2024
And now? For Trump himself, the Republicans and the Democrats, the ruling has major consequences.
Trump got away with a black eye, even if everyone knows that with his lies about election fraud and calls to stop the alleged “theft” on January 6th, he encouraged the extremists and injured the five dead and 140 Policemen share responsibility. His presidency will be linked to this outbreak of violence for a long time, if not forever.
With the condemnation, the Democrats also wanted to ban Trump from office. But now he has the opportunity to run again as a presidential candidate in 2024. Even if it is unclear whether he really wants that and would be successful at all, Trump will play with this prospect. Immediately after the acquittal, he had this sentence communicated: “Our historic, patriotic, beautiful movement to make America great again has only just begun.”
Trump remains a force
In any case, Trump remains an elementary force for the time being that will continue to have a grip on politics in America. He has a party that doesn’t put him in his place, and he has frenetic, sometimes violent, supporters who are ready to go with him through thick and thin. One should not underestimate its influence.
After the political process, however, legal investigations await him, including the storming of the Capitol. The FBI is already investigating the matter. In Georgia, his call to the election officer there is the subject of an investigation. He had compelled him to find enough votes to win. CNN reports that Trump is very concerned about the threat of legal consequences. That is one of the reasons why he was so calm recently.
Numerous investigations are threatened
In addition, Trump is pursuing numerous other investigations into his political, economic and private life. In New York one of its political committees is investigating the business practices of its company, in Washington it is investigating the flow of money. A woman who accused him of sexually assaulting him in the 1990s sued him for calling her a liar. Little is known about how great the risk really is from individual examinations. But he can no longer slow it down, as he could as US President.
Much in Trump’s future will depend on how the struggle he started ends in his party. At the moment, the Republicans can’t with him or without him – and this state of affairs has had strange blossoms in the process as well.
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After the vote, Senate leader Mitch McConnell gave a harsh speech against Trump. He was “practically and morally responsible” for the violence and had violated his official duties in a “horrific” way. That was bizarre because the powerful McConnell had ruled Trump for half an hour “not guilty”. He referred to constitutional concerns. In the speech, Trump was guilty, just not in the sense of the indictment.
Many would secretly prefer to get rid of Trump
Many of those Republicans who acquitted Trump would rather be rid of him yesterday than today, but they know that many of their constituents are big Trump fans. Had there been a secret ballot, many Republican senators would have condemned the ex-president without blinking an eyelid. But there was a roll-call vote and only seven out of 50 Republicans dared to vote.
After all, it was significantly more than the impeachment a year ago, when only Mitt Romney had voted against Trump.
So there are those who publicly advocate a clear book, but they are in the clear minority. Because they have to fear being targeted by Trump and being challenged by a Trump vassal within the party. The Republicans are still chained to the former president for the time being.
The Democrats, in turn, delivered a powerful indictment that focused on the violence in January and the threat to US democracy that Trump will continue to pose in the future. But they refrained from conducting a thorough investigation. Some things remained unclear about how Trump actually proceeded when the mob was raging. Or what role he played in the fact that the National Guard was not there.
At the last minute they started a maneuver so that they could still call witnesses – only to row back two hours later. In doing so, they caused horror in their followers.
The Democrats irritate their supporters
They feared that this would drag out the process. Instead, they want to focus on their new President Joe Biden’s agenda, which could have been further paralyzed by the overshadowing impeachment. The main thing here is to get Biden’s minister confirmed by the Senate and to decide on the massive Corona rescue package.
Their calculation is that in the end it is not impeachment that counts for their voters, but the fact that they took decisive and tangible action against the pandemic and the economic crisis.
In terms of power tactics, however, the Democrats could even win in the future from the defeat in the Senate. They will retain what they secured a majority in the last election: Donald Trump’s enemy.