Donald Trump is an acquitted President of the United States of America. For all that, he didn’t appear to be overly euphoric as he flaunted the front page of the USA Today newspaper on Thursday. Markedly, he has been acquitted by the legislature and not by the judiciary, and pregnant are the implications of the difference. Ergo, it would be presumptuous quite yet to predict a re-run of victory when the nation goes to polls this November.
Suffice it to register that he will be the first President impeached by the House of Representatives to run for re-election. The narrative will now be influenced by the voter, whose perception of the President’s knack for survival is as yet unknown. Wednesday’s clean chit was generally anticipated. It was fairly evident that the Republicans would not hold the President accountable
in the Senate, dominated by the party. Now it is up to Democrats, and the electorate. Impeachment per se has turned out to be as fractured a verdict as is Capitol Hill ~ between a Republican- dominated Senate and a House of Representatives under the Democrats. For now, Mr Trump can be said to have triumphed over the legislative dichotomy. The Senate vote to acquit the man was not a vindication of the President’s conduct.
Small wonder that the Senate trial has been likened to a farce, in which adjudicators who had sworn to be impartial refused to hear witnesses. Let alone justice, the proceedings reflected poorly on the Republican party. America will have to wait till November to be convinced that Mr Trump is indestructible, one who deserves what he calls “full exoneration”.
With the exception of Mitt Romney ~ till a few days ago, a contender for the world’s most powerful office ~ Republican senators have accepted authority, such as it is. Even those who had expressed reservations before voting for acquittal merely underlined their complicity. Republicans are acutely aware that a potential election winner is also a “man of infinite vindictiveness”.
Though the President’s approval rating is still rather poor, there has been no major shift in terms of popular perception over the impeachment issue. On the surface, he appears to be near his highest level of approval since entering office, though there are misgivings that the voting figures may be misleading. While Democrats may continue to pursue him over Ukraine, seeking testimony in the House from John Bolton and others (and Republicans may retaliate with questions about Joe and Hunter Biden), the almost relentless kerfuffle is unlikely to alter the power-play.
Mr Trump is acutely aware that there is ample evidence that he had urged the Kremlin to interfere with American democracy, chiefly to scuttle the prospects of Hilary Clinton. The Ukraine factor affords another chapter to the murky narrative. The Iowa caucus was expected to give the Democrats a boost. It has backfired. The voter has nine months to firm up his choice. Democracy is on test in its fountain-head.