Washington – In the week after his acquittal in a political trial, an emboldened Donald Trump is demonstrating his determination to rule with an iron fist, pressing his Justice Department to favor an old friend while exercising his presidential authority to take revenge on his enemies, real and perceived.
Trump has told his relatives in recent days that he feels vindicated and strengthened by his acquittal in the Senate, believing that Republicans have presented him with an unprecedented united front while voters have lost enthusiasm due to the political process, according to four officials from the White House and Republicans close to the presidency who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations in public.
Since then, Trump and his advisors have acted quickly to banish from his government those who the president believes are not loyal enough, dating back to the times of the investigation of former special prosecutor Robert Mueller about Russian interference in the 2016 elections.RELATED
Democrats and external analysts have warned that Trump is exhibiting a thirst for revenge after his political trial that has gone beyond the norm and could cause lasting damage to institutions.
Some Republican senators, including Lamar Alexander, for Tennessee; Susan Collins, for Maine; and Lisa Murkowski, from Alaska, said they concluded that Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy were inappropriate. They also expressed hope that Trump had learned his lesson from that episode.
Murkowski acknowledged on Wednesday that “this week there have not been many indications that he has done so.”
After Trump complained this week on Twitter about the recommendation of federal prosecutors to issue a sentence of up to nine years in prison to his confidant Roger Stone, the Justice Department suddenly announced that he would reassess the recommended sentence. Justice officials insisted that it was a coincidence and that they had already planned to reverse the recommendation.
Stone was convicted in November of tampering with witnesses and obstructing the House of Representatives investigation into whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 elections. The change in the recommended sentence by the Department of Justice caused four lawyers who prosecuted Stone to renounce the case. One of them even resigned from the Department of Justice.
In recent days, the White House withdrew the nomination for a senior position in the Treasury Department to a former Justice Department official who oversaw the proceedings against several of Trump’s advisors. The government also fired an official from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who says he was dismissed because he was considered too friendly to the Democrats.
Trump even suggested this week to the Pentagon to investigate and weigh the possibility of disciplining the former White House ex-adviser, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who provided a damaging testimony about the president during the political trial investigation.
That happened after the White House last week told Vindman and his twin brother (also an army officer), who had been part of the White House National Security Council, that their services were no longer required and that would be reassigned by the Pentagon. The security team proceeded to remove them from the White House.
“We are witnessing a crisis in the rule of law in the United States, as we have never seen it before,” Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said in a speech before the plenary on Wednesday. Schumer asked the independent inspector general of the Department of Justice to investigate the agency’s actions in the case of Stone. Later, members of the House of Representatives announced that Justice Secretary William Barr will appear next month to answer questions.
Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, accused Trump of being on his “revenge tour” and hinted that Republicans in the Senate – with the exception of Mitt Romney, who voted alongside Democrats to condemn Trump in the authority abuse charge – the president was encouraged to ignore his behavior.
“It is quite clear that the president of the United States learned a lesson: The lesson that he can do what he wants, whenever he wants, that he can abuse his authority, that he will never be called to account for this Senate,” said Brown.