As it happenedended1581031257

Trump news: President gloats over impeachment acquittal as White House trails ominous threat to make opponents ‘pay’

Vindictive White House 'victory' speech follows rally-like State of the Union as Democratic challengers prepare for New Hampshire

Mitt Romney to break from Republicans and vote to convict Trump on impeachment

Surrounded by his cheering allies at the White House, Donald Trump celebrated his acquittal in his impeachment trial after after appearing at the National Prayer Breakfast brandishing aloft newspaper front pages announcing Wednesday's landmark decision.

The president also used the occasion to attack House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Utah senator Mitt Romney, the lone Republican to vote "guilty" with Democrats after excoriating the president in the blistering Senate speech.

Wednesday's Senate vote on the two articles laid against him by the House of Representatives – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – was split largely along party lines with only Mr Romney daring to break ranks, denouncing the president’s “appalling abuse of public trust” in an emotional speech from the floor that earned him the ire of a vengeful Republican Party, with members calling for his expulsion and likening him to Judas Iscariot and Benedict Arnold.

At her weekly conference, Ms Pelosi criticised Mr Trump's rally-like State of the Union address as a "the compilation of falsehoods" and said she now-famously ripped up a copy of his speech to "clearly [indicate] to the American people that this is not the truth" as the president's allies applauded his remarks.

In preparation for his remarks, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham ominously told Fox News that Mr Trump planned to talk about “how horribly he was treated and that maybe people should pay for that”, suggesting a threatening remainder of his term in office following his opponents' failure to remove him. The White House also issued anti-Romney talking points attacking him as a self-serving politician with a history of flip-flopping.

Mr Trump called the Russia investigations against him as "bulls***" and attacked former FBI Director James Comey, among several targets in his address (Ms Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Robert Mueller, the FBI's "top scum" and "crookedest and most corrupt", among them).

The remarks went quickly off the rails, from reenacting the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise to praising Congressman Jim Jordan's looks, briefly addressed the leaked Access Hollywood tape in which he gloats about assaulting women, and leading standing ovations for his legal defence team and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Meanwhile, the results of the Iowa Caucus, the first state to host an election in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race, are nearly complete, with 97 per cent of the vote totals showing a razor-thin delegate win for Pete Buttiegieg and a majority vote victory for Bernie Sanders, who collected more votes than his opponent.

Despite the vote totals being incomplete, Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez has pressured Iowa's party officials to review the results, following significant delays and inconsistencies after an app failure forced officials to review the vote totals manually.

The candidates are now campaigning in New Hampshire ahead of that state's primary on 11 February. The president will hold a rally in the state on 10 February.

Follow our coverage as it happened:

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

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Trump acquitted by Senate on both articles of impeachment

Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday on both impeachment articles laid against him by the House of Representatives - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress - with the vote split largely along party lines and only Utah Republican Mitt Romney daring to break ranks on the first count, denouncing the president’s “appalling abuse of public trust” in an emotional speech from the floor.

Romney choked up as he said he drew on his Mormon faith and "oath before God" to vote guilty on the first charge.

While Trump remains only the third president to be impeached by the House, the vote by the Senate - 52-48 on abuse of power and 53-47 on obstruction - means he can remain in the White House and seek a second term.

Both Bill Clinton in 1999 and Andrew Johnson in 1868 drew cross-party support when they were left in office after impeachment trials. Richard Nixon resigned rather than face sure impeachment, expecting members of his own party to vote to remove him.

“The sham impeachment attempt concocted by Democrats ended in the full vindication and exoneration of President Donald J Trump. As we have said all along, he is not guilty,” the White House said yesterday in a statement. “The Senate voted to reject the baseless articles of impeachment, and only the president’s political opponents - all Democrats, and one failed Republican presidential candidate - voted for the manufactured impeachment articles.

“In what has now become a consistent tradition for Democrats, this was yet another witch-hunt that deprived the president of his due process rights and was based on a series of lies.”

While Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell called the decision to pursue the president's impeachment over the Ukraine affair was a "colossal political mistake" by the Democrats, minority leader Chuck Schumer said there will always be "a giant asterisk next to the president's acquittal" because of the Senate's quick trial and Republicans' unprecedented rejection of witnesses.

Ahead of Wednesday's voting, some of the most closely watched senators took to the Senate floor to tell their constituents, and the nation, what they had decided.

Influential Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee worried a guilty verdict would "pour gasoline on the fire" of the nation's culture wars over Trump and "rip the country apart." He said the House proved its case but it just didn't rise to the level of impeachment.

Other Republicans siding with Trump said it was time to end what McConnell called the "circus" and move on.

Most Democrats, though, echoed the House managers' warnings that Trump, if left unchecked, would continue to abuse the power of his office for personal political gain and try to cheat again ahead of the the 2020 election. Even key Democrats from states where Trump is popular - Doug Jones in Alabama and Joe Manchin in West Virginia - risked backlash and voted to convict. "Senators are elected to make tough choices," Jones said.

 

Several senators trying to win the Democratic Party's nomination to face Trump - Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar - dashed back from early primary state New Hampshire to vote.

During the nearly three-week trial, House Democrats prosecuting the case argued that Trump abused power like no other president in history when he pressured Ukraine to investigate his domestic challenger Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, ahead of the 2020 election.

They detailed an extraordinary effort by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani that set off alarms at the highest levels of government. After the president's 25 July call with Ukraine, the White House temporarily halted $391m (£302m in US aid to the struggling ally battling hostile Russia at its border. The money was eventually released in September as Congress intervened.

When the House probed Trump's actions, the president instructed White House aides to defy congressional subpoenas, leading to the obstruction charge.

Questions from the Ukraine matter continue to swirl. House Democrats may yet summon former national security adviser John Bolton to testify about revelations from his forthcoming book that offer a fresh account of Trump's actions. Other eyewitnesses and documents are almost sure to surface.

In closing arguments for the trial, the lead prosecutor, Adam Schiff, appealed to senators' sense of decency, insisting "right matters" and "truth matters" and Trump "is not who you are." He said he hoped the votes to convict "will serve as a constraint on the president's wrongdoing" but warned: "We're going to have to be vigilant."

Here's John T Bennett's report from a dark day for democracy in Washington.

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President gloats on Twitter and announces White House speech to discuss 'Victory'

Trump was quick to gloat on Twitter, leading the chorus of GOP condemnation for  Romney, whom he derided as a "failed presidential candidate" alluding to his defeat by Barack Obama in 2012.

He also posted this absurd meme - another bogus Time cover - fantasising about his serving indefinite terms in office like a totalitarian dictator and set to "In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Edvard Grieg.

The president presumably thought this was just a nice piece of dramatic orchestral music, little realising it is actually intended to introduce Peer Gynt's sinister troll king - another spectacular self-own from this ever-more ludicrous administration.

Trump also trailed what promises to be a vainglorious and unedifying "VICTORY" dance at the White House today - stay tuned. 

Here's Andy Gregory with more on these monumentally dumb posts.

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Republicans round on Mitt Romney for breaking ranks to vote for conviction

Trump was joined by his utterly awful son Don Jr in attacking Romney, who called for his expulsion from the party and Fox News host Lou Dobbs, who commented the senator would be “associated with Judas, Brutus, Benedict Arnold forever”.

Laura Ingraham called him "the ultimate selfish, preening, self-centered politician" and even threatened to move to Utah to run against him (!).

"If he were up for re-election this year, the people of Utah would have their own payback against him because they were defrauded by Romney. For when he had to choose, he chose [Charles] Schumer and Kamala [Harris] over common sense and conservatism," she said. "If you're one of Romney's constituents in Utah, you're out of luck. If you're a business in need of a regulation re-examined, don't bother calling his office. He has no power anymore.

"Mitt, you made your stand. Now should you should resign. You committed a fraud on the people of Utah, on the Republican Party, on the Constitution, and a thoroughly embarrassed yourself," Ingraham continued. "If I have to move there to run against him in four and a half years, I will."

This - from 42-year-old man Don Jr's Instagram - is possibly the worst thing your humble correspondent has ever encountered on the internet and that really is saying something.

(Donald J Trump Jr/Instagram)

Mitch McConnell was quick to downplay the calls to eject Romney, admitting he was "suprised and disappointed" by his decision but insisting: "I think Senator Romney has been largely supportive of most everything we've tried to accomplish... We don't have any doghouses here. The most important vote is the next vote."

Here's Alex Woodward on the five key spats that have defined Trump's relationship with Romney.

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Stephen Colbert offers moving tribute to Romney for daring to stand alone

Romney has received praise from across the aisle, however, with Late Show host Stephen Colbert offering an impassioned expression of gratitude and quoting Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons to liken him to Thomas Moore standing up to Henry VIII.

George Conway also fought the good fight on his behalf on Twitter, once more risking the ire of his wife, senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.

For Indy Voices, Holly Baxter argues Democrats should not go overboard in praising Romney for doing the bare minimum (i.e. heeding his conscience).

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Republicans plot to expunge Trump's from record if they retake the House

While Nancy Pelosi insists "impeachment lasts forever", the chamber's GOP minority leader reportedly has other ideas.

“This is the fastest, weakest, most political impeachment in history,” Kevin McCarthy told The New York Post. “I don’t think it should stay on the books.”

Clark Mindock has more.

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Senate acquittal raises fears dangerous precedent set for expansion of presidential powers

Chuck Schumer commented yesterday that McConnell's swift execution of the president's impeachment in just 15 days without considering urgent new witnesses or evidence threatens to represent "the end of presidential accountability".

John T Bennett offers these reflections.

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Matt Gaetz files ethics complaint against Nancy Pelosi over ripped speech

The faux Republican outrage over the House speaker's theatrical tearing up of her copy of Trump's State of the Union speech continues.

Florida MAGA apologist and sometime congressman Matt Gaetz has taken a lead from alt-right activist Charlie Kirk and filed an ethics complaint against Nancy Pelosi after a full day of nonsense on the subject from the likes of Mike Pence, Kellyanne Conway, Laura Ingraham, Jason Chaffetz and Brian Kilmeade.

Trump himself even retweeted a New York Post story accusing Pelosi's staff of "pre-ripping" the pages to ensure the gesture had maximum impact.

The Daily Show did a superb number on all of this last night:

Clark Mindock has more on Don Jr's bogus perfomative grief.

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President's supporters 'flooded Iowa caucus hotlines' to cause chaos after technical glitch delayed results

Trump campaign activitsts allegedly contributed to the delay in Democratic Iowa caucus results on Monday by flooding a hotline used by precinct chairs to call in their results for the party's 2020 presidential candidates. 

The deluge of calls came after the phone number was made public when photos of caucus paperwork were published online.

The claim was made by a senior Iowa Democrat during a conference call with national party leaders on Wednesday evening, according to Bloomberg News.

Tom Embury-Dennis investigates.

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Joe Biden admits Iowa was a 'gut punch' and goes on the attack against Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders

On this week's tragicomic Iowa caucus, Joe Biden has acknowledged his campaign's weak performance and described the night as a "gut punch" in a speech to supporters.

But he's already beginning the fightback, ramping up his criticism of the two best-performing candidates, questioning the wisdom of Bernie labelling himself a "Democratic Socialist" and attacking Mayor Pete for writing him off as part of the "old failed Washington".

Chris Riotta has this one.

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