Trump's impeachment lesson: Democrats are 'crooked'

President Donald Trump said the lesson he learned from his impeachment trial is that "Democrats are crooked" and "vicious."

Posted: Feb 13, 2020 4:30 AM
Updated: Feb 13, 2020 4:30 AM

If some Republican senators emerged from President Donald Trump's impeachment acquittal optimistic he'd learned important lessons of presidential behavior, he was happy on Wednesday to offer a different takeaway.

"The Democrats are crooked," he said when questioned in the Oval Office about what he learned from the impeachment ordeal, which concluded one week ago. "They got a lot of crooked things going. That they're vicious. That they shouldn't have brought impeachment."

It was a conclusive answer to a question that seemed less and less of a question in the days since Trump's impeachment trial gaveled out with a "not guilty" verdict.

Since then, the President has waged a brazen tour of retribution toward officials he sees as enemies. He's cast aside conventions separating politics from the rule of law. And he's basking in the uncertainty of the Democratic race to replace him.

Even as some of his aides scramble to explain away his behavior as routine, Trump himself is taking no pains to disguise his intentions. After administration officials downplayed the decision to ease sentencing recommendations for onetime campaign associate Roger Stone as standard procedure, Trump made clear the intervention was more narrow.

"I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this horrible thing," he said in the Oval Office as his Ecuadorian counterpart looked on. "They saw the horribleness of a nine year sentence for doing nothing."

Stone's crimes, in the eyes of the federal jury who convicted him of tampering with a witness and lying to Congress, were not nothing. But for Trump, the facts of the case seemed ancillary to the effect the episode had on Stone and his family.

"We have killers, we have murderers all over the place, nothing happens," he said. "And then they put a man in jail and destroy his life, his family, his wife, his children. Nine years in jail -- it's a disgrace."

Trump declined to say whether he was considering a pardon for Stone -- "I don't want to say that yet"-- but the message was clear: the once-typical wall between White House political motives and Justice Department decision-making has fallen.

Trump himself has long erased the traditional line that's existed between a president's official duties and his political ones. Events billed as "official" engagements often turn to attacks of Democratic rivals. On Wednesday, a stack of red "Keep America Great" hats produced by Trump's campaign sat within arm's reach on a side table in the Oval Office.

But the longstanding practice of avoiding interference in politically charged Justice Department investigations had at least been applied in theory -- if not practice. Now, Trump is openly flaunting his willingness to intervene.

Earlier in the day, Trump congratulated Attorney General Bill Barr in a tweet for "taking charge" of the Stone case and railed against what he described as the "Mueller Scam."

And while Trump continued to insist on Wednesday that he hadn't spoken directly to Barr or other Justice Department officials about the situation, he has said he would have the "absolute right" to do it if he wanted.

It's not exactly what moderate Republican senators such as Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins pictured when they voted against convicting Trump on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Their hope then was that Trump, stained by impeachment and chastened by accusations he misused his presidential authority, would operate in more traditional fashion going forward.

Instead, the opposite has seemed to occur. Trump has overseen the dismissal of two key witnesses from the impeachment trial, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU. He's itching to fire other officials he deems disloyal, and abruptly withdrew a Treasury Department nomination for Jessie Liu, the former US attorney who headed the office that oversaw Stone's prosecution.

And after the Justice Department disavowed the government's sentencing recommendations for Stone, all four federal prosecutors working on the case resigned.

"I don't like this chain of events," Collins said on Wednesday. "The President weighs in, all of a sudden, Justice comes back and says, 'Change the deal.' I think most people in America would look at that and say, 'Hmm, that just doesn't look right.' And I think they're right."

Murkowski, asked whether Trump had taken any lessons from the impeachment saga, said that "there haven't been any strong indicators this week that he has."

Trump paid little mind to those sentiments as he took questions, sometimes angrily, in the Oval Office on Wednesday, where he was ostensibly meeting with President Lenín Moreno of Ecuador. It's the first time in nearly 20 years a president of Ecuador has visited the White House.

As Moreno looked on from his wheelchair (he was wounded during a 1998 robbery attempt and has used a wheelchair since), Trump cast himself as the victim of politically motivated takedown attempts and seemed intent on finding retribution.

"Where is (James) Comey? What's happening to (Andrew) McCabe? What's happening to Lisa and Peter Strzok, what's happening with them? It was a whole setup," Trump said, listing off the now-familiar names he blames for the investigations that have plagued his presidency.

Asked if he was concerned that federal prosecutors were resigning or withdrawing from cases on his watch, Trump said: "I'm not concerned about anything. They ought to go back to school and learn."

He seemed more pleased with a question from an Ecuadorean reporter, who praised US economic growth before asking about signs of weakness in Latin American economies.

"I love that question," Trump said, "I wish we had people like that here."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1000163

Reported Deaths: 16309
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1347632106
Lake660041156
Allen57441793
Hamilton46100461
St. Joseph44109607
Elkhart35696507
Vanderburgh32087477
Tippecanoe27796257
Johnson24902443
Hendricks23738354
Porter22802362
Madison18614404
Clark18424250
Vigo17347301
Monroe15180197
LaPorte15046250
Delaware14984259
Howard14626287
Kosciusko12217147
Hancock11630175
Bartholomew11505179
Warrick11255189
Floyd11013214
Wayne10897250
Grant9964218
Morgan9404176
Boone8863116
Dubois8227130
Dearborn817093
Henry8139151
Noble7984106
Marshall7838134
Cass7499119
Lawrence7403170
Shelby7138114
Jackson694088
Gibson6533113
Harrison644491
Huntington633999
Knox6273106
DeKalb626397
Montgomery6208109
Miami589797
Putnam575377
Clinton570271
Whitley560455
Steuben554675
Wabash5279101
Jasper524475
Jefferson506996
Ripley495685
Adams476073
Daviess4616113
Scott435869
Greene422096
Wells420987
Clay420260
White415962
Decatur4133101
Fayette404286
Jennings385160
Posey375343
LaGrange353978
Washington353249
Randolph341999
Spencer337342
Fountain332558
Sullivan326752
Starke313369
Owen312070
Fulton306567
Orange291762
Jay280445
Perry264752
Franklin264042
Carroll259132
Rush258832
Vermillion255454
Parke230026
Pike227943
Tipton226659
Blackford190540
Pulaski181855
Crawford158623
Newton156048
Benton150217
Brown144547
Martin137419
Switzerland134211
Warren120516
Union106815
Ohio84112
Unassigned0538

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1499485

Reported Deaths: 23327
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1626291662
Cuyahoga1447662412
Hamilton1044761409
Montgomery731681240
Summit610421094
Lucas55643904
Butler51076707
Stark459431053
Lorain35141568
Warren32476369
Mahoning30315672
Clermont27930321
Lake26669434
Delaware23960162
Licking23547283
Trumbull22550552
Fairfield22179241
Greene22098311
Medina21763305
Clark19630349
Richland18342280
Portage17696247
Wood17244220
Allen15730269
Miami15355296
Muskingum14551174
Columbiana13756263
Wayne13585263
Tuscarawas12479298
Marion11797175
Scioto11388154
Pickaway11286141
Erie10676180
Ross10462196
Lawrence9663137
Hancock9546149
Ashtabula9479197
Belmont9133197
Geauga8829157
Jefferson8481191
Huron8229139
Union810756
Washington8031137
Sandusky7724145
Athens769572
Knox7606138
Darke7553151
Seneca7208144
Ashland6817125
Auglaize667896
Shelby6410111
Brown628582
Crawford6184130
Defiance6087102
Mercer608293
Fulton592996
Highland590099
Madison587576
Clinton576190
Logan574692
Guernsey572467
Preble5660121
Putnam5250108
Williams520184
Perry512561
Champaign505071
Jackson498770
Ottawa479086
Coshocton471582
Morrow451256
Pike430762
Fayette422160
Adams411587
Gallia411265
Hardin411076
Van Wert364078
Henry357871
Holmes3567122
Hocking352578
Wyandot317961
Carroll297059
Paulding275945
Meigs259249
Monroe212953
Noble196546
Morgan190832
Harrison178242
Vinton162624
Unassigned05
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