In the week after the U.S. Senate’s acquittal of Donald Trump following his impeachment trial, Trump has begun taking victory laps, and it doesn’t appear he’ll stop anytime soon. In just seven days, he’s given a series of gloating speeches, made copious inflammatory tweets, ordered the firings of several government officials he perceives as having crossed him, and has even influenced the Department of Justice to change the prison sentence of one of his cronies.
Several GOP senators had assured us that the House’s impeachment of him in December would be enough to teach him not to do corrupt things ever again, saying that removal from office for his offenses was not necessary. And the White House insists that Trump’s subsequent actions are not in retaliation for what he sees as unfair treatment by Democrats and their operatives who he thinks are out to get him simply by telling the truth.
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) was one of the Senators who justified their vote to acquit Trump by saying they believed Trump had learned his lesson. After witnessing the last seven days, however, Collins remarked that she should have used the word “hoped” instead of “believed.”
When Trump himself was asked what he had learned from the impeachment proceedings, he immediately fired back, “Uh, that the Democrats are crooked, they’ve got a lot of crooked things going. That they’re vicious. That they shouldn’t have brought impeachment. And that my poll numbers are 10 points higher because of fake news like NBC, which reports the news very inaccurately—probably more inaccurately than CNN if that’s possible.”
Yes, the lesson Trump has learned from his impeachment and subsequent acquittal is that he can say and do whatever he wants, without consequence. Furthermore, the GOP will not only back him up, they’ll vilify anyone who gets in his way.
Trump has continued to demonize Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the one Republican who voted not to acquit Trump on the first article of impeachment, Abuse of Power.
He has suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who led the U.S. House impeachment proceeding against him, be removed, calling her, as well as Rep. Adam Schiff, head of the House Intelligence Committee, “vicious and horrible people.”
Just two days after his acquittal, Trump removed Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from his post as Director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council. Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeny, a National Security Council attorney, was removed from his job, as well. Both were publicly escorted out of the White House as if they were being fired for disciplinary reasons.
Trump has since implied that the U.S. Army might take disciplinary action against Alexander Vindman. Vindman was a witness in the House impeachment proceedings against Trump, and, under oath, gave his damning account of Trump’s call to Ukraine that sparked the impeachment inquiry.
“That’s going to be up to the military. We’ll have to see. But if you look at what happened, I mean they’re going to, certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that… I obviously wasn’t happy with the job he did,” Trump said, after earlier saying he probably had never met Vindman…didn’t really know him.
Trump has demonstrated a desire for vengeance against anyone who opposes him or doesn’t reinforce his world view, and he expects that the rest of his government, including the military, will back him up.
A U.S. Department of Defense official has since said that there is no planned investigation into Vindman.
Americans had been wondering how Trump’s supporters would spin Trump’s apparent retaliation against Alexander Vindman. It didn’t take long to find out.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told the Atlantic Council this week, “Number one, they weren’t fired. …Folks might think it feels that way, and, look, it’s great to work at the White House, and everybody wants to work at the White House, but there will come a time for all of us who work at the White House, including me, that (we) will leave the White House.” He then denied that the dismissals were in any way retaliatory.
Except that another witness in Trump’s impeachment hearing, Gordon Sondland, who also provided incriminating testimony about Trump’s actions toward Ukraine, was removed from his post as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union on the same day as the Vindmans’ departure.
An adviser to Trump told CNN that the firings of the major impeachment witnesses were meant to send a message that “siding against the President will not be tolerated. “…Flushing out the pipes,” said the adviser. “It was necessary.”
Siding with the president, no matter what, is apparently what is expected at the White House. It’s the new patriotism, according to the Trump Playbook.
In his defense of the abrupt dismissals of those who had crossed the president of the United States, Robert O’Brien added that the U.S. is “not some banana republic.”
That assertion is questionable, however, when one considers that Attorney General William Barr and others at the Department of Justice intervened this week to overrule and reduce the recommended prison sentence of former Trump advisor Roger Stone. In response, all four federal prosecutors who took the case against Stone immediately resigned or withdrew from the case.
Trump denies that he told Barr to change the sentencing. That may be technically true, though Trump lit up Twitter with complaints about Stone’s sentencing, calling it a “horrible and very unfair situation.”
Trump also withdrew his recommendation for a promotion of former U.S. attorney Jessie Liu. Liu headed the office overseeing the prosecution of Stone. But that’s probably just a coincidence.
In response, and not long after O’Brien’s declarations that we are not “some banana republic,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “Left to his own devices, President Trump would turn America into a banana republic, where the dictator can do whatever he wants and the justice department is the president’s law firm, not a defender of the rule of law.”
News Wrap: Impeachment witness Vindman removed from NSC post |
PBS NewsHour [2020-02-07]
Trump praises Barr for “taking charge” of Roger Stone case |
CBS Evening News [2020-02-12]