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Press: The big loser: The Republican Party

Press: The big loser: The Republican Party
© Greg Nash

No sooner did Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPress: The big loser: The Republican Party Senate acquits Trump in 57-43 vote Trump lawyer irked after senators laugh at him MORE (D-Vt.) announce the final count in Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE’s second impeachment trial — Trump acquitted by a tally of 57-43 — than the celebration began. Republican Senate loyalists rushed to the microphones to declare victory; champagne corks popped at RNC headquarters; and Trump’s defense lawyers were caught on camera sharing fist bumps on the Senate subway.

Not so fast. True, Democratic House Managers did not persuade 67 senators to hold Trump accountable for what happened on Jan. 6. True, for the second time, an impeached Donald Trump escaped conviction by the Senate. True, in the short term, this may look like a victory for Donald Trump and the Republican Party. But don’t be fooled.

As Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times, this verdict was no long-term exoneration for Donald Trump. It was merely a temporary escape. After the verdict, Trump is weaker, not stronger. Ironically, in the long term, Democrats, not Republicans, will be the real winners of the Senate vote — and the Republican Party will be the big loser. For several reasons.

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First and foremost, because the whole world now knows that Donald Trump is guilty of inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. The evidence House managers presented is overwhelming: he assembled the mob, he summoned the mob, he incited the mob, and then he watched it all on television without lifting one finger to stop the violence, even when informed that his vice president and his family were running for their lives.

Not one single senator who voted “not guilty” even attempted to refute the evidence. Not one! Instead, starting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE (R-Ky.), they all based their “no” vote on their (mistaken, but convenient) belief that the Constitution does not allow convicting a president no longer in office.

Which means the Republican Party is now, more than ever, the party of Donald Trump. This was Republicans’ last chance to break with Trump and move on. But they blew it. So now they’re stuck with him: the only president to be impeached twice; the president who received the most bipartisan votes ever for Senate conviction; the president with the lowest approval ratings of any modern president; the president who just lost Republicans the House, Senate and White House; the former president who will most likely soon be facing criminal charges in New York and Georgia; and, according to the latest ABC poll, the president whom 56 percent of Americans believe should have been convicted and banned from ever running for office again.

Yet, rather than seize the best opportunity to dump Typhoid Donald, Republican senators embraced him instead. So now they’ll be joined at the hip with him in 2022 and 2024, when he’s already threatened to incite civil war inside the Republican Party by campaigning against any Republican he believes was not sufficiently loyal.

Democrats, meanwhile, have been handed a golden opportunity. Think about it. Running against Donald Trump, Joe BidenJoe BidenKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Overnight Defense: New Senate Armed Services chairman talks Pentagon policy nominee, Afghanistan, more | Biden reads report on Khashoggi killing | Austin stresses vaccine safety in new video MORE won more votes than any presidential candidate in history. He crushed Trump by 7 million votes. With Trump on the ballot in 2020, Democrats won the House, the Senate, and the White House. Trump’s the best thing that ever happened to the Democratic Party. Nobody excites the Democratic base more. And now they’ll have Donald Trump to run against in 2022 and 2024, while Republicans will be forced to defend him again and again and again.

Republicans may be celebrating today, but they’ll soon rue the day they chickened out and failed to convict Donald Trump.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”