Editorial: Emboldened by acquittal, a vindictive Trump threatens key impeachment figures

Editorial: Emboldened by acquittal, a vindictive Trump threatens key impeachment figures

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Trump goes on the post-impeachment attack

President Donald Trump speaks Thursday during a White House event celebrating his impeachment acquittal.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

An official White House statement last week regarding President Donald Trump’s impeachment contained this chilling passage: “Rep. Adam Schiff lied to Congress and the American people with a totally made up statement about the president’s phone call. Will there be no retribution?”

The substance of Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president is not arguable. But that’s not the point: Official White House statements are now openly using words like retribution against a distinguished member of Congress? Add to that the firings of impeachment witnesses and reports that Trump wants criminal charges against former national security adviser John Bolton, and a picture emerges of a president bent on vengeance.

Republican leaders — including Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt — have led the president to believe he can get away with anything. They owe it to America to push back before Trump again tests the limits on his abuse of power.

Trump has always shown vindictive tendencies, an especially ominous trait in a president. His Justice Department recently closed an investigation of Hillary Clinton’s foundation (with nothing to show for it). His anger at coverage by The Washington Post led him to hound Amazon over its preferential postal rate issues. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. The administration retaliated against unauthorized leaks by Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe by firing him just hours before his scheduled retirement in a deliberate effort to reduce McCabe’s pension benefits.

These are just a few examples of the mindset of a president who isn’t happy with merely winning; he must draw blood.

After ordering officials not to cooperate with the House impeachment hearings, the administration booted Lt. Col. Alex Vindman for giving sworn testimony under subpoena. The decorated war veteran was escorted out of the White House last week along with his brother, a fellow National Security Council official who had nothing to do with the hearings. Trump also fired European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland, even though Sondland planned to exit soon anyway, because Trump wanted to make an example of him. It’s all part of a wider enemies list that Trump reportedly is compiling.

The Constitution gives Congress the power to impeach. If the president is acquitted, he gets to remain in office. Nowhere in the process does it say, as White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham recently put it, that “maybe people should pay.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has asked all 74 agency inspectors general to investigate retaliation against whistleblowers, calling the firings “part of a dangerous, growing pattern of retaliation” fueled by presidential “wrath and vindictiveness.”

He’s right. Republicans have cultivated and encouraged the president’s autocratic tendencies while strengthening his belief that he is above the law. The onus is now on them to help disabuse Trump of that notion.

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