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The ‘Lessons’ Trump Says He Learned From Being Impeached

Donald Trump admitted on Wednesday that he didn’t learn any lessons from being impeached by the House of Representatives, contradicting a reason Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) cited for voting to acquit him of all wrongdoing.

“What lessons did you learn from impeachment?” a reporter asked Trump in the Oval Office during a meeting with the president of Ecuador.

“That the Democrats are crooked,” he replied. “They’re vicious. That they shouldn’t have brought impeachment.”

Trump also falsely said that his poll numbers “are 10 points higher.” Trump’s average approval rating was 41.1 percent on Oct. 31, 2019, the day the House voted to open the impeachment inquiry. On Wednesday, it was 43.6 percent.

Trump was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The impeachment stemmed from allegations Trump withheld critical military aid from Ukraine in order to pressure the Ukrainian government to open a politically motivated investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump refused to hand over documents to Congress and ordered administration officials not to cooperate with the investigation.

Before voting to acquit Trump, Collins went on national television to declare “the president has learned from this case.” She said that Trump has been impeached and “that’s a pretty big lesson,” adding, “I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Collins was asked what specific lessons she thought Trump learned from impeachment. She refused to answer, eventually closing the door on a reporter.

Since Collins and her Republican colleagues acquitted Trump, he has retaliated against multiple witnesses who provided Congress with evidence of his wrongdoing.

On Friday, Trump fired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukrainian expert working at the White House who told Congress he was uncomfortable with Trump’s July 25 phone call where Trump asked the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden.

Later that day, Trump also fired U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Sondland told Congress that Trump was involved in a quid pro quo with Ukraine centered on a White House visit for the Ukrainian president in exchange for opening an investigation.

Earlier this week, Trump inserted himself into the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for his former campaign adviser, convicted felon Roger Stone. Stone was convicted of seven counts of witness tampering, lying to Congress, and obstruction of justice. The DOJ initially recommended up to nine years in prison, but subsequently reduced their recommendation after Trump called the punishment too harsh.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Senate Republicans Won’t Investigate Trump Meddling In Roger Stone Case

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr have been receiving widespread criticism following the U.S. Department of Justice’s abrupt reversal on sentencing guidelines in Roger Stone’s case. On Monday, the DOJ was recommending a sentence of seven to nine years in federal prison for Stone — who, in November, was convicted on seven federal counts (including witness tampering and lying to Congress). But after Trump angrily voiced his objections and called the guidelines “horrible and very unfair,” the DOJ walked back its earlier recommendation on Tuesday. Some Republican senators have acknowledged that it was inappropriate for Trump to intervene in Stone’s case, but they are also rejecting Democratic demands for an investigation.

On Wednesday, Trump posted a tweet that didn’t mention his long-time ally Stone by name but appeared to be applauding Barr for intervening in Stone’s case. The president posted, “Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought. Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (whose ardent defenses of the president are well-documented), did offer some mild criticism this week — telling reporters, “I don’t think he should be commenting on cases in the system. I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

Another Republican, Senate Majority Whip John Thune, commented, “You want to let the legal process move forward in the way it’s intended to. The president weighs in on a lot of things. He tweeted about it, I guess; so, people perceived that as him having weighed in. But in the end, the Justice Department and lawyers over there need to do what they need to do to make sure justice is being served.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who finds the DOJ’s sentencing guidelines reversal in Stone’s case to be highly suspicious, is calling for the DOJ Inspector General’s Office to launch an investigation. And the Senate’s most high-ranking Democrat is also asking Graham for an emergency hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. But Senate Republicans aren’t exactly lining up in support of Schumer’s suggestions.

Trump critics, both Democrats and Never Trump conservatives, have been citing Trump’s interference in Stone’s case as a prime example of why he needed to be removed from office. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, one of Trump’s most vehement critics on the right, slammed Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and other Senate Republicans on Wednesday morning — saying they were seriously delusional if they honestly believed Trump would clean up his act when they acquitted him on two articles of impeachment.

Collins has been asked if, in light of the Stone/DOJ controversy, she regrets her “not guilty” votes on February 5 — and the Maine senator told reporters, “My vote to acquit the president was not based on predicting his future behavior.”

CNN’s Manu Raju has posted a Twitter thread on Collins, Stone and the DOJ. Raju noted that during the week in which Trump was acquitted by the Senate, Collins said she thought he would be “much more cautious” and had learned a “pretty big lesson” (Collins later admitted her comments were “aspirational“). And when Raju asked Collins if she thought Trump had learned his lesson, she didn’t express any regrets over her impeachment vote — maintaining that she still doesn’t believe Trump’s actions with Ukraine rose to the level of being impeachable.

Nonetheless, Raju notes, Collins has said of Trump’s interference in Stone’s case, “The president should not have gotten involved.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is another Republican who voted “not guilty” on both articles of impeachment and is now being mildly critical of Trump’s interference in Stone’s case. When asked about the DOJ’s sentencing reversal, Murkowski responded, “I think it’s just bad.”

Collins Mocked For Saying She ‘Wishes’ Senate Trial Had Called Witnesses

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos.

Congratulations, Sen. Susan Collins! You’ve become a national figure! Unfortunately for you, it’s as a laughingstock.

First she appeared in a Saturday Night Live skit and then in a Stephen Colbert monologue, in which he described her as “the senator who has most successfully talked herself into believing that she believes in something.”

Proving Colbert’s point, Collins went on WMTW, Portland’s ABC affiliate, to say she “did what I felt was right” in her votes in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, and that this was an even more consequential vote than the one on putting Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court because “removing a president from office” is “overturning an election and preventing the president from appearing in the ballot this fall.” About this fall, and if she’ll vote for Trump this time around? “You know, I’m not going to discuss presidential politics at a time like this.” A time like this being before the filing deadline for Maine’s primary. She already made her decision clear, however, in the only vote that really counts—on Trump’s impeachment.

She’s still trying to convince Mainers that she’ll vote to “curb the president’s powers.” She left out the part about needing to have Mitch McConnell’s permission to cast those votes. She also said that she would disapprove of retribution by Trump against anyone who testified. She will tell every reporter she can talk to that she is very concerned when Trump fires Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council after he testified in House impeachment hearings, or when Attorney General Bill Barr starts investigating House Democratic leadership.

She told Maine reporters after a Friday meeting of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association that she wished there had been witnesses in the Senate trial, proving that her wishes are about as effective as her hopes.

While Cowardly Republicans Punt, Romney Plays The Long Game

Don’t you just hate it when someone uses a sports metaphor to teach a life lesson? So do I, usually. But with the Super Bowl not a week in the rearview mirror, it would be impossible to ignore the concept of the punt — getting out of a tough situation by moving the ball as far as possible toward the opponent’s end zone.

If you’re playing against a Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs, you’re merely buying some time before the inevitable score. But senators using that tactic in an impeached President Donald Trump’s trial are no doubt hoping any payback comes late, or not at all.

For them, it’s a way to satisfy both their consciences and a Trump-supporting voting base.

Playing it safe

It’s a safe play for Republicans such as Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, clear in her disapproval of Trump’s actions — his asking a foreign government to investigate a political rival before a presidential election, and holding up congressionally approved, much-needed military aid as well as a possible White House visit as leverage.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has said the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, at the president’s direction, violated the law when it withheld military assistance. Transcripts of the president’s call to Ukraine has Trump asking for a favor — acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney belligerently confirmed the attempted transaction and the president himself asked Ukraine and China for more of the same. And that is just a hint of the case laid out by House impeachment managers to the Senate.

Murkowski has never described the Ukraine call, as the president has, as “perfect.” She called his behavior “shameful and wrong,” adding that he did not always act “with the respect and dignity that the office demands.” But then, after her “no” vote on witnesses, she said it would be “no” on removing Trump from office.

She punted.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, on his way out, came to a similar conclusion. “I think he shouldn’t have done it. I think it was wrong. Inappropriate was the way I’d say, improper, crossing the line,” the Tennessee Republican told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He said he didn’t need more witnesses because he’s pretty much convinced that the Democrats have already proved Trump did everything he’s accused of doing.

But Alexander punted, leaving it up to the voters, though the Constitution gives that job to the Senate.

That would make a little bit of sense if there were some guarantee that the president would be chastened enough to cease and desist his efforts to game the 2020 election by any means he deems necessary. (Though his lawyer Alan Dershowitz floated the monarchical theory that cheating on his own behalf would leave Trump in the clear.)

Yet that’s the route Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins ran when she laughably suggested that impeachment itself was enough to scare Trump into walking the straight and narrow from now on. “I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future,” Collins, who is up for reelection this year, told CBS News. Has she ever met this president? Even he reportedly brushed away that rationale.

His own drum

Trump is nothing if not brazen. World G-7 leaders would be planning to meet in June at Trump National Doral in Miami if not for howls from members of both parties about the obvious conflicts.

Expect more from an emboldened Trump. Though dudes named Lev and Igor are otherwise occupied, he can count on personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, looking after his own interests and the interests of clients not named Trump in his globe-trotting schemes. In an NPR interview, Giuliani said he has no intention of halting his quest to dig up dirt in Ukraine or anywhere else, and said (wink, wink) the president has not held him back.

Also expect Trump-style retribution trained on Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican standard-bearer, soon-to-be pariah. He voted to hear from witnesses and to convict the president on abuse of power, calling his actions “an appalling abuse of public trust.”

Romney is playing the long game — history.

On the Democratic side, Alabama Sen. Doug Jonesfacing an uphill reelection battle in a Trump-loving state, said Wednesday, “After many sleepless nights, I have reluctantly concluded that the evidence is sufficient to convict the President for both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.”

No game-playing there, in a decision that will probably cost him power but may help him catch up on that sleep, uninterrupted by bad dreams.

You have to give it to Trump. He is a high-risk, high-reward player, going for it all on fourth down, even when yardage and the odds are long. But he can depend on a compliant GOP Congress blocking for him and occasionally shoving an opponent or making a late tackle, no matter the evidence that is sure to continue to surface.

To hear Trump tell it, as in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, he wins every time. Well, that is if you don’t notice how he takes credit for the recovery that began under President Barack Obama; how he highlights more black people in the audience than he has appointed to the judiciary or his Cabinet; and how he praises the military whose members he calls “dopes and babies” behind closed doors, according to revelations in the book “A Very Stable Genius.”

When the president who trashes the Affordable Care Act in words and in court promises to protect those with preexisting conditions, when he name-checks Harriet Tubman after his administration has put a hold on a stamp honoring her, you get the feeling he actually believes his own hype and forgets what he said or did the day before.

The president flaunts his power, which he believes is unlimited, and that is more than you can say for timid senators, tasked with maintaining a balance of power between the legislative and executive co-equal branches of government — and failing.

Faced with an admittedly tough choice, but one that their oath compels them to make, so many senators have combined disapproval with looking the other way.

They have punted that responsibility to hold the president to account to the American people, who may be too exhausted to care. In February, it’s working, especially considering Trump is riding pretty high in the latest polls and Democratic 2020 contenders look as confused as, well, Democrats.

And it may be a winning strategy. But then, the 49ers looked like champions after the third quarter.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.