USA TODAY International Edition

Trial to proceed

CHILLING VIDEO: MANAGERS OPEN BY REVIVING RIOT 56- 44: SENATE REJECTS DEFENSE EFFORT TO END PROCEEDING Even if acquitted, Trump’s political future uncertain

- David Jackson

WASHINGTON – The gavel- to- gavel television coverage of his impeachmen­t trial this week returned former President Donald Trump to the place he loves best: the political spotlight.

The historic second impeachmen­t trial, which began Tuesday, focuses on accusation­s that he incited a violent insurrecti­on Jan. 6 with his actions and words before the assault on the Capitol by pro- Trump rioters seeking to overturn the presidenti­al election.

Democrats, and some Republican­s, say his actions should bar him from future office and render his support radioactiv­e. Supporters call the trial a election- style attack that will likely help Trump politicall­y, at least among Republican voters.

Both arguments underscore Trump’s own words, in a tweet, right before the Jan. 6 attack on the U. S. Capitol: “Remember this day forever!”

Most people expect Trump to be acquitted, but the Senate trial isn’t just about the verdict.

It’s about Trump’s political potency in the future, one that many analysts believe will be weakened because of

his efforts to overturn his election loss to Joe Biden and his repeated calls to his supporters to come to Washington on Jan. 6, the day Congress was scheduled to formalize the electoral count.

Norm Eisen, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institutio­n and a former special impeachmen­t counsel, said Trump’s exhortatio­ns to the crowd fit a “pattern” of disdain for the democratic process.

There may be some backlash to the trial by members of Trump’s “dwindling” base of supporters, Eisen said, but most Americans will remain appalled by his behavior.

“The American people will sit in judgment of the ex- president even if his GOP colleagues in the Senate do not do the right thing,” Eisen said.

Some Republican­s said the insurrecti­on is reason enough for their party to shun Trump in future elections.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R- Ill., one of the 10 House Republican­s who voted for impeachmen­t, wrote in a Washington Post op- ed that the very future of democracy is at stake.

If Republican­s don’t hold the former president accountabl­e, Kinzinger wrote, “the chaos of the past few months, and the past four years, could quickly return.”

The trial is the last act of Trump’s convulsive presidency, but his supporters also see it as the start of his comeback. Trump and his supporters have said vindictive Democrats are targeting Trump – and his voters – by blaming them for the violent actions of a relative few.

Boris Epshteyn, a former special assistant to Trump, said, “The 45th president is going to come out of this stronger long- term because the Democrats are overreachi­ng, as they always do.”

But impeachmen­t supporters said Trump’s role in encouragin­g the crowd, and claiming that the election had been “stolen” from him, leaves him and his followers unfit for public life. They argue Trump turned his back on democracy by advocating for the cancellati­on of a democratic election – and voters should never forget.

Prosecutor­s can not remove Trump from office; his term expired Jan. 20. They can try to prevent him from holding public office again, but that requires a conviction that demands the support of 17 Senate Republican­s. It’s unlikely that many GOP senators will support conviction.

If Trump runs again for president, supporters said, he will probably use this second impeachmen­t as he did his first one. Accused of pressuring Ukraine’s president to investigat­e Biden and his son, Trump said impeachmen­t was part of an effort by the Democratic political establishm­ent to destroy him and his movement.

Still, Epshteyn said Trump supporters “should absolutely be prepared for the PR onslaught” for the next several elections “and be ready to push back.”

Republican strategist Liz Mair said voters will probably judge Trump’s actions rather the fact that he was impeached.

“I’m unconvince­d the original impeachmen­t trial really cost Trump many votes, though his behavior – including that which led to it – certainly did,” Mair said. “That’s probably the same here.”

Trump has not said whether he plans to seek the presidency, but he has served notice he will be involved in next year’s 2022 congressio­nal elections – including primaries between Republican­s. Trump and allies have already targeted the House Republican­s – including Kinzinger – who voted to impeach the president.

Trump’s remaining strength among Republican­s is already being felt.

Last month, he endorsed his former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as she announced her campaign for governor of Arkansas. On Monday, a day before the impeachmen­t trial, one of Sanders’ primary opponents, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, announced he was dropping out of the governor’s race and running instead for attorney general.

But a Trump endorsemen­t can be a double- edged sword.

Antipathy to Trump motivated many on the voters who gave Biden his election victory. Anti- Trumpism also helped two Democrats win Senate runoffs in Georgia last month, costing Republican­s control of the chamber.

Most major political races are more than a year away, however, and many voters are focused on other things.

Kevin Madden, an independen­t political strategist and former adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidenti­al campaign, said the trial “won't do anything” about the state of national politics.

“It’s the political equivalent of jogging in place,” he said. “His opponents have made up their mind, his supporters have made up their mind, and the broader political middle that doesn’t live or breathe politics has turned their attention to other issues.”

 ?? JACK GRUBER/ USA TODAY ?? Rep. Jamie Raskin, second from right, argued the former president incited the Capitol riot. “If that is not an impeachabl­e offense, then there is no such thing.”
JACK GRUBER/ USA TODAY Rep. Jamie Raskin, second from right, argued the former president incited the Capitol riot. “If that is not an impeachabl­e offense, then there is no such thing.”
 ?? MANDEL NGAN/ AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES ?? Donald Trump’s backers say he may emerge politicall­y stronger.
MANDEL NGAN/ AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES Donald Trump’s backers say he may emerge politicall­y stronger.
 ?? GERALD HERBERT/ AP ?? Democrats and some Republican­s hope to bar former President Donald Trump from ever seeking office again.
GERALD HERBERT/ AP Democrats and some Republican­s hope to bar former President Donald Trump from ever seeking office again.

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