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History will not be kind to Trump and Republicans on impeachment

Donald Trump has made history, but not in the way he wanted. He has become only the third U.S. president to be impeached. 

It is a dubious distinction, to be sure, and one that, regardless of all of Trump’s grandstanding, he did not want, since it is a dark stain on his legacy.

The irony is that Trump has only himself to blame. Trump seemed to believe he was above the law; that the rules don’t apply to him; that the presidency is a position of self-aggrandizement from which he could wield the immense power of the U.S. government to ensure his own political longevity. And he no doubt believed he could get away with it.

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What’s more, he still does.

Republicans in the Senate will now ensure that he is acquitted, which Trump will use as a public talking point to remind the public that he did indeed get away with all of it. But Democrats and the public have already ensured he did not.

Democrats voted to impeach President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: LeBron James's 'racist rants' are divisive, nasty North Carolina man accused of fraudulently obtaining .5M in PPP loans Biden announces picks to lead oceans, lands agencies MORE to ensure that they honored their oaths of office and their commitment to uphold the Constitution. They did it also to hold the president accountable for his illegal, unconstitutional and dangerous actions. 

This is something Republicans have been unwilling to do. It is as if they checked their consciences at the door, removed their spines and pledged allegiance to the president of the “Divided States of Trump” instead of to the United States of America.

Trump’s legacy is marred forever. But so are the legacies of Republicans who have put party and president over country and Constitution. 

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History will not be kind to Trump. Wednesday’s impeachment already has marked what will be the lead in any history book or internet entry about Donald J. Trump. But history also will not be kind to Republicans who have enabled and stood by Trump with every vile tweet and defended every racist, hurtful policy, even as they privately acknowledged that they don’t like this president and don’t like what he is doing to their party.

History will call them cowards, and that will be correct. History will find they were wanting of the qualities the nation needed at an uncertain, dangerous time.  

At a moment when the chief executive of the most powerful nation on Earth has made clear that he will do what he wants, abuse his power at will and destroy any Republican who dares to speak or act against him, Republicans failed the nation and their constituents miserably. Instead of standing up for truth, honor and American values, they chose the path of least resistance, the one most likely at the moment to lead to their reelections.

Democrats, on the other hand, will go down in history as brave leaders who did right by their oaths of office, their voters and the Constitution. They did this even when it could cost them their seats, especially those in districts Trump won in 2016. 

But these Democrats understood that this issue is bigger than politics. It is bigger than just one seat, one election and one party. It was about the health of a nation vulnerable to forces that would destroy its foundations for their personal political benefit. 

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Democrats rose to the occasion, battling with facts and evidence every time Republicans resorted to the same lies, fabrications, conspiracy theories, distortions and just plain nonsense in their quest to defend Trump’s indefensible actions. 

Whether arguing that it was an unfair process (it wasn’t), or that it wasn’t a quid pro quo (it was), or that Trump was sincerely worried about corruption (there’s no evidence he was) or that Democrats were engaged in a coup of a duly elected president (duly elected presidents are not above the law), or that impeachment needs to be bipartisan so it is not a sham (nowhere in the Constitution does it say that it needs to be  bipartisan), or that both Trump and Ukraine’s President Zelensky said there was no pressure put on Ukraine (Americans are smarter than that), Republicans never adequately defended Trump. Instead, they only managed to deflect from Trump.

Republican tactics certainly will work in the Senate, since it is controlled by Trump followers who will do his bidding, no matter how sinister his actions may be. There, he will be acquitted — and then the ultimate result will be in the hands of the American people in next year’s election. Will they give another four years to a man who only seeks to help himself while he divides, demeans, degrades and denounces everyone he sees as a critic?

I believe Americans are better than that, even though Republicans have proven their party is not. But history will not be kind to them. 

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.