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Politics & Government

How President Trump Is Reacting To Acquittal

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And we want to talk more about how the person at the center of this, President Trump, is reacting to today's vote. We're joined in studio by NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

Welcome back.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Thank you.

CORNISH: What have we heard either from Trump or from White House officials so far?

KEITH: What we have heard from one of the president's attorneys - his outside attorney Jay Sekulow. He said that they were pleased with the vote and that it's time to move on.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAY SEKULOW: Our goal was to get an acquittal, have the president found not guilty. We did our job.

KEITH: And we also have heard from a number of other people in Trump's circle, including counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway and others who have all tweeted, acquitted forever. And that is a play on what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have been saying, which is that, whether acquitted or not, Trump will be impeached for life.

CORNISH: And the president?

KEITH: President Trump has been on Twitter. He said that he will be making a statement tomorrow at noon, quote, "to discuss our country's victory" - in all caps - "on the impeachment hoax" - exclamation point. He and his supporters have also been tweeting out memes. They are clearly relishing this victory lap.

Now, one thing they are not talking about so much is Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who made this big, surprising decision to vote in favor of removal on the first article of impeachment, abuse of power. President Trump and the White House had been very focused on trying to keep total Republican unity on this to be able to say that it was a purely partisan impeachment. And here's an example of that from a rally in Ohio in January.

(SOUNDBITE OF RALLY)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The Republicans - we were 196 to nothing in the House. And I have a feeling the Senate is going to be great also - 196 to nothing. And we took in three Democrats.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: And Congressman Van Drew left their party and joined our party.

KEITH: This has been a major talking point for the president. Romney's vote steals that talking point a little bit, at least when it comes to the Senate. But it is highly unlikely to stop President Trump from spiking the football. He has done that for much less in the past.

CORNISH: So my next question - I don't know if it makes much sense - but are there any signs that this experience - being a president who has this asterisk next to his name, right? - whether it's chastened President Trump at all.

KEITH: You know, there were some Republican senators who, in describing why they were voting the way they voted, said that they thought that he had learned something. President Trump is making it pretty clear that he doesn't think he did anything wrong. He has said that again and again. He says that call with the Ukrainian president, where he asked him to look into Joe Biden and his son, was perfect. The legal team argued that before the Senate as well. You know, if there's any question about whether he will be censured or emboldened, history would indicate that he would be emboldened. After the Russia investigation wrapped up, President Trump sat down with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who asked him if Russia or China or some other country offered to help his campaign in 2020, offered dirt on an opponent - would he accept it or call the FBI? And President Trump said, well, maybe he would do both.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: If somebody called from a country - Norway - we have information on your opponent - oh, I think I'd want to hear it.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You'd want that kind of interference in our elections.

TRUMP: It's not an interference. They have information. I think I'd take it.

KEITH: And then a month later, he had that call with President Zelenskiy of Ukraine.

CORNISH: What does this acquittal mean in an election year?

KEITH: Well, we've never had one of these in an election year before. But what we can say right now is that President Trump's approval rating is higher than it has ever been before, according to the latest Gallup poll. He is at 49%. That's underwater, but that is the highest point he's ever been in his presidency. And you can expect him to continue talking about this on the campaign trail. It will become a rally staple.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Tamara Keith.

Tamara, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.