2 impeachment trials, 2 escape hatches for Donald Trump

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FILE - In this Wednesday, July 17, 2019 file photo, President Donald Trump gestures to the crowd as he arrives to speak at a campaign rally at Williams Arena in Greenville, N.C. Donald Trumps first impeachment trial centered on a phone call that Americans never heard with the leader of a country far away, Ukraine. His second was far different. It centered on the rage, violence and anguish of one day in Washington itself. Together the two impeachment trials Trump faced illustrated his ability to escape consequences for actions that even many Republicans denounced. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump's first impeachment trial centered on a phone call Americans never heard with the leader of a country very far away. The trial went on for two weeks of he-said-she-said. There was a mountain of evidence to pore over but not one drop of blood to see.

Trump's second impeachment trial was a steroidal sequel centered on the rage, violence and anguish of one day in Washington. There was nothing foreign or far away about it. There was blood.

Together these trials a year apart spoke to one president's singular capacity to get into, and out of, trouble — the story of Trump's life. The only president to be impeached twice has once again evaded consequences, though this time as an election loser shunted off the field of play to the jeering section, at least for now.

In a broadside against Trump every bit as brutal as that leveled by Democrats, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell declared the ex-president “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day” with his “unconscionable behavior" and “disgraceful dereliction of duty.”

“The leader of the free world cannot spend two weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe them and do reckless things," McConnell said.

But this was after he gave Trump an escape hatch for the ages, voting to acquit him on the grounds that the Senate, in his view, cannot legitimately try a president out of office.

Until the conclusion of the five-day trial, the noisiest man in America stayed silent, down in Florida. But the panic, terrified whispers of officials hiding from their attackers and the crack of a fatal gunshot played out on a big screen in the Senate chamber penetrated less than six weeks earlier by the Trump-flag-waving insurrectionists.

This time the case did not hang on a whistleblower in the bowels of the national security bureaucracy.