The fact that several Republican Senators voted in favor of impeaching former United States President Donald Trump at last Saturday's vote in Washington demonstrates just how divided the party is right now, former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves says.
Appearing on ETV foreign current affairs show "Välisilm" Monday evening, Ilves said that: "For me, the most significant aspect – since it was to be expected that people would vote according to their party affiliation – was that seven republicans did not vote along party lines (i.e. in opposition to the impeachment – ed.), which is a sign of how divided the republican party is right now."
However, there didn't always seem to be rhyme or reason to the actions of some senators, Ilves, who grew up in New Jersey, and was later Estonian president over two terms, 2006-2016, went on.
"Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) voted, rather oddly, to acquit Trump, but then gave a long speech in which he condemned him and said he was actually guilty. So the whole thing represents such a pattern of hypocrisy," Ilves added.
Impeachment proceedings this time followed Capitol mob storming
Trump was charged with incitement of insurrection following January's storming of the Capitol by a mass mob while he was still sitting president; his previous impeachment proceedings had ended about a year earlier, when he was charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in relation to a phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump allegedly pressured Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden's son Hunter, who has business interests in that country.
That Trump was acquitted needn't be a signal for his return to politics on a grand scale, Ilves added.
"It's unlikely that Trump will return. He lost by seven million votes," he said, adding that 'Trumpism' is unlikely to leave its mark on the Republican Party in the coming years even without its namesake.
Ilves: Trump's rhetoric scares off more traditional conservatives
"Trump's rhetoric is one which scares so many people off. It is completely at odds with the Republicans' major ideological points. What he calls 'conservatism' - a bit like what is referred to as conservatism in Estonia – has nothing to do with what it has been since the days of Edmund Burke, who was the first British philosopher (actually Irish – ed.) to formulate a conservative worldview. This is incomprehensible," Ilves went on.
Ilves went on to say that a small sub-group of the current Republican lineup does prescribe to this Burekean outlook, as personified by losing 2012 candidate Mitt Romney, and it was principally this faction which vote to impeach Trump.
At the same time, had the ballot been secret, that proportion would likely have been considerably higher, Ilves added.
Editor: Andrew Whyte