From our correspondent in the United States,
Right now, he can breathe. Tried before the Senate for “incitement to insurgency” as part of the attack on the Capitol, Donald Trump was, without real surprise, acquitted on Saturday. He assured his supporters, “our magnificent movement, Make America Great Again (MAGA), has only just begun”. But if some are already speculating on a possible candidacy in 2024, the ex-president should navigate in minefield.
Seven Republicans voted to condemn him
In the end, 57 senators, one after the other, solemnly pronounced a verdict “guilty” (“guilty”) in the chamber of the Senate. Not enough to be dismissed (it took a two-thirds majority, or 67 elected) but Donald Trump was therefore let go by seven Republicans. This is six more than a year ago in his first trial in the Ukrainian case, where only Mitt Romney had defected. This makes it the most bipartisan (the most supported by opposition politicians) verdict in history in a impeachment.
The 45th President of the United States escapes the worst for two reasons. Some of the Republican elected officials were afraid of facing a difficult re-election if they challenged Donald Trump and his supporters. Others, like their leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, acquitted him for a technical reason: they considered that trying a former president was not in conformity with the constitution. But in an exercise in contortion, McConnell did not hide his contempt after the verdict. According to him, “President Trump is, in practice and morally, responsible for bringing about the events of this day” of January 6. “The rioters believed to act according to the desire and the instructions of their president” who multiplied “the false statements and the theories of the conspiracy (…) with the biggest megaphone of the world. “
Terrible and indelible images
“January 6 will forever be a day marked by infamy,” thundered Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. During the trial, America repeatedly replayed images of the horde of Donald Trump supporters swarming Congress, beating up police officers with “MAGA” flags and crushing an officer screaming in pain against a door. Lisa Murkowski, the Republican Senator from Alaska, was adamant that she “does not see how” Donald Trump could represent himself after this.
The sword of Damocles of justice and the 14th amendment
As soon as the verdict is in, the hashtag # 14amendment has appeared in the trends on Twitter. Introduced after the Civil War, it can be used to make an elected official who participated or contributed to an insurrection ineligible. Unlike an impeachment, this is a simple majority vote of 51 senators. Thursday, Chuck Schumer did not rule out this possibility. On MSNBC, Neal Katyal, United States Attorney General for the Obama government, however, argued that a criminal verdict would likely be required for the 14th Amendment to be invoked in Congress.
#14thAmendment trend because dems did not rule out trying to make Trump ineligible via this bias (simple majority vote). But constitutional debate and battle in the courts for months if necessary to decide so justly applicable to secessionists of 1860s pic.twitter.com/g074kL5PVN
– Philippe Berry (@ptiberry) February 13, 2021
In his speech, Mitch McConnell recalled that even though he had been acquitted by the Senate, Donald Trump could still face justice for his role in the January 6 attack. The federal prosecutor of the District of Colombia had assured last month that he was examining the responsibility “of the different actors at all levels”. It remains to be seen whether Joe Biden’s Justice Department has the political will to take on his predecessor.
Whatever happens on this front, Donald Trump is also under threat from the justice of the State of New York, since the Manhattan prosecutor who has been investigating for years a possible tax and bank fraud. And this week, the justice of Georgia opened an investigation into the phone call from Donald Trump to the Secretary of State in which he asked him to “find” him nearly 12,000 votes to double Joe Biden. New York civil justice is also interested in the Trump organization, not to mention the libel complaints of two women who accuse Donald Trump of rape and sexual assault (whom he called “liars”).
A grip on the Republican Party which risks fading
Donald Trump remains ultra-popular within the Republican Party, but his popularity rating has risen from over 90% in early November to 80% today. But according to a CNBC poll released this week, only 48% of Republicans want him to remain party leader. Echelon Insights, an analysis firm run by former Republican pollsters, gives it even lower, at 41% versus 40% preferring someone new.
Worrying trend for Trump in view of 2024: drop of 20 points over 1 month among Republicans who want him to remain at the head of the party, with 41% Trump vs 40% new head (study by Echelon Insight, a cabinet of search for former GOP pollsters)
– Philippe Berry (@ptiberry) February 14, 2021
With three years to come away from the spotlight, potentially without its megaphones on Twitter and Facebook – even if it hasn’t ruled out launching its own platform – its grip on the Conservative Party could fade further.
Many challengers in 2024
The starting line promises to be crowded. Mike Pence is a natural successor. Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dream of taking up the Trumpist torch, Nikki Haley has distanced himself from the ex-president and the “Never Trumpers” Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse will undoubtedly seek to place themselves . To come out on top of a primary, however, Donald Trump would only need the support of about 40% of Republican voters. And the energy to survive an 18 month campaign, at age 78.