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Trump is licensed but his brand has been badly damaged

After Donald Trump was cleared in last year’s impeachment trial for the Ukraine scandal, he threw a White House party with delighted White House staff, political allies and members of his family.

But the Senate vote for acquit Trump again Saturday, this time for inciting the Jan.6 attack on the US Capitol, offers the former president far less reason to rejoice.

Trump dodged a blow on Saturday when Democrats retracted the opportunity to call witnesses in the trial, which could have resulted in many additional days of proceedings and a barrage of officials testifying against him.

But while Trump could be convinced that he avoided being condemned for his role in encouraging aggression, he should not feel triumphant.

Stuck in his seaside resort of Mar-a-Lago after being dismissed from his post, and without a social media platform after being kicked out of Twitter – Trump has suffered much greater political damage this time around because of his long refusal to concede the November election to Joe Biden and the violence it sparked.

Although the majority of Republican voters remain loyal to him and many lawmakers in his party are unwilling to criticize him for fear of political retaliation, the former president is grappling with a tarnished mark and doubts about his political future.

Trump envisioned a new presidential bid in 2024, toyed with launching his own personal movement, and established himself as a key party intermediary in the 2022 midterm election – but all of those potential roles were darkened by the events of the past. a few weeks.

“The attack on Capitol Hill was not good for his legacy. He had the opportunity to be in a very strong position to run for President again if he had done everything people do when they lose, ”says John Feehery, Republican strategist and former congressional aide. ‘EFB Advocacy in Washington. “I don’t think he necessarily conspired with the Proud Boys to overthrow the government, but his comments were irresponsible and stupid.

In a sign that some Republicans are taking the opportunity to distance themselves from former president Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN under the Trump administration and a possible 2024 presidential candidate, said he had “ fallen so far ” even to be in the race.

“We have to recognize that he let us down,” Haley told Politico. “He took a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have gone, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that happen again.

However, Trump is far from a political outcast and still has a strong hold over Republican voters and the party in general, including many lawmakers on Capitol Hill. According to a poll conducted for CNBC this month, 54% of Americans want Trump to be totally out of politics, but among Republicans that number drops to 26%. The remaining 74% of Republicans want him to lead the party, create a third party, or remain politically active.

“I think it is recognized that in the wake of January 6, Trump’s brand has been touched by many others in Washington, political donors, American businesses and many voters,” said Matt Terrill, strategist. Republican at Firehouse Strategies in Washington. But Terrill argues that Trump’s strength has always been less with the “decision-makers” of the US capital than with the rank and file of the Republican Party, who are always by his side “rigorously”.

“Trump could very well have a very strong presence in the party in the future,” Terrill said.

Feehery said that the further away you are from the Capitol building, “the less impact there is. [impeachment] has with Republican voters.

“If you voted for Trump, you liked what he was talking about, which was a big middle finger for the establishment. And you still love him because he’s still a major in the establishment.

Some of Trump’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill have been in contact with the former president since he stepped down, including Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House leader, who visited him in Mar-a- The girlfriend. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator and a frequent golf partner of the former president, told Politico on Friday that he plans to see Trump to urge him to be helpful, rather than harmful, to the Republican cause in the mid-term campaigns.

“I’m going to try to convince him that we can’t do it without you, but you can’t keep the Trump movement going without the GOP united,” Graham said. “If we go back to 2022, then that’s an affirmation of your policy. But if we lose again in 2022, the narrative will continue that not only have you lost the White House, but the Republican Party is in bad shape, ”he added.

Some Republicans in Washington doubt they can dictate Trump’s political behavior, and the decision about his involvement will be entirely up to him.

But Lara Brown, director of the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) at George Washington University, said Trump’s political strength would likely continue to falter from now on.

“I believe Trump will have a political future whose relevance will continue to diminish over the next year,” Brown said. “The story of Trump’s presidency will only get worse the further we get away from it.”

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