Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That warning from Lord Acton echoes loudly today as President Donald Trump enjoys the knowledge that the Senate will not restrain him.
As they summed up the impeachment case against Trump, the House managers warned that, once acquitted, the president would ramp up his abuse of power.
Several Senate Republicans agreed that the abuse-of-power charge had been proven, but they denied it was significant enough to remove Trump from office. Besides, said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, simply being impeached was probably enough of a lesson for Trump.
Ha. Trump was acquitted on Wednesday last week. On Friday he fired his ambassador to the European Union and removed a National Security Council aide who provided crucial — and accurate — testimony to the House about Trump’s Ukrainian extortion scheme. And now this week his puppet of an attorney general, in an exceedingly rare move, overrode his prosecutors on the sentencing of Trump buddy Roger Stone.
It cannot be surprising that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is persona non grata in Trump’s White House. But the president declared on Tuesday that the much decorated Army officer will “likely” face military discipline for obeying a congressional subpoena and telling the truth. That is nonsense, and everybody should understand it is nonsense, but Donald Trump is the commander in chief, he is the head of this nation’s military, and he has already demonstrated he is willing to interfere in the military’s justice system to get the result he wants.
As for Gordon Sondland, his status as an ambassador was solely because of his status as a major donor to Trump and other Republicans. But it is noteworthy that at least one Republican senator, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, was more upset about the retribution against Sondland than against Vindman.
More troubling was Tuesday’s undercutting of the prosecutors against Roger Stone. On Monday they filed documents asking for a seven- to nine-year sentence against the Trump confidant. On Tuesday Trump blasted the sentencing recommendation on Twitter, and the Justice Department swiftly announced it would ask for a lesser sentence. All four career prosecutors resigned from the case within hours, some from the department completely, others to return to their normal posts.
Such blatant political interference with career prosecutors is exceedingly rare — for normal presidents. But this is not a normal president, and 52 Republican senators have condoned his corruption. We will all come to regret that.