A petty president evades the consequences of his actions and enacts his own Night of the Long Knives amid a series of firings at the White House.
Opinion by Solomon Smith, Managing Editor
After a predetermined acquittal at his impeachment trial, an unbowed President Donald J. Trump delivered a rambling hour-long speech from the East Room of the White House decrying impeachment and promising retribution — last week he started to deliver.
“It was all bullshit,” said Trump.
The statement sums up the tone for his victory celebration while perfectly framing the lesson the president learned — vengeance.
It started with a spectacle, like many of Trump’s stunts. Images of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman being escorted from the White House in his dress uniform were splashed across the news. His twin brother Lt. Col. Yegnvy Vindman, who did not testify at the president’s impeachment, was also subjected to the walk of shame. An unnecessarily vindictive act, setting up what was to come for the rest of the week.
“Suddenly and with no explanation,” said Yevgeny Vindman’s lawyer, David Pressman, according to a report by CNN, “despite over two decades of loyal service to this country.”
There was an explanation, however, and it was provided by Trump. In a tweet, the president crowed about the firing of Vindman, smeared his reputation and made it clear why.
“[H]e was very insubordinate, reported contents of my ‘perfect’ calls incorrectly.......and was given a horrendous report by his superior,” tweeted Trump, “who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, ‘OUT.’”
Trump knows that there is no action that the Republican party will not excuse, and his behavior is getting worse. Even his allies are not beyond retribution. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Gordon Sondland, a former businessman who donated $1 million to Trump’s election bid according to the Washington Post, testified at the impeachment hearing, earning his ex-communication from government service.
It has not been all stick from the president, however. Like every budding dictator, drunk on his own power, the president has been benevolent to those who prove useful to him. On Feb. 12, federal prosecutors recommended a sentence of 7-9 years for Roger Stone, a Trump henchman, who was convicted of seven felony counts including; lying under oath and trying to block evidence. Trump being intimately familiar with these things decided this was unfair.
He tweeted, “This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”
The Justice Department decided to fall in line and lower the recommended sentence — within hours — according to CNBC.
Four prosecutors left the case in protest, one of whom lost a promotion over the matter, but Trump was just getting warmed up. Most recently, Trump has decided to pardon several white collar criminals whose crimes are eerily close to those he was accused of. They, in turn, have promised themselves to Trump, accepting what has now become, for this president, the new coin of the realm.
This is only the start. Trump has chased off anyone with a modicum of integrity or backbone and supplanted the Attorney General’s office with a sycophant, William Barr, who has done everything the president wants without regard to the destructive effects upon the respect and trust of the office. With an acquittal in his pocket, tucked next to the soul of the Republican party, there is nothing holding Trump back now.