Moments after the Senate acquitted Donald Trump in February 2020, the former president tweeted a doctored video of a TIME Magazine cover with campaign yard signs from "Trump 2024" to 2028, 2032 and "4EVA."
The 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution states that "No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice." Trump never minded.
Instead, the president celebrated his impeachment acquittal in the East Room of the White House, summoned his allies, and crowed about eluding conviction.
A year down the road, President Trump has made "history" after the Senate acquitted him for the second time.
Donald Trump, slightly cornered since his incitement in the Capitol insurrection got ugly and killed people, did not have the East Room of the White House to celebrate this time. Instead, he released a statement from behind the door in Florida.
"We have so much work ahead of us, and soon we will emerge with a vision for a bright, radiant and limitless American future," President Trump wrote – a clear hint of returning to public life.
But does this acquittal, like the first one last February, mean exoneration of Donald Trump? Possibly not.
First of all, Trump can no longer have the public attention he used to have as a president. Besides, he is suspended from all social media platforms – his principal tool to reach the followers – and mainstream media is not Donald Trump's mouthpiece. He simply cannot use this acquittal to exploit his supporters on his own, he needed the Republicans like Mitch McConnell as a pawn.
But Mitch McConnell, either disillusioned with Trump after the 6 January insurrection or as part of his screwed political move, continued to distance himself from the former president. He did vote to acquit Trump, but that did not stop him from criticising the former president.
"There is no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day," McConnell said. "No question about it. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth."
Mitch's message carried a clear message that the former president could not be the future of the Republican Party.
"President Trump is still liable for everything he did while in office," McConnell said. "He did not get away with anything yet. We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation."
Mitch McConnell was not the only Republican to take on Trump. Some other Senators who voted to acquit Trump also criticised him in the strongest manner.
"The actions and reactions of President Trump were disgraceful, and history will judge him harshly," said Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio added, "President Trump said and did things that were reckless and encouraged the mob."
An acquittal may sound like a victory for Trump, but it is not. Even if it did not reach the two-thirds required for conviction, the 57-43 vote was the highest total for conviction of a president since Andrew Johnson was acquitted by a single vote in 1868.
This is a moral defeat for Trump.
Now a "moral" defeat may sound like a piece of cake for a man like Trump. We have witnessed the records of vicious moral degradation that did not prevent him from becoming the president in the first place. Trump never cared, neither did the Republicans.
But this time, with establishment leaders like McConnell distancing the path, Trump is rarely seen in the media and a critical role in the Capitol insurrection, this "moral" defeat leaves a deeper scar. Besides, as McConnell stated that the former president "did not get away with anything yet," Trump may end up being charged for his role in the insurrection and lots of other legal issues may haunt him for a long time.
However, just like this acquittal does not recuperate Donald Trump's political career, this impeachment saga cannot get the United States rid of the influence of Trumpism.