Enduring second impeachment, Trump stands largely silent and alone

Washington: His place in the history books rewritten, US President Donald Trump endured his second impeachment largely alone and silent.

For more than four years, Trump has dominated the national discourse like no one before him. Yet when his legacy was set in stone on Thursday AEDT, he was stunningly left on the sidelines.

US President Donald Trump, pictured during a trip the border wall in Texas this week.Credit:AP

Trump now stands with no equal, the only president to be charged twice with a high crime or misdemeanour, a new coda for a term defined by a deepening of the nation's divides, his failures during the worst pandemic in a century and his refusal to accept defeat at the ballot box.

Trump kept out of sight in a nearly empty White House as impeachment proceedings played out at the heavily fortified US Capitol. There, the damage from last week’s riots provided a visible reminder of the insurrection that the President was accused of inciting.

Abandoned by some in his own party, Trump could do nothing but watch history unfold on television. The suspension of his Twitter account deprived Trump of his most potent means to keep Republicans in line, giving a sense that Trump had been defanged and, for the first time, his hold on his adopted party was in question.

He was finally heard from hours after the vote, in a subdued video that condemned the insurrection at the Capitol and warned his supporters from engaging in any further violence. It was a message that was largely missing one week earlier, when rioters marching in Trump’s name descended on the Capitol to try to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.

“I want to be very clear: I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week," said Trump. He added that “no true supporter” of his “could ever endorse political violence.”

But that message, partially motivated to warn off legal exposure for sparking the riot, ran contrary to what Trump has said throughout his term, including when he urged his supporters to “fight” for him last week.

Trump said not a word about his impeachment in the video, though he complained about the ban on his social media. And later, he asked allies if he had gone too far with the video, wondering if it might upset some of his supporters. Four White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing discussed Trump’s private conversations on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to do so publicly.

Trump has even turned on Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney.Credit:Bloomberg

Trump watched much of the day's proceedings on TV from the White House residence and his private dining area off the Oval Office. A short time before he was impeached, Trump was in the White House East Room presenting the National Medal of Arts to singers Toby Keith and Ricky Skaggs as well as former Associated Press photographer Nick Ut.

His paramount concern, beyond his legacy, was what a second impeachment could do to his immediate political and financial future.

The loss of his Twitter account and fundraising lists could complicate Trump's efforts to remain a Republican kingmaker and potentially run again in 2024. Moreover, Trump seethed at the blows being dealt to his business, including the withdrawal of a PGA tournament from one of his golf courses and the decision by New York City to cease dealings with his company.

There's the possibility that if the Senate were to convict him, he also could be barred from seeking election again, dashing any hopes of another presidential campaign.

A White House spokesman did not respond to questions about whether anyone in the building was trying to defend Trump, who was now the subject of half of the presidential impeachments in the nation's history.

One campaign adviser, Jason Miller, argued Democrats’ efforts will serve to galvanise the Republican base behind Trump and end up harming Biden. He blamed the Democrats’ swift pace for the silence, saying there wasn’t “time for mounting a traditional response operation.” But he pledged that “the real battle will be the Senate where there’ll be a more traditional push-back effort.”

The reminders of the Capitol siege were everywhere as the House moved toward the impeachment roll call.

Some of the Capitol’s doors were broken and windows were shattered. A barricade had gone up around outside the building and there were new checkpoints. Hundreds of members of the National Guard patrolled the hallways, even sleeping on the marble floors of the same rotunda that once housed Abraham Lincoln’s casket.

And now the Capitol is the site of more history, adding to the chapter that features Clinton, impeached 21 years ago for lying under oath about sex with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and Andrew Johnson, impeached 151 years ago for defying Congress on Reconstruction. Another entry is for Richard Nixon, who avoided impeachment by resigning during the Watergate investigation.

But Trump, the only one impeached twice, will once more be alone.


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