When Senate Republicans acquitted President Trump on two impeachment charges on February 5, some foolhardy souls — like Maine Sen. Susan Collins — tried to argue that the impeachment process itself would make Trump more introspective and less authoritarian. That message remained digestible about as long as a container of cottage cheese left out on the kitchen counter.
Collins, R-Maine, dodged questions from a reporter Wednesday who pressed her on whether she still believed her claim that President Donald Trump has learned a “lesson” by being impeached.
Collins, along with several other Republicans, defended her vote to acquit Trump in his Senate impeachment trial by arguing that though his actions were “wrong,” he had learned a “pretty big lesson” from being impeached.
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) never pretended that Trump would be chastened by his near-impeachment experience (though his acquittal explanation was equally ridiculous), but like Collins, Gardner wants nothing to do with questions about Trump’s behavior since he was officially let off the hook for obstruction of Congress and the extortion of a foreign country for personal gain. That’s because Trump has been an absolute menace in the last 10 days, laying waste to government norms and institutions because he is convinced that he can.
As the Associated Press reports in a frightening story today, Gardner and his fellow Senate Republicans have absolutely made Trump more dangerous — to everyone:
In the week since his acquittal on impeachment charges, a fully emboldened President Donald Trump is demonstrating his determination to assert an iron grip on government, pushing his Justice Department to ease up on a longtime friend while using the levers of presidential powers to exact payback on real and perceived foes.
Trump has told confidants in recent days that he felt both vindicated and strengthened by his acquittal in the Senate, believing Republicans have rallied around him in unprecedented fashion while voters were turned off by the political process,[Pols emphasis] according to four White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Since then, Trump and his aides have moved with haste to clear his administration of those he sees as insufficiently loyal, reaching all the way back to the time of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Or as Jennifer Rubin writes today for The Washington Post:
Trump isn’t just pushing on Justice Department lawyers — he’s going after the judges, too:
“He’s trying to delegitimize anyone appointed by someone other than him and say that the only people who can be trusted are Trump judges,” said retired federal judge Nancy Gertner in a recent interview.
Some of Trump’s rage-vengeance, like the firing of White House aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, has been widely covered in the media. Other pieces have not. Again, from the AP:
In recent days, the White House has yanked a senior Treasury Department nomination away from a former Justice Department official who supervised the prosecutions of several of Trump advisers. The administration also fired an EPA official who claims he was ousted because he was deemed too friendly with Democrats. [Pols emphasis]
If you don’t train your dog to go to the bathroom outside, then you sure as hell can’t yell at him every time he pisses on the carpet. Senate Republicans taught President Trump that there were no consequences to his actions. As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer noted on Wednesday, Senate Republicans fully own The Orange Scare:
Senate Republicans justified their vote to acquit President Trump by claiming he had “learned his lesson.”
But he didn’t.
And Senate Republicans are now responsible for every new abuse of power he commits. pic.twitter.com/2Uwgr3u3rS
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 12, 2020
We’ll give the last word to Rubin in The Washington Post:
…without the cowardice of Republican senators including Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and others, Trump would not be lighting a fire to the Justice Department and the Constitution. Voters must remember this come November.
There aren’t enough reporters on earth for Cory Gardner to blame for this one. For Gardner and Senate Republicans, President Trump is both their leader and their charge.