After Donald Trump was acquitted in the impeachment process for the Ukrainian scandal last year, he staged a White House bash with delighted White House staffers, political allies and family members.
But the Senate’s vote to acquit Trump again on Saturday, this time on charges of instigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, provides the former president with far less cause for celebration.
On Saturday, Trump dodged a blow when Democrats returned the chance to call witnesses to the trial, which could have led to many days of litigation and a barrage of officials testifying against him.
But while Trump could be confident he wasn’t convinced of his role in encouraging the attack, he shouldn’t feel triumphant.
Stuck at his Mar-a-Lago resort after being voted out of office and without a social media platform after being removed from Twitter – Trump has suffered much greater political damage this time through his long-standing refusal to hold Joe Biden’s election. November and the violence it caused.
While most Republican voters remain loyal to him and many of his party’s lawmakers are reluctant to criticize him for fear of political retaliation, the former president grapples with a tainted brand and has doubts about his political future.
Trump has considered a new run for president in 2024, toyed with launching his own personal movement, and established himself as a major power broker in the party in the 2022 midterm elections – but all those potential roles were clouded by the events of the past several weeks.
The attack on the Capitol was not good for his legacy. He had the chance to be in a very strong position to run for president again if he’d done everything people do when they lose, ”said John Feehery, a Republican strategist and former congressional at EFB Advocacy in Washington. “I don’t think he necessarily conspired with the Proud Boys to overthrow the government, but his comments were irresponsible and stupid.”
In a sign that some Republicans are taking the opportunity to distance themselves from the former president, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN during the Trump administration and a possible presidential candidate in 2024, he said he had “ fallen this far that he might not even be in the race.
“We have to admit that he failed us,” Haley told Politico. “He went down a path that he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we should never let that happen again.”
Far from a political pariah, however, Trump still has a tight grip on Republican voters and the party in general, including many lawmakers on Capitol Hill. According to a poll this month for The Washington City Times, 54 percent of Americans want Trump to get out of politics completely, but among Republicans, that number drops to 26 percent. The other 74 percent of Republicans want him to either lead the party, establish a third party, or remain politically active.
“I think there is an admission that on the heels of January 6, Trump’s brand took a hit among many in Washington, political donors, corporate America and many voters,” said Matt Terrill, a Republican strategist at Firehouse Strategies in Washington. . But Terrill argues that Trump’s strength has always been less with the “decision-makers” of the American capital than with the voters of the Republican Party, who are still “rigorously” by his side.
“Trump could very well have a very strong presence in the party in the future,” said Terrill.
Feehery said the farther one is from the Capitol, “the less impact [impeachment] has with Republican voters.
If you voted for Trump, you liked what he did, which was a big middle finger for the establishment. And you still like him because he’s still a big middle finger to the establishment. ”
Some of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill have been in touch with the former president since he left office, including Kevin McCarthy, the House’s Republican leader, who went to visit him in Mar-a-Lago. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator and a frequent golfing partner of the former president, told Politico on Friday that he planned to see Trump to urge him to help the Republican cause rather than harm him during the mid-term campaigns. .
“I’m going to try to convince him that we can’t get there without you, but you can’t keep the Trump movement going without the GOP united,” Graham said. “When we come back in 2022, that’s a confirmation of your policy. But if we lose again in 2022, the story continues that not only did you lose the White House, but the Republican Party is in a bad place, ”he added.
Some Republicans in Washington doubt they will be able to dictate Trump’s political behavior, and the decision about his involvement will rest entirely with his court.
But Lara Brown, director of the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) at George Washington University, said Trump’s political strength is likely to continue to lose momentum from now on.
“I think Trump will have a political future that will become less and less relevant in the coming year,” said Brown. “The story of Trump’s presidency will only look worse as we get further away from it.”