Politics

How Trump has used his power in the week since his impeachment acquittal

Key Points
  • In the seven days since the Republican-led Senate acquitted Trump, the president has ramped up attacks on his perceived political enemies.
  • Critics accused Trump of seeking political "revenge" by dismissing multiple officials in his administration who had testified in the impeachment proceedings.
  • Trump's outrage over the sentencing recommendation of longtime friend and political advisor Roger Stone prompted accusations that the president is meddling in a federal criminal trial.
President Donald Trump takes questions after signing S. 153, The Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 11, 2020.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

If the past week is any indication, President Donald Trump has indeed learned a lesson from his impeachment — but perhaps not the one that GOP Sen. Susan Collins had in mind.

Rather than growing "much more cautious," as Collins predicted he would, Trump appears to be throwing caution to the wind since being acquitted Feb. 5 by the Republican-led Senate on articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Trump has ramped up attacks on his perceived political enemies and dismissed multiple officials in his administration who testified in the impeachment proceedings. Critics have characterized the moves as a campaign of "revenge."

He also weighed in on the sentencing of Roger Stone, his longtime friend and political advisor, who was convicted of lying to Congress about his contacts with the document disclosure group WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential elections.

Trump's salvos against the prosecutors in Stone's case prompted accusations that he is putting his thumb on the scale in a federal criminal trial and politicizing the Department of Justice.

"No serious person believes President Trump has learned any lesson," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "He doesn't learn any lessons. He just does what he wants, what suits his ego at the moment. Observers of the president would question whether he's even capable of learning a lesson."

But Trump told reporters that day that he had learned something from his impeachment: "That the Democrats are crooked. They've got a lot of crooked things going. That they're vicious. That they shouldn't have brought impeachment."

Here's what has happened in the week since Trump's acquittal:

Trump lashes out during National Prayer Breakfast

The morning after the impeachment verdict, Trump delivered a warning to his perceived opponents in remarks — at the bipartisan National Prayer Breakfast.

"So many people have been hurt, and we can't let that go on," Trump said.

Sitting just a few feet away: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who launched the impeachment inquiry into Trump's Ukraine dealings late last year.

Trump was accused of pressing Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, while withholding nearly $400 million in congressionally appropriated military aid to Kyiv.

House Democrats impeached Trump on Dec. 18 on two articles, arguing that Trump tried to pressure an ally for his own political gain, and then obstructed Congress' impeachment inquiry by refusing to hand over documents and ordering potential witnesses not to testify.

At the Feb. 6 prayer breakfast, Trump appeared to take shots at Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the only Republican in that chamber to vote to convict the president on abuse of power, and Pelosi. Romney cited his faith in making his decision; Pelosi has repeatedly said she prays for Trump.

"I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say 'I pray for you' when they know that that's not so," Trump said.

After the prayer breakfast, Trump took a longer victory lap at the White House, where he called Pelosi "a horrible person" and described House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead impeachment manager in the Senate trial, "vicious."

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Trump lashes out at enemies during National Prayer Breakfast speech

Key impeachment witness — and his brother — escorted from White House

Two days after Trump's acquittal, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council staffer whose testimony about President Donald Trump at House impeachment hearings angered the president, was escorted out of the White House.

Trump "has decided to exact revenge," Vindman's lawyer, David Pressman, said in a statement at the time.

Trump had previously signaled his displeasure with Vindman, who had expressed concerns about Trump's July 25 call asking Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to "look into" the Bidens.

"I'm not happy with" the NSC staffer, Trump said, hours before Pressman revealed Vindman's departure from the White House.

Later Friday, Yevgeny Vindman, Alexander's twin brother, who also worked at the NSC but didn't testify at the impeachment proceedings, was escorted out of the White House.

At the White House on Wednesday, Trump said of Alexander Vindman, "We sent him on his way to a much different location and the military can handle him any way they want."

Pressed on whether Vindman should face disciplinary action by the military, Trump said, "if you look at what happened, I mean, they're going to certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that."

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Vindman: Trump did not bring up 'corruption' in his call with Zelenskiy

Another key witness is recalled from his post

Hours after Vindman's dismissal from the White House on Friday, it was revealed that diplomat Gordon Sondland, who had delivered bombshell testimony in the House, was being recalled as ambassador to the European Union.

In a statement that night, Sondland said, "I was advised today that the president intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union," NBC reported. Sondland donated $1 million to Trump's 2016 inaugural committee through several Limited Liability Corporations, according to Open Secrets.

Sondland stunned lawmakers and Americans in November, when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee that Trump directed his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to pursue a "quid pro quo" with Ukraine.

One of the so-called three amigos involved in the alleged scheme, Sondland said he had worked with Giuliani "on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the president of the United States."

Asked at the White House on Wednesday if there were more departures to come, Trump said, "Oh, sure. Absolutely."

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'It was obvious what the president was pressing for': Holmes at impeachment hearing

Attorney general agrees to review Giuliani's Ukraine dirt

Attorney General William Barr said Monday that the DOJ will accept and review information gathered by Giuliani, who has been investigating the Bidens in Ukraine.

But Barr stressed that anything Giuliani might provide would be treated with skepticism.

"The DOJ has the obligation to have an open door to anybody who wishes to provide us information that they think is relevant," Barr said.

Giuliani's alleged shadow foreign policy efforts in Ukraine became a central feature of House Democrats' impeachment case against Trump.

Two days later, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a letter that Barr must testify before that panel on March 31 to address concerns about his leadership at the DOJ — including his decision to create a channel for Giuliani to feed information to the department.

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AG Barr says DOJ will look at info from Ukraine sent by Trump lawyer Giuliani

Trump rails against prosecutors and judge in Stone case

On Monday evening, federal prosecutors recommended that a U.S. District judge in Washington sentence Stone to up to nine years in prison.

Stone, a self-described dirty trickster, was convicted of lying to Congress about his contacts with the document disclosure group WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential elections, and pressuring an associate, comedian Randy Credico, to corroborate his lies. The charges were brought as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

The severity of the recommended sentence raised some eyebrows in legal circles — as did a Trump tweet early Tuesday, slamming the prosecutors' proposed prison term as "disgraceful!"

"This is a horrible and very unfair situation," Trump added in another tweet. "The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them."

"Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!" Trump tweeted.

Stone's lawyers had asked the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, to sentence Stone to probation.

In another tweet Tuesday night, Trump went after Jackson, suggesting that she had treated former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort worse than notorious mobster Al Capone.

Manafort, who like Stone was also charged as part of Mueller's probe, was sentenced to a combined total of more than seven years in prison in two federal courts, including Jackson's.

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Trump ally Roger Stone found guilty of lying to Congress and witness tampering

Prosecutors quit Stone case after DOJ steps in

On Tuesday, one day after the first sentencing memo was made public and hours after Trump's criticism began, the DOJ filed a revised recommendation asking for "far less" time in prison for Stone than prosecutors initially suggested.

The first filing "does not accurately reflect the Department of Justice's position on what would be a reasonable sentence in this matter," Timothy Shea, the U.S. Attorney for Washington, wrote in the new sentencing memorandum.

The revised sentencing memorandum did not recommend a punishment. But Shea wrote that original sentencing recommendation by his prosecutors "could be considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances."

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told NBC that the decision to lower the recommended prison term for Stone was made Monday night,  hours before Trump blasted the original sentencing proposal on Twitter.

But the DOJ's unusual demand for a change in Stone's recommended sentence appeared to prompt the four prosecutors working on Stone's case to quit.

Stone is set to be sentenced Feb. 20.

The increasingly public fight within the DOJ has raised Democrats' already-strong suspicions about Barr, who has been accused of working more as an ally of Trump's than as top law enforcement officer. Presidential candidate and current Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on Wednesday called for Barr to "resign or face impeachment."

Trump hints at possibly pardoning Stone

Trump said Wednesday at the White House that Stone was treated "very badly" by prosecutors.

Those prosecutors "ought to go back to school and learn," Trump said.

But asked if he was considering a pardon for Stone, Trump didn't take such a move off the table.

"I don't want to say yet," Trump said, "But people were hurt, viciously and badly by these corrupt people."

On Tuesday night, Trump replied to a tweet from a supporter who wrote, "Raise your hand if you believe it's time for a FULL PARDON for Roger Stone and Michael Flynn."

"Prosecutorial Misconduct?" Trump responded.