The discord over the acquittal of President Donald Trump flowed out of the U.S. Senate chamber, washed over Minnesota and into Curt Kaderlik’s living room.
The 78-year-old retired salesman and his “better half,” Patricia Carroll, see things differently — even watching the trial on different TVs.
Kaderlik, a Republican, said he was calling the White House from their home in Owatonna to congratulate the president after the end of a trial that he called a “farce” and a “waste of time.” Carroll, his partner of 38 years, wasn’t so quick to let Trump off the hook.
“If they don’t impeach him, he is going to think, ‘I got away with this,’ and he is going to keep doing more crap,” said Carroll, a lifelong Democrat. “If he don’t get impeached, fine, but he better behave himself.”
As the closely divided Senate voted to acquit the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — politically, a foregone conclusion — the case against Trump was thrown back to a deeply polarized public.
Across Minnesota, people reacted much as they had in December when the House voted to impeach, with few indicating their minds were changed after a two-week trial.
Bill Jamison and Cory James nursed a couple of beers inside the Chester Bird Post 523 American Legion in Golden Valley, as they waited for some former work colleagues for the afternoon’s meat raffle.
Jamison, 64, of Champlin, and James, 59, of Eagan, couldn’t have been further apart on the question of whether Trump’s conduct warranted his removal from office. Jamison voted for the president in 2016 because, he said, “he is a real American and not a career politician.” Moments after the Senate acquitted Trump on both articles of impeachment, Jamison remarked, “A good man is still in office.”
James, his friend, grimaced from across the table, calling the result a “travesty of justice.”
“It was like the Super Bowl,” Jamison added. “Every expert has an opinion. It’s gone to the voters now.”
Live coverage of the acquittal vote was on all of the television screens at Monte’s Sports Bar in Spring Lake Park, where some patrons were filtering in for the twice weekly Red, White & Blue bingo night. Tom Thompson, of Mounds View, was elated by the news, but he doesn’t expect Democrats to relent just because Trump was acquitted.
“You know they’re not going to give up on it; you know they’re not going to stop, just to ruin him before the election,” he said. “But what have they been doing since he came into office? The same thing, trying to ruin him so he will not be elected in November again, and it backfired.”
Between serving drinks, Monte’s bartender Debbie Smieja paused to watch the final vote. She supports the president and chafed at the cost of the trial. “They just wasted $30 million of my dollars,” she said.
Just a few seats away, Candy Britz and her friends were eating bar food, drinking soda and trying to come to terms with the fact that the president wasn’t removed from office.
“Our grandkids don’t have a chance,” Britz said. “He’s a crook. He’s a liar. The country’s gone to hell because of him.”
The acquittal has long been expected and didn’t surprise Fermin Olmedo, 49, of Minneapolis, who considers himself a Democratic-leaning independent. He said he followed the trial and was not convinced by the Democrats’ case against Trump.
“It was more politics, more partisan work than the real law,” Olmedo said. “Politicians always behaving and acting in terms of party. They are just always defending their own party, getting away from the ethics and law.”
Minutes after the acquittal vote was announced, Susan York rolled her eyes in Duluth’s Canal Park and could barely spit out the word: “Acquitted,” she said.
“I’m not surprised at all with this outcome, but I’m very disheartened by the Republican Party,” she said, zeroing in on what she viewed as a problematic process. “We don’t have any witnesses? It’s a sham. We’re losing our democracy.”
Cyndy Martin, a Democrat living outside Grand Rapids, followed the impeachment hearing and trial for months. On Wednesday, she went to the gym instead. The outcome, she said, left her devastated. “We knew it wouldn’t happen, you know; it just wasn’t going to happen,” she said.
Martin, chairwoman of the Itasca County DFL, hopes the result gets Democrats fired up for the fall election. “Hopefully we will all band together and work toward a common goal which, as a Democrat, is get that bully out of the White House and get Democrats elected.”
But on Tuesday night, the eve of the impeachment vote, about 60 of the president’s supporters gathered to watch the State of the Union at Cinema Grill in New Hope. Patti Meier, chairwoman of the Third Congressional District Republicans, said the group was eager for the impeachment process to end.
“I think people just want it done,” she said. “We’re in an election year, and let’s just get on with it and see what happens in November.”
Staff writers Stephen Montemayor and Pam Louwagie contributed to this report, as well as Dylan Anderson, who is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.