Eight days removed from Donald Trump’s acquittal on both articles of impeachment, the President is leaning heavily into a revenge tour against his political enemies – an effort that makes Maine Sen. Susan Collins’ claim that Trump had learned his lesson from the impeachment proceedings all the more outlandish.
Asked Wednesday morning by CNN’s Manu Raju about those comments – made to CBS’ Norah O’Donnell following Collins’ vote to acquit Trump – the Maine senator said this:
“I don’t know what actions you’re referring to. I’ve made very clear that I don’t think anyone should be retaliated against. That has nothing to do with the basis by which I voted to acquit the President. I voted to acquit the President, as I made very clear to you, Manu, on numerous occasions, because his conduct, while wrong, did not meet the high bar established in the Constitution for the immediate ouster of a duly elected president.”
Well, the “actions” Manu is referring to are, among other things, these:
* Trump’s targeting of senators – including Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney – who didn’t vote with him on impeachment.
* His “celebration” ceremony at the White House last week in which he used his presidential platform to punish his enemies, praise his friends and generally declare victory.
* The Friday firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (and his twin brother) as well as Gordon Sondland, the former ambassador to the European Union, after Vindman and Sondland testified in the House impeachment investigation.
* The establishment of an official channel at the Department of Justice to deal with information about Ukraine, as well as Joe and Hunter Biden, being collected by Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
* The announcement of congressional investigations into the Bidens.
* Trump’s Monday night tweet protesting the allegedly harsh sentencing guidelines for convicted felon Roger Stone, followed by the Department of Justice’s reconsideration of those guidelines and the resignation of the four federal prosecutors involved in the case.
So, yeah, that. And if you are asking, no, it is not possible that Collins, a United States senator, is somehow unaware of Trump’s actions over the past eight days.
What Collins is trying to get out from under – and not succeeding – is the massive political mistake she made when she told O’Donnell that “I believe that the President has learned from this case” and that Trump “will be much more cautious in the future.”
When she said that, it was obviously not true. Nothing in Trump’s behavior – either in regard to the impeachment effort or more generally – offered even a shred of evidence to make that claim seem anything but laughable. But now, eight days removed from his impeachment and in the midst of Trump’s reign of revenge, it’s an even more indefensible position.
To the extent Trump has learned a lesson, it’s this: They tried to impeach me and couldn’t do it. Republicans will follow me no matter what. I can do whatever I want now. And that is exactly the mindset he has brought to the presidency since his acquittal.
One example: According to The New York Times, a handful of GOP senators – including Collins – tried to convince Trump not to fire Sondland in retribution for his testimony. Trump did it anyway. Lesson learned!
Collins was already in the race of her life in Maine this fall. But her lessons learned comment has and will continue to resurface between now and November. And it’s not going to get any easier for Collins to explain it away.