It would be a first for the National Portrait Gallery: The picture of the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, would be a mug shot.
That’s the ardent wish of most Democrats and a few “Never Trumper” Republicans. Most of the GOP senators, 43 of them, voted to acquit Trump of the accusation that he was guilty of inciting the deadly invasion of the Capitol building, enough to demonstrate they are part of the “Ever Trumper” party. In doing so, they proved without a doubt that they are marching in goose step with the fanatic extremists who are guided by the despotic fantasies of Donald Trump.
Strangely enough, it was Mitch McConnell who provided the Democratic Party rallying cry when he took to the floor, after voting in favor of Trump, to predict that “he didn’t get away with anything yet. We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.”
If there was ever a weirder display of a calculating politician speaking out of both sides of his mouth, this speech was it. Mitch McConnell epitomizes the calculating politician. But this was bizarre, even for him, accusing the man he had just rescued with a brutal condemnation.
“There’s no question -- none -- that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell deadpanned, as he usually does. “No question about it.”
Meanwhile, in the bowels of Mar-a-Lago, the once and -- if he has his way -- future president took the intimidating sellout of his once proud senators-turned-Proud-Boys as a victory. Banned from Twitter, Trump put out a statement: “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. There has never been anything like it!”
Actually, in the months ahead, Donald Trump and his legal team, as McConnell said, will have to fend off all the prosecutions and lawsuits for his conduct before and during his time in office, including accountability for what seemed to anyone but trembling GOP senators to be inciting the deadly rioters into violence that turned his private army into a U.S. Capitol lynch mob.
And as the second impeachment process exhibited, his legal team is running out of lawyers, at least ones who aren’t laughingstocks. For a combination of reasons -- embarrassment and a Trump history of stiffing attorneys on their billable hours, among them -- he’s left with slim pickings. Unless you count Rudy Giuliani, who seems to be a shadow of his former self, unless his former self was a PR contrivance to begin with. Giuliani is facing his own legal problems. Isn’t impersonating a lawyer a crime? Before he left office, President Trump didn’t take care of his chief legal adviser with a pardon. So he’s left Giuliani high and dry.
But at least he didn’t leave him to the frenzied marauders as he did Mike Pence. All those years of playing the obsequious vice president, and Trump threw him to the wolves, trashing democracy and wanting to trash him.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden -- you remember him; he won the election -- inherited the complete mess that Trump and his merry band of incompetents left the country in, including the COVID scourge. A lot of the Trumpsters will face their own time explaining themselves to the courts, but it will be up to Biden and his people to undo the damage of a nation that is so demoralized, and rightfully so.
Perhaps, for the opponents of Donald Trump (about half the country), his conviction would be a mood builder. But as the impeachment, with its open-and-shut case and acquittal, seemed to indicate, our political system is not up to the task.
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.