Even as the Republican Senate majority finally was acquitting Donald Trump of impeachment charges, one could sense the country bracing for the retaliating boomerang to come. Trump is never gracious, even in would-be victory, and is sure to be boastful about beating the “witch hunt” of impeachment.
The next step, naturally, will be vindication and attack.
The vote was almost without drama since almost all senators had declared their intentions to vote for or against conviction on impeachment charges. The exception, of course, was the emotional decision by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) to convict, the sole senator to break with the party. After closing speeches filled with self-serving hyperbole, the Senate finally got to the predicted vote. Democrats held together in a minority.
Despite senators like Susan Collins (R-Maine) insisting in her declaration for acquittal that Trump has learned from the “flawed” wrong-doings in shaking down Ukrainian officials for personal political gain that gave rise to impeachment and that he would refrain from other such actions in the future. Indeed, Trump apparently dismissed Collins’ suggestion and told television news anchors at the White House that he had done nothing wrong.
Meanwhile, Vanity Fair reported that Trump is compiling a Nixonian "enemies list" that includes former national security adviser John Bolton and top House Democrats as he seeks to retaliate for the impeachment. Gabriel Sherman reported that "Republicans briefed on Trump's thinking believe that the president is out for revenge against his adversaries." One unnamed Republican congress member said, "It's payback time. He has an enemies list that is growing by the day."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has promised hearings to pursue whether the “dirt” on whether Hunter Biden’s employment as a no-show board member, while Joe Biden was vice president, had any validity and calling the whistleblower, to determine if he or she had ties to Biden – despite the obvious fact that both are irrelevant now except in pursuit of the original political goals that Trump had had in mind. “We're going to get to the bottom of all of this to make sure this never happens again," Graham added.
And Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney and leader of the rogue campaign in Ukraine, says he is still seeking information in Ukraine, visiting that country even as impeachment processes were underway.
In clearing the president of charges despite feelings even among Republicans that there had been bad presidential behavior the Senate is accepting vastly expanded and uncheckable presidential power.
Trump to Take Advantage
The widely held belief is that Trump will take advantage, both in policy and governing ways, and in areas more definable as politics, culture and personal ethics.
According to Vanity Fair, potential Trump targets include House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), House Judiciary Committee Chair. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Mitt Romney and former National Security Advisor John R. Bolton. Donald Trump Jr. called for the Republican Party to expel Romney, for example.
Vanity Fair said, "Trump wants Bolton to be criminally investigated. A person familiar with Trump’s thinking said Trump believes Bolton might have mishandled classified information. According to a former official, the White House is planning to leak White House emails from Bolton that purportedly allege Bolton abused his position at the National Security Council."
Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, tweeted that even before the vote, Trump as “the would-be authoritarian is escalating his abuses of power.
Common Dreams promised that demonstrations were being organized in conjunction with the final acquittal vote.
As Trump and the Justice Department under the direction of Atty. Gen. William P. Barr have proved, the boundaries between White House and Justice have been totally lowered to make former FBI officials like James Comey Jr. and Andrew McCabe potential objects of criminal investigations for launching investigations that led to the Russia probes.
Let’s be clear: This is the stuff of authoritarian regimes.
On a broader basis, Trump already has vowed to unlawfully rejigger Congressional funds from approved programs to pay for the southern border wall, and he is moving aggressively to use executive orders to put into effect deregulation and policy changes in a manner to avoid Congressional review. The same blanket immunity for which Team Trump found the rationale to avoid turning over records, emails, notes and witnesses to Congress during the impeachment processes already has been extended to avoid oversight of normal governing decision-making.
We can expect more foreign attempts to sow disruption, more White House support for Democratic voter suppression and Republican gerrymandering efforts, more identifiably Trump-supporting judges.
‘State of Trump’s Union’
The kind of boastfulness we saw in Trump’s State of the Union address – in reality, the State of Trump’s Union – we will see in daily exaggeration, in insults and in fact-twisting as Trump turns officially to reelection.
No one will be surprised by wild celebrations at the White House and among Trump supporters of having “beaten” impeachment because the president will insist that this is a finding of having done nothing wrong. That’s what happened after the White House’s Mueller Report re-interpretation of what the report said, to conclude that the whole investigation had been a “hoax.”
No one would be surprised if Trump now turns to China, for example, and asks once again for help in looking at Hunter Biden, who had been connected with a company that had sought Chinese investment while his dad was in office.
The acquittal vote will mean that Trump will move against laws in California and New York that he finds objectionable, it means that more pro-business tax cuts will follow, it means that anything resembling social benefits will be derided as destructive socialism rather than empathetic policy-making. As his speech showed, facts about Night are described as Day, and neither truth nor context matter.
It is only about the crushing power of majority, more ironic because Trump has no majority outside the Senate.
The acquittal is bringing Orwellian visions closer to reality.