Historians say Trump will be remembered for COVID-19 and the Capitol siege — 'nothing else will matter'
On Saturday, February 13, former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial ended when seven Republican senators and all 50 Democratic senators voted to convict him for "incitement to insurrection" — which was a majority of senators voting "guilty" but was still ten votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for a conviction in an impeachment trial. A talking point coming from some far-right pundits is that Trump has once again been exonerated, but in an article published by USA Today on February 15, journalist David Jackson stresses that history is likely to judge Trump quite unfavorably.
During Trump's second impeachment trial, Democratic impeachment managers — including Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland — presented a mountain of damning evidence showing that Trump encouraged the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building by a mob of far-right insurrectionists, including members of the Proud Boys, militia extremists and supporters of the QAnon conspiracy cult.
Author/historian Brenda Wineapple, author of the book, "The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation," told USA Today, "(Trump) knew exactly what he was doing and why he was doing it. Trump moved from demagoguery to tyranny."
Johnson, during the 1860s, was the first president in U.S. history to be impeached. But like President Bill Clinton in 1999 and Trump in both 2020 and 2021, Johnson was acquitted during his impeachment trial.
The January 6 insurrection is only one of the reasons why historians will view Trump unfavorably, according to Jackson.
Jackson explains, "Many historians had already said Trump would rank low for a tumultuous single term that included the COVID-19 pandemic, a previous impeachment, lies about his actions and those of others, business conflicts of interest and alienation of global allies."
Historian Chris Whipple, author of "The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency," told USA Today that Trump will be best remembered for two tragedies: "his fumbling of a lethal pandemic that cost half a million American lives, and his incitement of a bloody insurrection against a free and fair election."
"Weighed against those twin legacies," Whipple said, "nothing else will matter."
According to historian Jennifer Mercieca — author of "Demagogue for President: the Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump" — Trump "will be remembered as the president who prevented the peaceful transition of power." Mercieca told USA today that Trump "refused to accept that he lost. He spread conspiracy theory, threatened officials and called his loyal followers to Washington and incited insurrection."
Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian who teachers at New York University, slammed Trump as "the worst president in history" and stressed that he was "grossly derelict" during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Alvin S. Felzenberg, author of "The Leaders We Deserved (and a Few We Didn't): Rethinking the Presidential Rating Game," believes that Trump at least deserves credit for addressing the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and trade deals that didn't benefit the American working class.
Nonetheless, Felzenberg also believes that Trump "spent four years creating carnage, or at least allowing it" and told USA Today that Trump's reputation is "certainly in the bottom tier" and "maybe at the bottom."
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