WASHINGTON (AP/WJW) — President Donald Trump has publicly responded to his acquittal in the historical impeachment trial, barrelling ahead in his reelection fight with a united Republican Party behind him.
Shortly after the Senate voted to acquit him on both articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — the president shared a video on Twitter suggesting he’s remaining focused on his campaign trail.
The video featured what was intended to be a Time Magazine cover sporting the article “How Trumpism Outlasts Trump.” The cover also featured Trump campaign signs beginning at 2024 and lasting through 90,000. The video ends on a sign depicting the words “Trump 4eva.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2020
The president also announced that he will be holding a press conference Thursday at noon to issue his statement on his victory in the trial.
I will be making a public statement tomorrow at 12:00pm from the @WhiteHouse to discuss our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2020
Meanwhile, for Trump, there was one overriding message to draw from his acquittal: Even at a time of maximum political peril, it’s his Republican Party.
Republican senators voted largely in lockstep to acquit Trump, relying on a multitude of rationales for keeping him in office: He’s guilty, but his conduct wasn’t impeachable; his July telephone conversation with Ukraine’s president was a “perfect call”; there’s an election in 10 months and it’s up to voters to determine his fate.
One day after Trump avoided talk of impeachment in his State of the Union address and argued that he had delivered on his 2016 campaign promises, the president already was moving to use impeachment as a 2020 rallying cry.
“He will be acquitted forever, beginning today,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters before the vote.
The nation’s first presidential nominating contest, the Iowa caucuses, handed more good news to Trump. A tabulating mishap threw the Democrats into chaos, depriving any candidate of a clear victory and allowing Trump to paint the Democrats as incompetent and corrupt.
Trump’s tenuous relationship with the GOP establishment has been a consistent theme of his political life in recent years, and he has repeatedly put the party’s values to the test. Still, most Republicans have grudgingly stuck with him, through the revelations of the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he was heard boasting about sexually assaulting women, and Charlottesville, where he defended white supremacists during a racial clash in the Virginia college town, as well as Helsinki, where he sided with Russia’s Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies about Moscow’s 2016 election interference.
Now, they are giving him the victory he’s been waiting for and lashing their fates to his like never before.
Throughout the impeachment process, Trump drew satisfaction as Republican senators, many of whom opposed his long-shot candidacy and still dismiss him in private, overwhelmingly defended him and defied convention, tradition and public opinion polling in the process.
Scott Jennings, a longtime Republican political adviser, said the Senate impeachment trial strengthened Trump’s hand within the party, especially with his core conservative base.
“It actually endears him to his most committed supporters. If Trump is a disrupter, it makes all the sense in the world for the insiders to try to get rid of him. It hands Trump a real messaging point,” Jennings said. “I see no weaknesses in Trump now.”
While Trump is among the least popular presidents in modern history, he has nonetheless maintained wide support among Republicans, with 83% approving of his job performance in a January poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center.
Taking their cues from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with whom Trump has a respectful, if not particularly close, relationship, GOP senators fell in line to block new witnesses and documents in the trial. The final vote Wednesday was no different: Only one Republican, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, a longtime Trump critic, voted for removal.
Romney seemed to anticipate retribution, telling Fox News, “I have broad enough shoulders to bear the consequences.”
With the impeachment trial behind him, Trump loses a reliable foil. But he will soon gain a replacement with a general election foe.
“Donald Trump is in the best political position of his presidency, in part due to his opponents’ miscalculations,” said GOP consultant Terry Sullivan. “He’s at his best when he has a clear opponent, because he’s terrible at playing defense but his political offensive game is second to none. I predict the next nine months will only get better for him as it becomes a two-person race that allows him to define it as a choice between he and his opponent.”
The president told confidants during the trial that he was impressed not just by the robust defense offered by his lawyers, but by the TV interviews offered by GOP senators outside the chamber, according to three White House aides and Republicans close to the West Wing were not authorized to discuss private conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
He crowed to advisers about the loyalty being shown to him and predicted the show of force bodes well for party enthusiasm in November’s election, the people said.
“I have never seen the Republican Party as Strong and as Unified as it is right now. Thank you!” Trump tweeted during the trial.
Trump has benefited from a new class of Republicans in Congress who have proved to be more partisan than their predecessors. Party members also know that Trump rains retribution on those who cross him. For all of Trump’s talk about how Democrats stick together, he’s got the Republicans in his fist.
“We’ve never had a president, as I said, who’s as vindictive and nasty as this one and he strikes fear in the hearts of a lot of people,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said last week.
Trump’s sky-high approval ratings within his own party acted as a deterrent that kept nearly all Republicans from breaking ranks. The fear was palpable among GOP senators worried not just about being the target of an angry tweet but about a Trump-backed primary challenger or a revolt among strong Republican supporters.
Still personally stung by impeachment, Trump is betting that he can sell his acquittal to the American people as a vindication, that he can activate his supporters and mollify even his skeptics in the center. Democrats are left with the more challenging task of explaining the details of the Ukraine case to the American people, and the White House believes Trump’s less complicated message will prevail.
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