With the final gavel banging down Wednesday on impeachment, President Donald Trump barrelled ahead in his reelection fight with a united Republican Party behind him, and emboldened by reassuring poll numbers and chaos in the Democratic race to replace him.
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.
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.
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.
Trump tweeted after the vote that he would mark his acquittal with a statement at noon Thursday to “discuss our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!”
The president and his allies sent giddy tweets needling his accusers and Democrats. In his first message once the trial closed, Trump posted an animated video using a Time magazine cover to suggest he would remain in office “4EVA.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., released a video of him tearing up the impeachment articles. And White House social media director Dan Scavino tweeted an animated GIF of Trump dancing.
Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a senior White House aide, said in a post: “This factional fever and incoherent, ill-conceived process has finally ended and the President has rightfully been acquitted. It is time for our Country to move forward. Together.”
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.