Former President Donald Trump’s opponents declared victory, despite his acquittal in a second impeachment trial Saturday, with Democrats claiming they have the moral high ground and the support needed to crush what remains of the former president’s political movement.
Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the lead House impeachment manager or prosecutor in the Senate trial, said Sunday that the trial was a “dramatic success.”
“It was the largest impeachment conviction vote in U.S. history. It was by far the most bipartisan majority that’s ever assembled in the Senate to convict a president, which has traditionally been a kind of partisan thing in American history,” Mr. Raskin said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The Senate voted 57-43 against Mr. Trump, 10 votes short of the 67 needed to convict him of inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Seven Republicans joined Democrats to vote to convict Mr. Trump. That was enough for Democrats to call it a win.
Democrats entered the second impeachment trial knowing a conviction was next to impossible but confident that putting a bright spotlight on the attack would drive a wedge deeper into the rift between Mr. Trump’s fiercely loyal voters and the rest of the Republican Party, pressuring them to pick a side.
Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf said the impeachment trial could help “isolate the Trumpnicks” who have backed the Republican Party in recent election cycles.
“Whether intended or not, it could have the impact of removing Trump votes from the traditional normal GOP and pushing the Trump voters more to the extreme right,” Mr. Sheinkopf said. “In other words, they will have less of a home in the Republican Party if it works properly.”
Some Democrats want Mr. Trump’s next home to be in prison, and the party’s elected officials say prosecutors may pursue criminal charges against Mr. Trump.
Impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett, a nonvoting delegate from the Virgin Islands, said her Democratic leadership is weighing whether to ask prosecutors to pursue Mr. Trump.
“I’m sure leadership are going to be having those discussions,” Ms. Plaskett told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And God bless the attorney general of Georgia, New York, district attorney’s office here in D.C. as well.”
Those jurisdictions already are eyeing criminal charges.
As some Republicans looked to the former president to rebuild the party, Democrats insisted that Mr. Trump was finished in politics.
“The American people have now seen clear out what he did. He violated his oath of office,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Those memories and those police officers’ screams will be forever etched in the memories of Americans. He is done.”
Mr. Trump’s rise in the Republican Party was stunning given his previous ties to the Democratic Party and his decidedly unorthodox takes on traditional Republican issues, such as his opposition to free trade, his defense of entitlement programs and his criticisms of military adventurism.
The former reality TV star, however, found a sweet spot by appealing to voters who felt as if elected leaders in Washington had abandoned them and that, economically and culturally, their ways of life were under attack.
Kristen Anderson, a Republican Party pollster, said at a recent event of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research that keeping the coalition intact will be a challenge.
“Where I struggle is that if the thing that is primarily binding this coalition together is this emotional sense of threat: Does that actually foster an environment where you have this forward-looking policy agenda that does bring people in, or does it actually create a barrier?” she said.
Democrats, meanwhile, have sought to cast the Capitol rioters as key players in the Trump coalition.
“Every Republican who sided with dangerous conspiracists has no business serving in Congress,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said in a recent fundraising email on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “They betrayed their constituents. They betrayed their country. And they must be held accountable.”
Mr. Trump’s loyal supporters called the impeachment trial a scam and nothing more than an underhanded attempt by Democrats to disparage Trump supporters writ large.
“They are trying to paint Trump supporters as if we are some kind of domestic terrorists, and that is such a dangerous slippery slope,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia Republican, recently said on blogger C.J. Pearson’s “Uncensored” podcast. “They accuse all of us as being dangerous. We are not the dangerous ones. The 800 people that went in the Capitol on Jan. 6 do not define the 75 million people that voted for President Trump or the unknown number that went to Trump rallies over the past four to five years.”
Still, Mr. Trump did a lot of the heavy lifting for the Democrats’ narrative.
He insisted for months that the election was stolen and berated Republican Party officials at the state and federal levels, including Vice President Mike Pence, who refused to support his allegations and quest to overturn the election results.
An overwhelming majority of American adults, 71% — including nearly half of Republicans — say Mr. Trump was at least partially responsible for the attack on Congress, according to an Ipsos/Reuters poll released Saturday.
The survey found that 53% of Americans think Mr. Trump should not be allowed to run for public office again.