Video above: Trump's political trial, how we got here
(CNN) – No matter what happens next year, or even the next five years, of Donald Trump's term in office, the first paragraph of his political obituary will contain this sentence (or a similar one): “Trump was taken to political trial by the House of Representatives on December 18, 2019, becoming the third president in history to be so rebuked. ”
That the historical vote was predetermined and preceded by more than six hours of insults, hostility and partisan vileness should not distract you from that basic fact. And from this: the accusation against Trump (and the subsequent Senate trial) will mean a clear crack in his presidency, our politics and the country. In the future, we will think of Trump's presidency as "before he was charged" and "after he was charged."RELATED
Now, that does not mean that the historical measure – and it is historical, regardless of whether or not you agree with it – will change much of what happens day by day in Washington. In fact, one of the most amazing things about Wednesday was how normal everything felt. Trump tweeted insults against his political opponents and cited the praise of his favorite Fox News shows. Republicans defended the president regardless of the facts. The Democrats insisted that they were doing the right thing, as opposed to the politically intelligent.
To be such a historic day, everything felt mundane. "It really doesn't seem like they are accusing us," Trump joked at a campaign rally in Michigan on Wednesday night.
Maybe that's how history always looks up close. Less memorable and glamorous, and more sandy and bleak, than what the retrospective makes her see.
But make no mistake: this made history.
Trump, no matter what the Senate does – and most likely will vote not to dismiss the president sometime early next year – will have this accusation in his permanent record and legacy. And that is true regardless of whether this political trial vote lives up to the terrible predictions that both parties are making at the moment.
Obviously, if Trump is dismissed from office due to voter rejection wanting to punish the party that enabled him – or if he is re-elected and / or Republicans regain control of the House of Representatives driven by a wave of voter dissatisfaction over the impulse that the Democrats gave to the political trial – historians will then cite this Wednesday's vote as a critical moment.
But, even if none of these scenarios happen, everything from today will be seen in the light of the political trial vote in the House of Representatives. Every move that Trump does, every poll that fluctuates, everything that happens in politics between now and November 2020 will be analyzed as part of the echoes of what happened on this fateful night of December 2019.
That is especially true for Trump because all this is happening a) in his first term and b) less than a year before he confronts voters in 2020. That is a critical difference between the circumstances surrounding Trump's political trial and that of the president who faced the same thing more recently: Bill Clinton.
Clinton was nearing the end of his second term when the House of Representatives took him to a political trial in December 1998. While there were clear and great reactions that followed the Clinton political trial – Republicans lost ground in the House of Representatives in the Midterm elections of 1998, but recovered the White House two years later – those impacts were not seen directly in the Clinton presidency.
That will not be the case with Trump.
And you can be absolutely certain that Trump will not leave this whole political trial issue in the past once the Senate trial concludes, and assuming he is not removed from office. Because, mmm, that's not what he used to do, especially when he thinks he has been the victim in some way.
Even when the House of Representatives voted to formally accuse him, Trump was giving his own refutation in real time at a campaign rally in Michigan. "We did nothing wrong," Trump told the crowd. "We have tremendous support in the Republican Party."
That is only a beginning. If the past is an example, Trump will speak daily of Wednesday's impeachment vote, if not more frequently, between now and next November. And if he wins a second term, he will consider this day as the day that victory was conceived.
(Here is a terrifying but possible idea: if Trump loses, he could claim that the entire election was invalidated by the so-called "coup" that the Democrats tried, and he would refuse to accept his defeat.)
The point is this: No matter what happens tomorrow, next month, in 2020 or beyond, this Wednesday is the day Trump's presidency changed. For the better? For worse? Those answers won't come quickly or easily, maybe not even at the polls next year. But when we look back, this will be the day we will remember the most.