Today’s big question

What Donald Trump’s impeachment acquittal means for the Republican Party

GOP left grappling over future after former president escapes conviction

During Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, Republican senators were unwavering in their support of the sitting president. 

But at his historic second trial, the former president escaped impeachment despite seven Republican senators backing conviction in the most bipartisan vote ever delivered in an impeachment process.

While Trump may have escaped further punishment for the Capitol riots in early January, the trial has revealed “a party that has grown weary of defending its leader but lacks the fortitude to sever ties”, the Los Angeles Times says.

The split in Republican votes shows that GOP lawmakers are “openly grappling… with the difficult question of how to move forward after such a divisive trial”, the paper adds.

“The vote stands as a determinative moment for the party Trump moulded into a cult of personality”, The New York Times reports, “one likely to leave a deep blemish in the historical record”.

Having sidestepped an “opportunity to banish him through impeachment”, it is now unclear how the Republicans “might go about transforming their party into something other than a vessel for a semi-retired demagogue who was repudiated by a majority of voters”, the paper continues. And most importantly, it means that Trump “remains the dominant force in right-wing politics”.

“Trump could be satisfied that he avoided conviction over his role in encouraging the assault,” the Financial Times (FT) says. However, one difference between his first and second trials is that “he suffered far greater damage to his political image this time round”.

Much of the “harshest criticism” of Trump came from the seven Republicans who voted with Democrats to convict, the FT adds. But even Mitch McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Washington, “made no qualms of his desire to see him out of Republican politics and possibly face criminal prosecution” despite voting against conviction.

After his acquittal, Trump released a statement saying that his movement “to Make America Great Again has only just begun”.

And his escape from impeachment feels to many like “the final proof positive” of his son, Donald Trump Jr.’s, claim that “this is Donald Trump’s Republican party”, The Guardian adds.

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