“This Isn’t a Banana Republic,” Except That Trump Thinks It Is

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]

Donald Trump’s State of the Union: “A Manifesto of Mistruths”

Since Donald Trump took office, more often than not, each week has been drama-filled. This week, though, has been particularly so. The week started with the disastrous Iowa Democratic Caucus, followed by the President’s contentious State of the Union address, and then an acquittal for President Trump. Two Trump “victory lap speeches” rounded out the week.

Iowa Democratic Caucus Debacle

On Monday evening, Iowans opened presidential primary season by participating in caucuses and satellite caucuses around the world. They began the evening optimistic about a new app that they believed would make the task of reporting the thousands of hand-counted votes for candidates.

Americans waited for the counts to be totaled, but as the night wore on, it became clear that the reporting app had failed. No one would know for sure which candidate had won until the votes could all be re-tallied.

On Tuesday, 62 percent of votes had been counted, showing Pete Buttigieg in the lead, with Bernie Sanders in a close second. As of Friday morning, Americans continue to await an accurate count. Buttigieg and Sanders remain in a virtual tie, but the DNC is calling for a recanvass.

Trump’s Divisive State of the Union

As the country continued on Tuesday to wait for the results of the Iowa Democratic caucus, President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address. Full of boasting, half-truths, and lies, Trump’s speech, themed, “The Great American Comeback,” was merely a campaign speech that sowed new divisiveness and firmly reinforced existing divisiveness.

Using language clearly meant to stir his base, Trump appealed to their fears, promoting the ideas that “illegal aliens” (the term Trump insists on using) are dangerous and deadly; that sanctuary cities harbor immigrant criminals; and that the Democrats want to take away everyone’s guns and everyone’s health care.

“In sanctuary cities, local officials order police to release dangerous criminal aliens to prey upon the public, instead of handing them over to ICE to be safely removed,” Trump said.

He appealed to their fixation on the economy by taking credit for what he called a “Blue Collar Boom,” when in reality, it was during the Obama administration that the economy began making a comeback from the Great Recession. The increase in blue collar wages has come largely from individual states’ raising of state minimum wages, not from Trump’s policies. What’s more, the manufacturing sector is in recession.

Trump also plugged his Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, boasting that it had given Americans more money in their paychecks. In reality, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Trump’s tax bill has not caused most Americans to take home more of their pay, and experts say that they will take home even less pay by 2024. What’s more, it has not caused the promised economic boost; the gross domestic product has only grown at 2.9 percent since the bill was passed.

Perhaps the biggest and most blatant lie of the evening was this: “We Will Always Protect Patients With Preexisting Conditions.” In truth, the Trump Administration has put forth a lawsuit that is working its way through the courts, aimed at eliminating the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), which prohibits insurance companies from denying or charging higher premiums for Americans with preexisting conditions. Neither Trump, nor GOP lawmakers, has presented a viable replacement health care policy.

Though Republicans in the chamber are aware of this lawsuit and that it seeks to undo healthcare for millions of Americans, they all stood up and cheered when Trump talked of it. One has to wonder: are they terribly naive, or are they all in on the duplicity?

In fact, Trump’s cabinet, as well as the Republican members of Congress, stood and cheered each time Trump finished a sentence — eerily reminiscent of a World War II film clip of the German army saluting their Fuhrer.

Other untruths and misrepresentations filled Trump’s State of the Union address, including repeated references to “ cleaning up the mess of the previous administration.”

To that, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi later responded, “He did not inherit a mess, he inherited the momentum of a growing economy.”

“Nancy the Ripper”

Long after Trump’s exact words are forgotten, though, Americans will still remember the flourish with which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after the address, tore in half the sheets of paper containing the words of Trump’s address, calling it “A manifesto of mistruths.”

“Considering some of the other exuberances within me,” said Pelosi, “It was the courteous thing to do… He shredded the State of the Union, I shredded his state of his mind address.”

Though many Americans were appalled at Pelosi’s action, others responded favorably.

Twitter user @LOLGOP tweeted on Wednesday, “If you’re offended by a woman ripping up a speech, wait until later today when every Republican in the Senate rips up the entire Constitution in the name of helping the most corrupt president in American history steal an election.”

Senate Acquits Trump; Romney Votes with Dems

And later that day, Wednesday, January 5, as most people expected, the U.S. Senate acquitted President Donald J. Trump of the impeachment charges the U.S. House of Representatives had brought against him. All Democrats voted to remove Trump from office. All Republicans but one, Mitt Romney (R-Utah), voted to acquit on both articles. Romney voted “guilty” on the the first article, “abuse of power.”

No one was surprised, least of all Romney, when Trump immediately took to Twitter to attack him. In just a few hours after the Senate vote, Trump tweeted a video calling Romney “the face of the resistance,” and a “Democrat secret asset” who had tried to “infiltrate Trump’s administration as Secretary of State.”

Trump Continues to Wax Divisive During National Prayer Breakfast

Trump continued his vitriolic and often unhinged emoting during Thursdays’ National Prayer Breakfast, and again in his unapologetic post-acquittal speech at noon on Thursday. Supporters yet again laughed and cheered as Trump demonized and made examples of Pelosi and Romney, the two most recent people who had crossed him.

Donald Trump will continue to illustrate and underline the reasons why Congress voted to impeach him: abuse of power (which continues to become more blatant) and obstruction of Congress (which he has boasted about).

Though Senate Democrats were not successful in removing Trump from office, he remains, as Nancy Pelosi reminds us, “impeached forever.” Voters will have their own chance to rip up the figurative manifesto of mistruths in just 269 days.

Donald Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address | Guardian News

Iowa Democratic Party Releases Partial Caucus Results With Buttigieg Leading | NBC News [2020-02-04]