Perhaps its a stretch to suggest that President Trump is wielding an iron fist, like dictators Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-Un, but his retribution against perceived impeachment enemies and his tweet "suggesting" the Justice Department's sentencing request for convicted felon Roger Stone was 'horrible and very unfair" certainly makes it look that way.
Almost immediately after his impeachment acquittal by the Senate, Trump ousted decorated combat veteran Lt. Co. Alexander Vindman from his National Security Council post at the White House and recalled U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, both of whom testified during House impeachment hearings they believed Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine until officials there agreed to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Then, yesterday, the four Justice Department prosecutors who had handled the Roger Stone case withdrew after Attorney General William P. Barr intervened and the department announced it no longer believed the previous recommendation of a seven-to-nine-year prison sentence for Stone was appropriate.
"It completely explodes this delusion that he's learned his lesson and he will turn over a new leaf, which was magical thinking from the start and a fig leaf for a number of my Republican colleagues,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). “We ought to be very, very afraid of this kind of dictatorial personal vengeance against dedicated public servants who stepped forward to tell the truth.”
Then, today, Trump's bestie in the Senate, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, ended any thought of a Senate investigation into the Justice Department's action in the Stone matter, saying further investigation was unwarranted as sought by Democrats.
Graham admitted to reporters that Trump should stay out of ongoing Justice Department cases, but that Democrats' call for an investigation was simply motivated by politics.
“I don’t think he should be commenting on cases in the system. I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Graham said.
Other Republican Senators are unsettled by Trump's post-impeachment actions, worrying that he now views himself as invincible and able to do whatever he pleases -- regardless of the law or the Constitution.
Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) said they tried to prevent the Sondland ouster from being fired -- at least on the same day as Lt. Col. Vindman. Could Sondland's $1 million contribution to the Trump inauguration have anything to do with that? However, that still wasn't enough. $1 million doesn't cut it if you cross Donald Trump.
But Vindman? The Purple Heart recipient? Tillis actually liked the idea of him being returned to a Pentagon job, because he felt there should be "some distance" between Vindman and Trump. Why? Was he afraid Trump might try to punch him out? I doubt that. Vindman is a combat veteran, a hero. Trump is nothing but a draft dodger.
Meanwhile, according to The Washington Post, some GOP political strategists are concerned that Trump's acts of retribution could endanger the chances of five senators who face stiff competition.
Those include Tillis, Susan Collins (ME), Joni Ernst (IA), Cory Gardner (CO), and Martha McSally (AZ), and if those vulnerable senators go down, Democrats likely would regain control.
"You saw what happened when he misjudged 2018 and lost the House," one political strategist told The Post."He got himself impeached. The Senate is the backstop.”