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Donald Trump is on a roll, and Mitt Romney’s vote won’t slow him down

For a brief moment, just before Donald Trump was predictably acquitted, the president’s impeachment trial transcended partisanship and short-term political expediency, writes
Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president in 2012, rose in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday and said Donald Trump ought to be removed from office.
“The president was guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust,” Romney said. The kind of election-rigging Romney judged that Trump had engaged in was “the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”
Saying senators were but “footnotes at best in the annals of history,” Romney said he was voting to convict to avoid “history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.”
And in doing so, he became one of those footnotes — the first U.S. senator to ever vote to convict a president of his own party in an impeachment trial.
Hours later, the Senate voted to acquit the president on the abuse of power charge by a vote of 52-48 — a decisive margin, since 67 votes would have been required to remove him. Romney voted with the other Republicans to acquit on the second article, obstruction of Congress, making that vote 53-47.
Romney’s dissent was already just a footnote in a romping, triumphant week for Trump.
It began on Groundhog Day — Super Bowl Sunday — with Trump appearing from Florida in an interview with his shadow adviser Sean Hannity, and predicting four more years of WIN-ter. “I see the hatred. I see the — they don’t care about fairness, they don’t care about lying,” he said, shrugging off the threat from his Democratic rivals.
Those rivals made his day on Monday, when they turned the showcase Iowa presidential nomination caucuses into a three-ring clown show. “The Democrats want to run a Country, and they can’t run a Caucus,” Trump taunted on Twitter, quoting a Fox News host. Joe Biden, the candidate who Trump tried to get Ukraine to investigate came out of the muddled result wounded, a presumed front-runner in fourth place — very possibly in part because the smear Trump was accused of wanting from Ukraine had worked by repetition in Washington.
On Tuesday, he used his State of the Union address to take some thinly veiled shots at the socialism of the latest Democratic front-runner, Bernie Sanders. That was one of the more understated sequences in a completely Trumpian spectacle, an oration the Washington Post concluded contained 31 false or misleading statements but still had partisans in the House chanting “four more years!” It was a speech that offset vivid scaremongering about undocumented immigrants with reality-TV flourishes, such as having the First Lady present a medal to talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh right there on the spot, and dramatically having an armed services member come through the doors to be reunited with his family in the middle of the address.
House Speaker and Trump antagonist Nancy Pelosi stole some of the stagecraft headlines by ripping up a copy of his speech, but it was Trump’s characterization of the economy’s “great American comeback” that demonstrates his reason for optimism going into this year’s election
The U.S. economy may not be at its strongest ever, as Trump claimed, but it is legitimately humming, with a very low unemployment rate, a soaring stock market and increasing median incomes. Those aren’t just ledger numbers, either: A recent CNN poll found that most Americans believe the economy is doing well. Trump’s critics are fond of pointing out that the current growth began well before he was elected, but he is nonetheless overjoyed to take credit for it, and experts have long said that a strong economy is the single surest sign that a president is likely to be re-elected.
Wednesday brought the county’s attention back to the impeachment trial, where Trump got the acquittal he will characterize as exoneration. Romney’s vote is unlikely to take the shine off that for him. Neither will the conclusion reached publicly by senators from his own party that Trump had surely done what he was accused of, but that the question about whether to remove him as president should be answered on election day.
“I believe that the president has learned from this case,” Republican Sen. Susan Collins told CBS, explaining her vote to acquit him. “I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future.”
That’s unlikely. Speaking at a lunch with TV anchors before Tuesday’s speech, the Washington Post reported that Trump said “he had done nothing wrong.” Collins and all but one of her Republican colleagues have made it easier for Trump to continue to make that case.
Romney’s dissenting vote won’t do much to dampen Trump’s triumphs this week. But that wasn’t really the point. As the junior senator from Utah explained, he cast his vote in the belief that future generations will look back on this moment and see that a good week for Trump was a bad week for America.

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