A reminder from the president that while Ted Cruz and other Senate Republicans may have settled expediently on “bad but not impeachable” as the grounds for acquitting him, that is … not his take on the matter. The only badness here was on the other side. Watch, then read on.
Reporter: "What lesson did you learn from impeachment?"
Trump: "That the Democrats are crooked. They've got a lot of crooked things going" pic.twitter.com/KiCuK94iss
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 12, 2020
The clip’s enjoyable whether you’re a Trumper or an anti-Trumper. If you like him, you like to see him defiant after his impeachment ordeal. If you don’t like him, you at least like to see him exposing the cynical lie told by Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Lamar Alexander that he might be more circumspect about his behavior after being reproached by Congress over the Ukraine business. Literally no one believed that but Collins and the rest seemed to have calculated that the mere possibility might help justify their votes to acquit him. If — theoretically — the stigmatization of impeachment taught him that he can’t get away with petty corruption like squeezing foreign governments for dirt on Democrats without consequences then it wasn’t really necessary to remove him. He’s learned. He’ll be better now.
But that was short-sighted, in the same way that the “no quid pro quo” defense was short-sighted. Everyone in the Senate understood that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine, just like everyone in the Senate understands that the only lesson that Trump might learn here is that the Senate will never hold him accountable for what he does. It was silly to argue “no quid pro quo” knowing that the strength of the evidence would eventually force people to shift to “bad but not impeachable” instead. And it was silly of Collins, Murkowski, and Alexander to argue that he might be more cautious about petty corruption knowing that eventually those words would be flung back in their faces. A lot. And soon.
It’s already happening thanks to this week’s DOJ clusterfark:
Here was the full exchange. Last week, Collins said she thought Trump would be “much more cautious” and had been criticized by both sides and that is “pretty big lesson.” I asked if she thinks he still may have learned a lesson. -> pic.twitter.com/ONXn8eedcJ
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 12, 2020
Collins sounds annoyed there because she knows she’s going to be asked every day until Election Day whether she still think he’s learned his lesson in the context of whatever dubious executive-branch move happens to be leading that day’s news cycle. Murkowski and others are being asked too:
Asked whether the president appears to have learned any lessons from his impeachment, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said, “Well, there haven’t been very strong indicators this week that he has.”
“I don’t know that you’re seeing anything different today than you have in the past,” said Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the lone Republican to break from his party and vote to convict Trump. “The president is who he is. He doesn’t change the logic.”…
“He seems the same as he did two weeks ago,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said.
Why didn’t they just skip the “he’s learned his lesson” idiocy and say, as Collins did today, that they made a judgment on the merits of the case Democrats presented on Ukraine and have no thoughts about what incentives the president might derive from an almost completely party-line vote in a Republican-majority Senate about his guilt? Collins in particular shouldn’t have handed reporters any extra pretext to ask her how she’s feeling about the latest “affront to norms” or whatever.
Here’s another clip of him discussing the possibility of a pardon for Roger Stone, which everyone has assumed won’t come until after the election but which I said yesterday now seems likely to arrive sooner. That would make McConnell and Collins and other incumbents who are up this fall like Cory Gardner and Martha McSally very unhappy. They don’t want to have to answer questions about Trump handing his buddies a get-out-of-jail-free card; there’s even a chance (a very, very small chance) that House Democrats would try to impeach him again for it. James Madison himself condoned impeaching a president for abusing the pardon power despite the fact that that power is otherwise plenary. I think Trump has held off so far as a concession to McConnell and the rest, but he may have learned from the Soleimani strike that fears of massive blowback to a bold gesture are often unfounded. And of course he learned from impeachment that Senate Republicans won’t cross him, no matter how politically risky the situation he places them in.
REPORTER: Are you considering a pardon for Roger Stone?
TRUMP: I don’t want to say that yet … I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this horrible thing — and I didn’t speak to them, by the way, just so you understand. pic.twitter.com/qUd6q9ne6D
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) February 12, 2020