UK prime minister Boris Johnson has characterised Donald Trump’s impeachment and acquittal on a charge of inciting insurrection against his own government as “toings and froings and all the kerfuffle”.
Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation, Johnson was asked what signal the acquittal of a president who stoked violence while casting doubt on a free election would send to the rest of the world.
“The clear message that we get from the proceedings in America,” the prime minister said, “is that after all the toings and froings and all the kerfuffle, American democracy is strong and the American constitution is strong and robust.”
Five people died as a direct result of the attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters, who the president told to “fight like hell” in his attempt to overturn election defeat by Joe Biden, on 6 January.
In the former president’s second impeachment trial, House prosecutors showed chilling footage of lawmakers being hustled to safety by Capitol police.
Members of the pro-Trump mob chanted “hang Mike Pence” as they searched for Trump’s vice-president. Some erected a gallows outside the Capitol.
Constitutional experts have not been as sure as Johnson that the episode painted America’s 233-year-old system of government in such a positive light.
Andrew Rudalevige of Bowdoin College told Axios: “Congress not even pushing back against a physical assault suggests that there’s a lot they will put up with.”
While Trump was in office, Johnson cleaved so close to the president and his populist policies and style that Biden was reported to have called the prime minister “the physical and emotional clone of Donald Trump”.
Asked on Sunday if he was concerned he and the new president might “start off on the wrong foot”, Johnson avoided the question.
“I’ve had,” he said, “I think, already two long and very good conversations with the president and we had a really good exchange, particularly about climate change and what he wants to do.”
Johnson also said the UK was “delighted now, I’m very delighted, to have a good relationship with the White House, which is an important part of any UK prime minister’s mission.”
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The seven Republican senators who broke rank by voting to convict former president Donald Trump at his impeachment trial faced immediate hostility and criticism from fellow conservatives revealing the potentially high cost of opposing Trumpism within the party.
These senators – North Carolina’s Richard Burr, Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy, Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Utah’s Mitt Romney, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey – brought the total number of guilty votes to 57. That was not nearly enough to secure a conviction, but easily enough to ensure instant attack from fellow Republicans and others on the right.
The reaction was a powerful illustration of the strength of Trump’s grip on the Republican party even though he is out of office. “Let’s impeach RINOs from the Republican Party!!!” Trump’s son and conservative favorite Donald Trump Jr said on Twitter, using the insulting acronym for Republicans In Name Only.
The instant backlash came from powerful rightwing media figures also. Conservative Fox News host Laura Ingraham commented: “Prediction: none of the Republicans who voted in the affirmative today will speak at the 2024 GOP convention.”
For Cassidy, there was almost instant retribution in his own state. Jeff Landry, the Republican attorney general of Louisiana, tweeted: “Senator Bill Cassidy’s vote is extremely disappointing.”
The local party agreed and its executive committee unanimously voted to censure Cassidy for his vote. “We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the vote today by Sen. Cassidy to convict former President Trump. Fortunately, clearer heads prevailed and President Trump has been acquitted of the impeachment charge filed against him,” the Republican Party of Louisiana similarly said in a statement.
Cassidy was not alone, as Burr’s state party in North Carolina also went immediately on the attack. Michael Whatley, North Carolina Republican Party chair, condemned his colleague in a statement, saying: “North Carolina Republicans sent Senator Burr to the United States Senate to uphold the Constitution and his vote today to convict in a trial that he declared unconstitutional is shocking and disappointing.”
Read more of Victoria Bekiempis’ report here: Republican rebels who voted to convict feel Trumpists’ fury