HONESDALE, Pa. — Brian O’Neill thinks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is the one who should be impeached.
“For putting him through this,” said O’Neill, 53, a resident of this solidly Trump-supporting town of 4,000 in northeastern Pennsylvania, referring to former President Donald Trump, who was acquitted by the Senate on a charge of incitement of insurrection. House impeachment managers, arguing a case backed by harrowing video from the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which Trump was accused of inciting, secured the most bipartisan support for conviction in impeachment history.
Of the proceedings, O’Neill said: “I’ve never seen such an injustice. It was a whole bunch of baloney.”
Terry Smith, 73, a retired mechanic, said he was “relieved” that Trump was acquitted, adding that the trial was a huge waste of taxpayers’ money and everyone’s time.
Smith and O’Neill, like the more than a dozen other Trump voters interviewed across three northeastern Pennsylvania counties that Trump handily carried in November, said they were energized by his second impeachment and House Democrats’ dire warnings that he was a danger to democracy who must convicted and barred from holding federal office again. Both voted for Trump twice, and both said they were eager to do so a third time.
Charlie Carretti, a retiree in Honesdale who used to work in publishing, said, “The guy did a great job as president, and Democrats just don’t want to give that to him.” He called the impeachment case “a joke, a charade and a waste of time” that was designed by Democrats “only to hurt the guy.”
Carretti, 70, said that he hopes Trump runs again in 2024 and that Trump, as his impeachment defense lawyers argued, was devoid of responsibility for the violent Capitol mob.
“What happened there was disgusting, but there is no way Donald Trump provoked it,” Carretti said, pointing specifically to Trump’s words at the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally urging his supporters to march “over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
“Those people should be held responsible. But there was no way Trump incited them. He had nothing to do with it. It was a bunch of nut jobs and psychos who did it,” Carretti said.
Serena Woolley, 23, a Republican, said: “Trump shouldn’t have been impeached. And I don’t think he should have been convicted.”
Woolley didn’t vote in the election out of opposition to both candidates. Trump is “not my favorite person, but he should be able to run again if he wants to,” she said.
Even as some mainstream Republicans sought to use Trump’s trial — and the case Democratic House impeachment managers made about his conduct before, during and after the riot — to draw a bright line between Trump and others in the GOP, at least one poll indicates that Trump is still the top choice of Republican voters.
The poll, conducted by Morning Consult and Politico during the two days after the Senate acquittal, found that 59 percent of Republican voters felt Trump should play a “major role” in the Republican Party moving forward. Fifty-four percent of Republican voters said they’d support Trump in a hypothetical 2024 primary, the poll showed.
Trump, making it clear that he understands how much influence he continues to hold, vowed in a statement moments after he was acquitted that “our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun.”
Highlighting the growing divisions within his party, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a scathing speech after he voted to acquit Trump on procedural grounds that Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the riot.
Strategists, however, said such strong voter support proves that the wing of the party still firmly in Trump’s corner will wield significant influence, if not dominate the GOP’s direction, for the foreseeable future.
“The Republican base has been loyal to Trump for a long time, and it isn’t going to shift its loyalties overnight,” veteran Republican strategist Alex Conant said. “Trump was still president less than a month ago. It will take time for the party to reimagine itself.”
Conant said that how much and how rapidly the party might change “depends on what Trump, Republican leaders and Democrats” all do over the next year — but that for the time being, pro-Trump elements within the party remain powerful.
Those who break with Trump face significant backlash.
For example, Smith, the retired mechanic, called Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., one of the seven Republican senators who joined all Democrats in voting to convict Trump, “a fool” for his vote.
“I’d never support him again if he was running,” he said of Toomey, who is not running for re-election next year.
Of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump and the seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict him, several have been censured or are facing censure by their state parties, including Toomey.
Trump himself appears to have begun hitting back against all the lawmakers who voted or spoke out against him during his trial.
On Tuesday night, he slammed McConnell as “a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack” in a lengthy statement.
“He doesn’t have what it takes,” Trump wrote. “Never did, and never will.”
Further down, Trump added: “Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First.”
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