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Acquitting doesn't mean quitting, either for Trump or his accusers

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi rips up pages

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi rips up pages of the State of the Union speech after President Donald Trump finishes his State of the Union speech in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday. Credit: Getty Images/Mark Wilson

Grim epilogue

The impeachment has ended. The scandal stories go on.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) said Wednesday that the House will keep probing President Donald Trump's conduct and "will likely" subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton to testify.

And while the Senate acquitted Trump on abuse-of-power charges, newly released documents showed the Pentagon's legal concerns about Trump's withholding security aid to Ukraine as he prodded that nation to announce a probe of his partisan rivals.

The final Senate vote was 52-48 to acquit Trump on abuse-of-power charges contained in the first House impeachment article and 53-47 on obstruction-of-Congress charges in the second article.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) diverted the spotlight when he declared that he'd vote to convict. He became the only Republican to break partisan ranks. Emotionally, Romney said he made his decision out of “an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it" and that Trump was “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.” All Democrats voted to convict despite earlier hedging. Newsday's Tom Brune describes the drama.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in voting to acquit: "We simply cannot let factional fever break our institutions. The institutions must break the fever rather than the other way around." Several Republicans argued that the coming November election made the Democrats' move for impeachment especially wrongful.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said: "It cannot be that the president by dint of legal shamelessness can escape scrutiny entirely. ... The verdict of this kangaroo court will be meaningless." Trump is expected to deliver a statement on the impeachment Thursday, Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez reports.

Biden's Iowa 'gut punch'

 Former front-runner Joe Biden is reeling from the Iowa caucuses, but trying to regain traction with new criticism of those who are beating him.

“I am not going to sugarcoat it,” he told a crowd at a VFW hall. “We took a gut punch in Iowa. The whole process took a gut punch. But look, this isn’t the first time in my life I’ve been knocked down.”

With 86 percent of the Iowa precincts in as of midafternoon Wednesday, Pete Buttigieg led with 26.7% of state delegate equivalents, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with 25.4%. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was third, with 18.3% of delegates. Biden had 15.9%, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) 12%.

Warren addressed money concerns going forward. A new Emerson College poll shows Sanders leading in the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday.

State of the facts

Fact-checks show that Trump exaggerated in typical fashion on Tuesday when he essentially peddled the impression that the current economy is the best of all possible economies and that his administration is the best of all possible administrations.

Fabrications, stretches and deceptions became clear in the wake of his annual State of the Union address, specifically on energy production and health care policy. He inflated manufacturing gains and distorted the state of migrant detention. Also, prescription drug costs largely are on the rise, contrary to his claim.

For all but his fans, the most pointed takeaways may lie in his omissions despite a text of 5,917 words. Strategically, he left out the elephant (or donkey) in the room — impeachment. More relevantly, he offered no explanation for his multi-trillion-dollar deficits amid record spending. North Korea? There was no boasting and no mention.

Nancy the ripper

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi upstaged the impeached president who shunned her handshake by visibly ripping her copy of his 90-minute address. She did shake hands with Vice President Mike Pence afterward, but he was among the Trump allies who reflexively cried foul about the shredding.

"I didn't see her do it. I found out just a few moments later, and I think it was a new low. I wasn't sure if she was ripping up the speech or ripping up the Constitution," Pence said. On Wednesday she called the text "a manifesto of mistruths. ... I felt very liberated last night." She also said: “He shredded the truth, so I shredded his speech," and, “What we heard last night was a disgrace.”

One echo from the past: A clearly frustrated Trump tore a page from his own notes at the end of a rough debate against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

What else is happening:

  • Trump's TV ratings fell this year, with his State of the Union drawing a significantly smaller viewer audience than the previous three annual addresses.
  • Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is due to travel to Washington this weekend to be elected chairman of the influential National Governors Association and appear in a symposium with Pelosi, Newsday's Michael Gormley reports.
  • Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, defended Trump after Romney, her uncle, announced he would vote to convict him.
  • The nominee for a top personnel job in the Pentagon has withdrawn, reportedly after an op-ed piece he co-wrote for the Federalist surfaced, linking mass killings to immigrants who fail to "assimilate" into the culture.
  • Rudy Giuliani says he's continuing to search for dirt on Biden in Ukraine, even as his associates involved in the skulduggery face corruption charges.
  • Attorney Gen. Bill Barr should recuse himself from a  federal case against a Turkish state-owned bank after Trump reportedly tried to intervene on the Turkish president's behalf, says Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

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