WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump took in the win at Mar-a-Lago, surrounded by friends and family. His lawyers celebrated with hugs and smiles. One joked, “We’re going to Disney World!”
Now acquitted in his second Senate impeachment trial, Trump is preparing for the next phase of his post-presidency life. Feeling emboldened by the trial’s outcome, he is expected to re-emerge from a self-imposed hibernation at his club in Palm Beach, Fla., and is eyeing ways to reassert his power.
But after being barred from Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR -2.22% , the former president lacks the social-media bullhorn that fueled his political rise. And he’s confronting a Republican Party deeply divided over the legacy of his jarring final days in office, culminating in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol. Searing video images of the day played on loop during his impeachment trial, which ended Saturday.
Trump remains popular among the GOP base, but many Republicans in Washington have cooled to him. Never before have so many members of a president’s party — seven GOP senators, in his case — voted for conviction in a Senate trial.
Some may work to counter efforts by Trump to support extreme candidates in next year’s congressional primaries.
Undeterred, friends and allies expect Trump to resume interviews with friendly media outlets after weeks of silence. He has met with political aides to discuss efforts to help Republicans try to take control of the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. He remains fixated on exacting revenge on Republicans who supported his impeachment or resisted his efforts to overturn the results of the November election won by Democrat Joe Biden.
“I imagine you’ll probably be hearing a lot more from him in the coming days,” senior adviser Jason Miller said.
In a statement after the vote, Trump offered few clues, but was defiant as he told supporters their movement “has only just begun.”
“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,” he said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who reported that he had spoken with Trump on Saturday night, acknowledged that Trump is “mad at some folks” but also “ready to move on and rebuild the Republican Party” and “excited about 2022.”
In their conversations, Graham, once a staunch critic who argued that Trump’s nomination in 2016 would deservedly destroy the Republican Party, has stressed to Trump, who had threatened to start his own party to punish disloyal Republicans, that the GOP needs him to win.
“I said, ‘Mr. President, this MAGA movement needs to continue. We need to unite the party. Trump-plus is the way back in 2022,’ ” Graham, re-elected in November despite trailing an uncommonly well-funded Democratic challenger, told “Fox News Sunday.”
“My goal is to win in 2022 to stop the most radical agenda I’ve seen coming out of the Democratic presidency of Joe Biden. We can’t do that without Donald Trump, so he’s ready to hit the trail, and I’m ready to work with him,” Graham said.
Graham said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who voted to acquit but then delivered a scalding denunciation of Trump, “got a load off [his] chest, obviously.
Graham said later in the interview: “If you want to get something off your chest, fine, but I’m into winning.”
At his Palm Beach club on Saturday night, Trump was in a joyous mood as he enjoyed dinner on a crowded patio. After a mellow several weeks, one member described a party atmosphere not felt since before the election.
Still, Trump isn’t in the clear. No longer protected by a Justice Department opinion against the prosecution of sitting presidents, he now faces multiple ongoing criminal investigations.