Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial may be the talk of America but a few people, at least, are mum so far, for very different reasons — Trump himself, and his successor, President Joe Biden.
The opening of the trial in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, which could affect the political landscape for years to come, is unprecedented: No president has ever watched his predecessor be tried before Congress.
For Biden, the message is clear: Three weeks after moving into the White House, he is focused on curbing the deadly coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout that has devastated tens of millions of Americans.
And the bizarre scenario should help reinforce the image of a leader who has no time to waste on the squabbling of lawyers or debates about whether the entire process is even constitutional.
As the trial gets under way, the White House has scheduled a working meeting for the veteran Democrat and business leaders on how to put the world’s largest economy back on track.
Biden will be joined by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and a handful of CEOs from key sectors: Jamie Dimon (JPMorgan Chase), Doug McMillon (Walmart), and Sonia Syngal (The Gap).
Since taking office on Jan. 20, the 46th president of the United States has hardly mentioned his predecessor — and responds in the briefest terms possible to any questions about the Republican.
When asked on Monday about the trial on the White House lawn, Biden did not have much to say.
“Let the Senate work it out,” he told reporters.
Trump Lines Up His Troops
For Trump, who has been at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, since leaving Washington on Jan. 20, discretion is also the key word.
Of course, he’s been deprived since the waning days of his presidency of his favorite virtual megaphone — his Twitter account.
But he could have taken advantage of other channels of communication, such as prerecorded video messages, which he used frequently at the fraught end of his term.
But staying quiet and letting his attorneys do the talking has clear benefits: While his acquittal seems nearly certain, with a vast majority of Republican senators voting to try to prevent the trial from even happening, any misplaced word from Trump could throw a spanner in the works.
According to Politico, citing his advisors, the 74-year-old former president has understood the value of speaking less frequently, after four years in office of wall-to-wall media exposure.
“He finally realizes less is more,” one of them said.
Watching the trial from afar at his waterfront club should afford Trump a chance to see just how much sway he still has over the Republican Party.
The goal? To rally his troops and take the pulse of the Grand Old Party.
The GOP has several camps: those who are steadfast in their support and wish for him to run in 2024; those ready to turn the page; and a last group — numerous but low-profile — ready to move on but too afraid to say it out loud for fear of losing voter support.
In the end, it would be to Trump’s advantage to wait for his acquittal before resurfacing, as it would allow him to leverage that moment for a fiery return to the political stage as a kingmaker for the 2022 midterm elections.
A year ago, nearly to the day, following his acquittal in his first impeachment trial, he was triumphant.
Holding up a copy of The Washington Post with the banner headline “Trump acquitted,” he railed against the “vicious” Democrats who had pursued him.
He called his appearance in the ceremonial East Room of the White House a “celebration,” taking a victory lap and thanking all the Republican lawmakers who backed him.
Back at the White House, while Biden is so far taking a low-key approach to the proceedings, no one doubts that his team will be closely watching the trial unfold — and how public opinion evolves along with it.
According to a CBS/YouGov poll published Tuesday a few hours before the opening of the trial, 56% of those surveyed said they wanted to see Trump convicted of inciting violence in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.