Donald Trump: Graffy discusses possibility of ‘Patriot Party’
The vote by 43 of the 50 Republican senators to acquit Mr Trump highlights just how powerful a grip he still has on the Republican Party he has reshaped in his image over the past five year. The former president, who has largely stayed out of sight at his Florida home since leaving the White House on January 20, still commands fervent loyalty among his supporters, forcing most Republican politicians to pledge their support.
I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together
Just days after the Capitol riot in which five people lost their lives, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found 70 percent of Republicans still approved of his job performance and a later poll found a similar percentage believed he should be allowed to run for office again.
And despite two impeachments, months of false claims that his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden was rigged and the assault on the US Capitol by his supporters that left five people dead, Mr Trump could still have the power to swing an election result in four years time.
Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and aide to Senator Marco Rubio during his 2016 presidential primary race against Mr Trump, said: “It’s hard to imagine Republicans winning national elections without Trump supporters anytime soon.
“The party is facing a real Catch 22: it can’t win with Trump but it’s obvious it can’t win without him either.”
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Mr Trump has yet to signal his long-term political plans but has publicly hinted at another run for the White House and he is reportedly keen to help primary challengers to the seven Republicans in Congress who voted to impeach or convict him.
After his acquittal he told supporters: “In the months ahead I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people.”
Advisers have suggested Mr Trump has talked about forming a breakaway Patriot Party off the support of his Make America Great Again movement and controversial America First policy he embraced while in office.
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Donald Trump commands fervent loyalty among his supporters
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One Republican insider said: “Whether he does run again is up to him, but he’s still going to have an enormous amount of influence on both the direction of the policy and also in evaluating who is a serious standard-bearer for that message.
“You can call it a kingmaker or whatever you want to call it.”
But while Mr Trump maintains control over the party for now, several Republican senators believe the stain left by the deadly siege of the Capitol and months of false claims about widespread election fraud have crippled his chances of returning to power in 2024.
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, one of the seven who voted for a conviction, said: “After the American public sees the whole story laid out here I don’t see how Donald Trump could be re-elected to the presidency again.”
Donald Trump has kept a low profile since leaving the White House last month
And with Mr Trump out of office and blocked from Twitter, his favourite means of communication, some Republicans said his hold on the party could fade as new issues and personalities emerge.
Republican Senator John Cornyn, a Trump ally, said the former president’s legacy had suffered permanent damage.
He said: “Unfortunately, while President Trump did a lot of good, his handling of the post-election period is what he’s going to be remembered for.
“And I think that’s a tragedy.
Mr Biden said his predecessor’s acquittal was a reminder that democracy was fragile and said every American had a duty to defend the truth.
He said: “This sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile.
“While the final vote did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge is not in dispute.
“Even those opposed to the conviction, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, believe Donald Trump was guilty of a ‘disgraceful dereliction of duty’ and ‘practically and morally responsible for provoking’ the violence unleashed on the Capitol.”
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Mr Biden continued: “This sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile. That it must always be defended. That we must be ever vigilant. That violence and extremism has no place in America. And that each of us has a duty and responsibility as Americans, and especially as leaders, to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.”
The new president said the task at hand was to end what he called “an uncivil war and heal the very soul of our nation”.