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By voting acquit President Trump on Wednesday, the Senate brought the impeachment process to an end.
The long, winding road of impeachment has dominated conversation in Washington since allegations that President Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine as a political tactic to harm Joe Biden became public in September. Though every small step along the way has been the subject of heated debate, the Senate ultimately formalized the outcome predicted from the beginning: a vote to acquit Trump and allow him to remain in office.
Why there’s debate
Even the most ardent liberals believed a vote to remove Trump was far-fetched when impeachment began. From the beginning, congressional Democrats said they hoped the high-profile process would shed light on Trump’s alleged misdeeds and turn voters against him in his reelection bid. To some observers, that effort has been a success. The president’s critics say months of coverage that laid bare details of the Ukraine scandal have provided a clear example of the corruption that defines the Trump administration. Democrats also forced swing-state GOP senators into tough votes that made them appear to sign off on Trump’s misdeed, some argue.
Many on the right, however, argue that impeachment has backfired on Democrats by making them appear desperate to remove Trump by any means necessary, a posture that will turn voters off in November. Others say the process has empowered Trump to take even bolder steps to secure his reelection, since impeachment has provided concrete proof of how unwavering his support is among Republicans.
Some political experts believe impeachment is unlikely to affect the election, since voters are more concerned about issues that directly affect them like the economy and health care.
Democrats have indicated that they will continue to investigate the Ukraine scandal — along with several other issues — in the House.
Impeachment successfully highlighted Trump’s corruption
“The Senate may acquit Mr. Trump, but it will not, it cannot, exonerate him. Mr. Trump is the most corrupt president in modern times, a reality Americans will continue to be reminded of.” — Editorial, New York Times
Impeachment will soon be forgotten
“Thankfully, this will soon blow over and the press will manufacture some new outrage.” — Dan Gainor, Fox News
Power in Washington has become even more concentrated in the office of the presidency
“Over the long term, the new precedent set by this trial and its likely acquittal will almost certainly increase the power of the presidency, while weakening congressional oversight — changes not always perceptible to the public but consequential nonetheless.” — Francine Kiefer, Christian Science Monitor
Politically motivated impeachments may become a regular occurrence
“It isn’t crazy to worry that in the current polarized political environment, presidential impeachment will be transformed into a political weapon — and that Trump’s impeachment and trial will create impeachment-happy future Republicans, seeking to unseat Democratic presidents.” — Cass R. Sunstein, Bloomberg
Democrats running for president have a powerful case to make against Trump
“The most important step will be for Democrats to build on the main lessons of impeachment — rather than trying to put this saga behind them. ... In the coming months, Democrats should drive home the ways Trump has abused his power and make that a central message of the 2020 campaign.” — Julian Zelizer, CNN
Trump will be more emboldened to manipulate the 2020 election
“Acquittal will give Trump a green light to seek more foreign interference in the 2020 election – or do worse if he is reelected.” — Trudy Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer
Democrats gave Trump a boost by holding a sham impeachment
“It’s impossible to deny that such a futile impeachment at least gives the impression of overturning the last election, especially as the impeachment has been conducted every step of the way along purely partisan lines. And that could give Trump quite an electoral boost.” — Michael Tracy, New York Daily News
Impeachment made Trump’s corruption easier for voters to understand
“All of the Trump corruption was this big amorphous, undefinable blob. Everybody knew it was there, nobody knew the size of it or the frontiers of it or what it looked like. Now, it’s not the Trump corruption, it’s the Trump corruption that the Republicans let him get away with. That’s very easily defined.” — Esquire columnist Charles P. Pierce to MSNBC
Impeachment won’t have much impact on voters
“Democrats want Trump gone; Republicans agree with the president that he’s done nothing wrong. Talking about the impeachment trial, following its every twist and turn, isn’t drawing anyone out of the blue and red corners to which they retreated long ago.” — Victoria McGrane, Boston Globe
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Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, Senate TV via Yahoo News