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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "impeachment"

Alexander Vindman to Retire After Clashes With Trump

Westlake Legal Group 08dc-vindman-facebookJumbo Alexander Vindman to Retire After Clashes With Trump Vindman, Alexander S United States Defense and Military Forces United States Army Trump, Donald J National Security Council impeachment Esper, Mark T Defense Department Appointments and Executive Changes

WASHINGTON — An Army officer who was a prominent witness during the impeachment inquiry into President Trump last year said on Wednesday that he had decided to retire after what his lawyer called a campaign of White House intimidation and retaliation.

The incident is the latest in what Pentagon and congressional officials say could be another flash point between the president and the military.

The witness, Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a decorated Iraq war veteran who served on the staff of the White House National Security Council, is among scores of officers who have been picked to be promoted to full colonel this year. Typically, such promotions are backed by Army and Pentagon officials before moving to the White House for final approval, and then to the Senate for a confirmation vote.

But the White House had made clear to officials in the Pentagon’s office of personnel and readiness, which handles such matters, that Mr. Trump did not want to see Colonel Vindman promoted, officials said.

Mr. Trump’s allies at the White House asked Pentagon officials to find instances of misconduct by Colonel Vindman that would justify blocking his promotion, administration officials said on Wednesday.

On multiple occasions, including this week, the White House pressed the Pentagon to seek witnesses who would come forward and say that Colonel Vindman acted improperly, the officials said.

But Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy have been unable to produce such evidence, largely because it does not exist, according to one administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

With that hurdle cleared, Mr. Esper on Monday approved the promotion list, including Colonel Vindman, and it was expected to be delivered to the White House by Friday, a second administration official said.

Senior Army leaders were caught off guard by Colonel Vindman’s decision on Wednesday. Mr. McCarthy was expected to have a general officer contact Colonel Vindman to discuss his options, an administration official said.

But people familiar with Colonel Vindman’s decision said he felt increasingly pessimistic that he had a meaningful future in the Army. He announced his decision in a short Twitter message on Wednesday morning.

“Today I officially requested retirement from the US Army, an organization I love,” he said. “My family and I look forward to the next chapter of our lives.”

Colonel Vindman’s lawyer, David Pressman, said in a statement that the officer was the victim of campaign of “bullying” and “intimidation” by the White House.

“Through a campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation, the president of the United States attempted to force LTC Vindman to choose: Between adhering to the law or pleasing a president,” Mr. Pressman said. “Between honoring his oath or protecting his career. Between protecting his promotion or the promotion of his fellow soldiers.”

Mr. Pressman added, “Vindman did what the law compelled him to do; and for that he was bullied by the president and his proxies.”

The White House declined to comment.

In his role as a Ukraine expert on the National Security Council staff, Colonel Vindman was on Mr. Trump’s phone call on July 25 with Ukraine’s president that later was a central element of the impeachment inquiry. Colonel Vindman testified in the House impeachment hearings that it was “improper for the president” to coerce a foreign country to investigate a political opponent.

Hours before Colonel Vindman was marched out of the White House in February by security guards, Mr. Trump foreshadowed his fate when asked if he would be pushed out. “Well, I’m not happy with him,” the president told reporters. “You think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not.”

A person familiar with Colonel Vindman’s decision said he decided to retire after more than 21 years in the Army when it became apparent he would not be able to serve in a useful capacity in his area of specialty, Eurasia affairs. He had been scheduled to start a term at the Army War College later this summer.

Colonel Vindman’s retirement, which still must be approved by the Army, comes despite promises from Mr. Esper and other senior military leaders to protect from retribution members of the armed services who return to military duties after serving tours at the White House.

Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois, said last week that she would block Senate confirmation of 1,123 military personnel promotions until she received assurances that Colonel Vindman’s promotion would not be blocked.

“Lt. Col. Vindman’s decision to retire puts the spotlight on Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s failure to protect a decorated combat veteran against a vindictive commander in chief,” Ms. Duckworth said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Five Takeaways From John Bolton’s Memoir

John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, plans to publish a damning book next week depicting President Trump as a corrupt, poorly informed, reckless leader who used the power of his office to advance his own personal and political needs even ahead of the nation’s interests.

The book, “The Room Where It Happened,” describes Mr. Bolton’s 17 turbulent months at Mr. Trump’s side through a multitude of crises and foreign policy challenges, but attention has focused mainly on his assertions that the president took a variety of actions that should have been investigated for possible impeachment beyond just the pressure campaign on Ukraine to incriminate Democrats.

Mr. Bolton, who did not testify during House proceedings and whose offer to testify in the Senate trial was blocked by Republicans, confirms many crucial elements of the Ukraine scheme that got Mr. Trump impeached in December. He also asserts that the president was willing to intervene in criminal investigations to curry favor with foreign dictators. And he says that Mr. Trump pleaded with China’s president to help him win re-election by buying American crops grown in key farm states.

Here are some of the highlights:

The book offers firsthand evidence that Mr. Trump linked his suspension of $391 million in security aid for Ukraine to his demands that Ukraine publicly announce investigations into supposed wrongdoing by Democrats, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — the heart of the impeachment case against the president.

If Mr. Bolton’s account is to be believed, it means that Mr. Trump explicitly sought to use taxpayer money as leverage to extract help from another country for his partisan political campaign, a quid pro quo that House Democrats called an abuse of power. At the time of the impeachment hearings, Republicans dismissed the accusation by saying that the witnesses offered only secondhand evidence. Mr. Bolton, by contrast, was in the room.

Mr. Bolton says that he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper tried eight to 10 times to persuade the president to release the aid, which Ukraine desperately needed to defend itself against a continuing war with Russia-sponsored forces. The critical meeting took place on Aug. 20 when, Mr. Bolton writes, Mr. Trump “said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over,” referring to Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Bolton otherwise confirms testimony offered by his former Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, that he objected to the “drug deal” being cooked up by Mr. Trump’s associates to force Ukraine to help and that he called Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer who was hip deep in the affair, “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.” He writes that he suspected that Mr. Giuliani had personal business interests at stake and adds that he had the matter reported to the White House Counsel’s Office.

“I thought the whole affair was bad policy, questionable legally, and unacceptable as presidential behavior,” Mr. Bolton writes. “Was it a factor in my later resignation? Yes, but as one of many ‘straws’ that contributed to my departure.”

As the book nears publication and details spill out, many congressional Democrats quickly assailed Mr. Bolton for not telling his story during the impeachment proceedings and instead saving it for his $2 million book.

Mr. Bolton explains his position in the epilogue, saying he wanted to wait to see if a judge would order one of his deputies to testify over White House objections. Once the House impeached Mr. Trump over the Ukraine matter, Mr. Bolton volunteered to testify in the Senate trial that followed if subpoenaed.

But Senate Republicans voted to block new testimony by him and any other witnesses even after The New York Times reported that his forthcoming book would confirm the quid pro quo. Some of those Republican senators said that even if Mr. Bolton was correct, it would not be enough in their minds to make Mr. Trump the first president in American history convicted and removed from office.

Mr. Bolton blames House Democrats for being in a rush rather than waiting for the court system to rule on whether witnesses like him should testify, and he faults them for narrowing their inquiry to just the Ukraine matter rather than building a broader case with more examples of misconduct by the president.

“Had a Senate majority agreed to call witnesses and had I testified, I am convinced, given the environment then existing because of the House’s impeachment malpractice, that it would have made no significant difference in the Senate outcome,” he writes.

The other episodes that Mr. Bolton says the House should have investigated include Mr. Trump’s willingness to intervene in Justice Department investigations against foreign companies to “give personal favors to dictators he liked.” Mr. Bolton said it appeared to be “obstruction of justice as a way of life.”

He singles out Halkbank of Turkey, a financial institution investigated for a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade American sanctions on Iran. At a side encounter during a Buenos Aires summit meeting in late 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey handed Mr. Trump a memo by the law firm representing Halkbank, “which Trump did nothing more than flip through before declaring he believed Halkbank was totally innocent.” He then told Mr. Erdogan “he would take care of things.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172386801_35c241af-d1c4-4d04-aff7-498baa210452-articleLarge Five Takeaways From John Bolton’s Memoir United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (Book) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Putin, Vladimir V Presidential Election of 2020 Pompeo, Mike O'Brien, Robert C (1952- ) impeachment Embargoes and Sanctions Bolton, John R
Credit…Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Mr. Bolton also mentions ZTE, the Chinese telecommunications giant that was convicted of evading sanctions on Iran and North Korea and then faced new penalties for further violations during its follow-up consent decree. During a conversation on trade with President Xi Jinping of China, Mr. Trump offered to lighten the penalties.

“Xi replied that if that were done, he would owe Trump a favor and Trump immediately responded he was doing this because of Xi,” Mr. Bolton writes. He called himself “appalled” and “stunned” by the idea of intervening in a criminal investigation to let a sanctions buster off the hook. In the end, the Justice Department accepted a $1 billion fine and lifted a seven-year ban on buying American products, an act of lenience that saved the company from going out of business.

A new allegation in the book accuses Mr. Trump of “pleading” with Mr. Xi to help him win re-election by buying American agricultural products, which would help the president in farm states. Mr. Trump did not deny it when asked about the matter on Wednesday night by Sean Hannity on Fox News, but Robert Lighthizer, his trade representative, did on his behalf earlier in the day, saying it was not true.

Over a long career in and out of Republican administrations in Washington, Mr. Bolton has rarely shied from giving his opinions, usually born of strong conservative national security convictions that have made him one of the capital’s most outspoken hawks advocating the use of military power and sanctions.

While he agreed with Mr. Trump on issues like getting out of the nuclear accord with Iran, he found himself repeatedly trying to stop the president from making concessions to other rogue states or inviting the Taliban to Camp David for a peace deal while pushing for a more robust use of force against outliers like Iran or Syria. He considered Mr. Trump’s diplomacy to be folly.

To Mr. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s decision to meet North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in Singapore was a “foolish mistake,” and the president’s desire to then invite Mr. Kim to the White House was “a potential disaster of enormous magnitude.” A series of presidential Twitter posts about China and North Korea were “mostly laughable.” Mr. Trump’s meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki was a “self-inflicted wound” and “Putin had to be laughing uproariously at what he had gotten away with in Helsinki.”

Mr. Bolton also describes an environment inside the administration marked by caustic infighting in which various players trash one another in a contest for the president’s ear — and the president trashes all of them.

When Mr. Bolton took over as national security adviser in 2018, John F. Kelly, then the White House chief of staff, disparaged the departing adviser, H.R. McMaster, by saying, “The president hasn’t had a national security adviser in the past year and he needs one.” Mr. Pompeo, the book says, disparaged Nikki R. Haley, then the ambassador to the United Nations, calling her “light as a feather.”

The Justice Department has gone to court to stop the book from being published, arguing that it has classified information in it and that it was not cleared by a prepublication review required of former government officials like Mr. Bolton.

In fact, according to his lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, Mr. Bolton participated in an extensive back-and-forth over the book and agreed to all of the revisions mandated by the career official who reviewed it or came up with acceptable alternatives. Only when the review was over did another official, Michael J. Ellis, a political appointee, step in to review it all over again at the instruction of Robert C. O’Brien, Mr. Bolton’s successor as national security adviser.

If there is classified information still in the book, it is hard to figure out what it might be. There are not references to secret intelligence programs or espionage sources and methods. But Mr. Trump insisted this week that every conversation with him was “highly classified” and therefore could not be disclosed, an assertion that goes far beyond tradition.

In his epilogue, Mr. Bolton says that in a few cases, “I was prevented from conveying information that I thought was not properly classifiable, since it revealed information that can only be described as embarrassing to Trump or as indicative of possible impermissible behavior.” One example is the direct quote of what Mr. Trump said to Mr. Xi about helping him win re-election.

For the most part, though, Mr. Bolton explains in the epilogue that the career official who reviewed the book merely made him take quotation marks off things that the president said and otherwise generally left them in. And so Mr. Bolton offers a guide to readers: “In some cases, just put your own quotation marks around the relevant passages; you won’t go far wrong.”

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Bolton’s Book Says Trump Impeachment Inquiry Missed Other Troubling Actions

John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, says in his new book that the House in its impeachment inquiry should have investigated President Trump not just for pressuring Ukraine to incriminate his domestic foes but for a variety of instances when he sought to intervene in law enforcement matters for political reasons.

Mr. Bolton describes several episodes where the president expressed willingness to halt criminal investigations “to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked,” citing cases involving major firms in China and Turkey. “The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn’t accept,” Mr. Bolton writes, adding that he reported his concerns to Attorney General William P. Barr.

Mr. Bolton also adds a striking new allegation by saying that Mr. Trump overtly linked trade negotiations to his own political fortunes by asking President Xi Jinping of China to buy a lot of American agricultural products to help him win farm states in this year’s election. Mr. Trump, he writes, was “pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

The book, “The Room Where It Happened,” was obtained by The New York Times in advance of its scheduled publication next Tuesday and has already become a political lightning rod in the thick of an election campaign and a No. 1 best seller on Amazon.com even before it hits the bookstores. The Justice Department filed a last-minute lawsuit against Mr. Bolton this week seeking to stop publication even as Mr. Trump’s critics complained that Mr. Bolton should have come forward during impeachment proceedings rather than save his account for a $2 million book contract.

While other books by journalists, lower-level former aides and even an anonymous senior official have revealed much about the Trump White House, Mr. Bolton’s volume is the first tell-all memoir by such a high-ranking official who participated in major foreign policy events and has a lifetime of conservative credentials. It is a withering portrait of a president ignorant of even basic facts about the world, susceptible to transparent flattery by authoritarian leaders manipulating him and prone to false statements, foul-mouthed eruptions and snap decisions that aides try to manage or reverse.

Mr. Trump did not seem to know, for example, that Britain is a nuclear power and asked if Finland is part of Russia, Mr. Bolton writes. He came closer to withdrawing the United States from NATO than previously known. Even top advisers who position themselves as unswervingly loyal mock him behind his back. During Mr. Trump’s 2018 meeting with North Korea’s leader, according to the book, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped Mr. Bolton a note disparaging the president, saying, “He is so full of shit.”

A month later, Mr. Bolton writes, Mr. Pompeo dismissed the president’s North Korea diplomacy, declaring that there was “zero probability of success.”

Intelligence briefings with the president were a waste of time “since much of the time was spent listening to Trump, rather than Trump listening to the briefers.” Mr. Trump likes pitting staff members against one another, at one point telling Mr. Bolton that former Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson had once referred to Nikki R. Haley, then the ambassador to the United Nations, by a sexist obscenity — an assertion Mr. Bolton seemed to doubt but found telling that the president would make it.

Mr. Trump said so many things that were wrong or false that Mr. Bolton in the book regularly includes phrases like “(the opposite of the truth)” following some quote from the president. And Mr. Trump in this telling has no overarching philosophy of governance or foreign policy but rather a series of gut-driven instincts that sometimes mirrored Mr. Bolton’s but other times were, in his view, dangerous and reckless.

“His thinking was like an archipelago of dots (like individual real estate deals), leaving the rest of us to discern — or create — policy,” Mr. Bolton writes. “That had its pros and cons.”

Mr. Bolton is a complicated, controversial figure. A former official under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush who rose to United Nations ambassador, he has been one of Washington’s most vocal advocates for a hard-line foreign policy, a supporter of the Iraq war who has favored possible military action against rogue states like North Korea and Iran.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_173590968_b183252c-92b4-44f5-a350-e7cd302edc5c-articleLarge Bolton's Book Says Trump Impeachment Inquiry Missed Other Troubling Actions Trump, Donald J The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (Book) impeachment Bolton, John R
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Like Mr. Tillerson and other officials who went to work for Mr. Trump believing they could manage him, Mr. Bolton agreed to become the president’s third national security adviser in 2018 thinking he understood the risks and limits. But unlike some of the so-called axis of adults, as he calls Mr. Tillerson and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who tried to minimize what they saw as the damage of the president’s tenure, Mr. Bolton sought to use his 17 months in the White House to accomplish policy goals that were important to him, like withdrawing the United States from a host of international agreements he considers flawed, like the Iran nuclear accord, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and others.

Mr. Bolton thought Mr. Trump’s diplomatic flirtation with the likes of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia were ill advised and even “foolish” and spent much of his tenure trying to stop the president from making what he deemed bad deals. He eventually resigned last September — Mr. Trump claimed he fired him — after they clashed over Iran, North Korea, Ukraine and a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Mr. Bolton did not agree to testify during the House impeachment inquiry last fall, saying he would wait to see if a judge would rule that former aides like him should do so over White House objections. But after the House impeached Mr. Trump for abuse of power for withholding security aid while pressuring Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Bolton offered to testify in the Senate trial if subpoenaed.

Senate Republicans blocked calling Mr. Bolton as a witness even after The Times reported in January that his then-unpublished book confirmed that Mr. Trump linked the suspended security aid to his insistence that Ukraine investigate his political rivals. The Senate went on to acquit Mr. Trump almost entirely along party lines. But Mr. Bolton engendered great anger among critics of the president for not making his account public before now.

The book confirms House testimony that Mr. Bolton was wary all along of the president’s actions with regard to Ukraine and provides firsthand evidence of his own that Mr. Trump explicitly linked the security aid to investigations involving Mr. Biden and Hillary Clinton. On Aug. 20, Mr. Bolton writes, Mr. Trump “said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over.” Mr. Bolton writes that he, Mr. Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper tried eight to 10 times to get Mr. Trump to release the aid.

Mr. Bolton, however, had nothing but scorn for the House Democrats who impeached Mr. Trump, saying they committed “impeachment malpractice” by limiting their inquiry to the Ukraine matter and moving too quickly for their own political reasons. Instead, he said they should have also looked at how Mr. Trump was willing to intervene in investigations into companies like Turkey’s Halkbank to curry favor with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey or China’s ZTE to favor Mr. Xi.

Mr. Trump married politics with policy during a meeting with Mr. Xi on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Osaka, Japan, last summer, according to the book. Mr. Xi told Mr. Trump that unnamed political figures in the United States were trying to spark a new cold war with China.

“Trump immediately assumed Xi meant the Democrats,” Mr. Bolton writes. “Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility among the Democrats. He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win.” Mr. Bolton says he would have printed Mr. Trump’s exact words, “but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise.”

Mr. Bolton does not say these are necessarily impeachable offenses and adds that he does not know everything that happened with regard to all of these episodes, but he reported them to Mr. Barr and Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel. They should have been investigated by the House, he said, and at the very least suggested abuses of a president’s duty to put the nation’s interests ahead of his own.

“A president may not misuse the national government’s legitimate powers by defining his own personal interest as synonymous with the national interest, or by inventing pretexts to mask the pursuit of personal interest under the guise of national interest,” Mr. Bolton writes. “Had the House not focused solely on the Ukraine aspects of Trump’s confusion of his personal interests,” he adds, then “there might have been a greater chance to persuade others that ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ had been perpetrated.”

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In Days of Discord, President Trump Fans the Flames

Westlake Legal Group 30dc-virus-assess-facebookJumbo In Days of Discord, President Trump Fans the Flames twitter Trump, Donald J Recession and Depression Presidents and Presidency (US) Minneapolis (Minn) impeachment Floyd, George (d 2020) Economic Conditions and Trends Demonstrations, Protests and Riots Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — With a nation on edge, ravaged by disease, hammered by economic collapse, divided over lockdowns and even face masks and now convulsed once again by race, President Trump’s first instinct has been to look for someone to fight.

Over the last week, America reeled from 100,000 pandemic deaths, 40 million people out of work and cities in flames over a brutal police killing of a subdued black man. But Mr. Trump was on the attack against China, the World Health Organization, Big Tech, former President Barack Obama, a cable television host and the mayor of a riot-torn city.

As several cities erupted in street protests after the killing of George Floyd, some of them resulting in clashes with the police, Mr. Trump made no appeal for calm. Instead in a series of tweets and comments to reporters on Saturday, he blamed the unrest on Democrats, called on “Liberal Governors and Mayors” to get “MUCH tougher” on the crowds, threatened to intervene with “the unlimited power of our Military” and even suggested his own supporters mount a counterdemonstration.

The turmoil came right to Mr. Trump’s doorstep for the second night in a row on Saturday as hundreds of people protesting Mr. Floyd’s death and the president’s response surged in streets near the White House. While most were peaceful, chanting “black lives matter” and “no peace, no justice,” some spray painted scatological advice for Mr. Trump, ignited small fires, set off firecrackers and threw bricks, bottles and fruit at Secret Service and United States Park Police officers, who responded with pepper spray.

The police cordoned off several blocks around the Executive Mansion as a phalanx of camouflage-wearing National Guard troops marched across nearby Lafayette Square. A man strode through the streets yelling, “Time for a revolution!” The image of the White House surrounded by police in helmets and riot gear behind plastic shields fueled the sense of a nation torn apart.

Mr. Trump praised the Secret Service for being “very cool” and “very professional” but assailed the Democratic mayor of Washington for not providing city police officers to help on Friday night, which she denied. While governors and mayors have urged restraint, Mr. Trump seemed more intent on taunting the protesters, bragging about the violence that would have met them had they tried to get onto White House grounds.

“Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence,” the president wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning. “If they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least. Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action.”

His suggestion that his own supporters should come to the White House on Saturday foreshadowed the possibility of a clash outside his own doors. “Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???” he wrote on Twitter, using the acronym for his first campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

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Asked about the tweet later, he denied encouraging violence by his supporters. “They love African-American people,” he said. “They love black people. MAGA loves the black people.” By evening, however, Mr. Trump’s supporters were not in evidence among the crowds at the White House.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington responded sharply on Saturday morning, saying her police department will protect anyone in Washington, including the president, and by Saturday evening her officers were out in force around the White House.

But she called the president a source of division. “While he hides behind his fence afraid/alone, I stand w/ people peacefully exercising their First Amendment Right after the murder of #GeorgeFloyd & hundreds of years of institutional racism,” she wrote. “There are no vicious dogs & ominous weapons. There is just a scared man. Afraid/alone …”

After his morning barrage, Mr. Trump tried to recalibrate later in the day, devoting the opening of a speech at the Kennedy Space Center following the SpaceX rocket launch to the unrest in the streets and clearly trying to temper his bellicose tone.

“I understand the pain that people are feeling,” he said. “We support the right of peaceful protesters and we hear their pleas. But what we are now seeing on the streets of our cities has nothing to do with justice or peace. The memory of George Floyd is being dishonored by rioters, looters and anarchists.”

The days of discord have put the president’s leadership style on vivid display. From the start of his ascension to power, Mr. Trump has presented himself as someone who seeks conflict, not conciliation, a fighter, not a peacemaker. That appeals to a substantial portion of the public that sees in him a president willing to take on an entrenched and entitled establishment.

But the confluence of perilous health, economic and now racial crises has tested his approach and left him struggling to find his footing just months before an election in which polls currently show him behind.

“The president seems more out-of-touch and detached from the difficult reality the country is living than ever before,” said Carlos Curbelo, a former Republican congressman from Florida who has been critical of Mr. Trump. “At a moment when America desperately needs healing, the president is focused on petty personal battles with his perceived adversaries.”

Such a moment would challenge any president, of course. It has been a year of national trauma that started out feeling like another 1998 with impeachment, then another 1918 with a killer pandemic combined with another 1929 given the shattering economic fallout. Now add to that another 1968, a year of deep social unrest.

It is fair to say that 2020 has turned out to be a year that has frayed the fabric of American society with an accumulation of anguish that has whipsawed the country and its people. But in some ways, Mr. Trump has become a totem for the nation’s polarization rather than a mender of it.

“I am daily thinking about why and how a society unravels and what we can do to stop the process,” said Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University. “The calamity these days is about more than Trump. He is just the malicious con man who lives to exploit our vulnerabilities.”

As the nation has confronted a coronavirus pandemic at the same time as the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, whatever unified resolve that existed at the beginning of the twin crises quickly evaporated into yet another cultural clash. And the president has made everything into just another partisan dispute rather than a source of consensus, from when and how to reopen to whether to wear a mask in public.

Mr. Trump led no national mourning as the death toll from the coronavirus passed 100,000 beyond lowering the flags at the White House, posting a single tweet and offering a passing comment on camera only when asked about it. Rather than seek agreement on the best and safest way to restore daily life, he threatened to “override” governors who prevented places of worship from resuming crowded services.

“Crisis leadership demands much more from the White House than irresponsible threats on social media,” said Meena Bose, director of the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University.

Mr. Trump’s initial response to the rioting in Minneapolis, where a police officer has been charged with murder after kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he cried out that he could not breathe, underscored the president’s most instinctive response to national challenges. Threatening to send in troops, he wrote early Friday morning that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Only after a cascade of criticism did he try to walk it back, posting a new tweet 13 hours later, suggesting that all he had meant was that “looting leads to shooting” by people in the street.

“I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means,” he said, a reformulation that convinced few if any of his critics.

Even some of Mr. Trump’s usual allies were distressed at the original shooting tweet. Geraldo Rivera, the television and radio host who often spends time with Mr. Trump at the president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, decried “the recklessness” of that message and called on the president “to self-censor himself.”

“Come on, what is this, sixth grade?” Mr. Rivera said on Fox News. “You don’t put gasoline on the fire. That’s not calming anybody.” He added: “All he does is diminish himself.”

But many of the president’s defenders rejected the idea that he had mishandled the crises, pressing the argument that Democrats and the news media were to blame for the turmoil in the streets, which spread from Minneapolis to New York, Atlanta, Washington, Louisville, Portland and other cities.

“Keep track of cities where hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and serious injuries and death will take place,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor who has served as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, wrote on Twitter on Friday night. “All Democrat dominated cities with criminal friendly policies. This is the future if you elect Democrats.”

Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who was pardoned by Mr. Trump for tax fraud earlier this year, amplified the point on Twitter. “It should be no surprise that every one of these cities that the anarchist have taken over, are the same cities run by leftist Democrats with the highest violence, murder and poverty rates,” he wrote on Twitter. “They can’t handle their cities normally, so how are they going to deal with this?”

Mr. Trump, who this past week retweeted a video of a supporter saying that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat” (though the supporter insisted he meant that in a political sense), picked up the theme on Saturday.

With crowds visible from his upstairs windows, Mr. Trump reached for his phone and again assailed the “Democrat Mayor” of Minneapolis for not responding more vigorously and called on New York to unleash its police against crowds. “Let New York’s Finest be New York’s Finest,” he wrote. “There is nobody better, but they must be allowed to do their job!

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Linda Tripp, Key Figure in Clinton Impeachment, Dies at 70

Westlake Legal Group linda-tripp-key-figure-in-clinton-impeachment-dies-at-70 Linda Tripp, Key Figure in Clinton Impeachment, Dies at 70 Whitewater Case Whistle-Blowers Starr, Kenneth W Linda Tripp Lewinsky, Monica S impeachment Deaths (Obituaries) Clinton, Bill
Westlake Legal Group 08xp-TRIPP1-facebookJumbo Linda Tripp, Key Figure in Clinton Impeachment, Dies at 70 Whitewater Case Whistle-Blowers Starr, Kenneth W Linda Tripp Lewinsky, Monica S impeachment Deaths (Obituaries) Clinton, Bill

Linda Tripp, the former White House and Pentagon employee whose secret audiotapes of Monica Lewinsky led to the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton, died on Wednesday. She was 70.

Joseph Murtha, a former lawyer for Ms. Tripp, confirmed the death. No other details were given.

When Ms. Lewinsky completed her testimony about the scandal, she was asked if she had any final comments. According to CNN, she answered, “I hate Linda Tripp.”

Ms. Tripp always contended that she had revealed Ms. Lewinsky’s private confession of a sexual relationship with Mr. Clinton out of “patriotic duty.” She had worked in the White House under President George H.W. Bush and stayed on to work briefly in the Clinton administration. She was transferred to the Pentagon and its public affairs office.

Ms. Lewinsky, who had been a White House intern, was transferred there, too, in 1996, and the women, despite a 24-year age difference, became friends.

When Ms. Lewinsky confided in Ms. Tripp that she had had a physical relationship with the president, Ms. Tripp got in touch with Lucianne Goldberg, a literary agent who had once reached out to her for information on Vincent Foster, the White House lawyer who committed suicide in 1993.

More recently, Ms. Tripp had been working on a book proposal tentatively titled “Behind Closed Doors: What I Saw Inside the Clinton White House.” Now she had a hook.

Ms. Goldberg suggested, among other things, that Ms. Tripp tape her telephone conversations with Ms. Lewinsky. That was legal in the District of Columbia and in 39 states, but not in Maryland, where Ms. Tripp was living.

More than 20 hours of audiotapes were turned over to Kenneth Starr, the independent prosecutor handling the Clinton investigation.

On Wednesday Ms. Goldberg said that she had been happy to be a part of Ms. Tripp’s life. “It wasn’t a lot of fun,” she added, “but I got the fun part and she got the headaches.”

After four years and $30 million, Mr. Starr’s investigation had stalled, lost in stale allegations involving the Whitewater land deal in which the Clintons had lost money. Ms. Tripp’s tapes suddenly provided a fresh, rich avenue for exploration, galvanizing the investigation almost overnight as they carried the potential to bring down the president.

The tapes revealed a complicated relationship between Ms. Tripp and Ms. Lewinsky. Ms. Lewinsky seemed grateful to be able to confide in the older woman, talking with her regularly and for hours at a time about everything from their diets and exercise routines to Ms. Lewinsky’s secret romance with the president — all while Ms. Tripp was milking her young friend for incriminating information against him.

They laughed together and cried. They both ate while on the phone. At one point, Ms. Lewinsky asked Ms. Tripp to help her proofread a love letter she had written to Mr. Clinton.

“Handsome, you have been distant the past few months and have shut me out,” Ms. Lewinsky read. “I don’t know why. Is it that you don’t like me anymore, or are you scared?”

Ms. Tripp assured her that he would call, prompting Ms. Lewinsky to say, “Linda, if I ever wanna have an affair with a married man again, especially the president, please shoot me.”

At another point, Ms. Lewinsky confided that after she had apparently had phone sex with Mr. Clinton, she had told him that she loved him — and called him “butthead” at the same time.

During another of their lengthy phone calls, Ms. Tripp, fully aware of her betrayal, predicted the demise of their friendship.

“I feel like I’m sticking a knife in your back,” Ms. Tripp told Ms. Lewinsky on Dec. 22, 1997, during a conversation that ran 68 pages when it was transcribed. “And I know at the end of this, if I have to go forward, you will never speak to me again.”

Ms. Tripp was later given immunity from wiretapping charges in exchange for her testimony.

Ms. Tripp became a figure of public ridicule, being played by John Goodman — 6-foot-2 and then considerably overweight — in “Saturday Night Live” sketches. In a restaurant scene with Molly Shannon as Ms. Lewinsky, Mr. Goodman, in a blond wig, asked the waiter for “a Bloody Mary and two AA batteries.”

While Ms. Tripp had been central to Mr. Starr’s case against Mr. Clinton, the conservatives and Clinton-haters who once hailed her forgot about her. The gibes about her were so cruel that she more or less gave up on her own defense.

Linda Rose Carotenuto was born on Nov. 24, 1949, in Jersey City, N.J. Her father, Albert Carotenuto, was a high school math and science teacher who met his wife, Inge, when he was an American soldier stationed in her native Germany. The Carotenutos divorced in 1968 after Linda’s mother learned that her father was having an affair with a fellow teacher.

Linda graduated from high school in East Hanover, N.J., and went to work as a secretary in Army Intelligence in Fort Meade, Md. In 1971 she married Bruce Tripp, a military officer. In a 2003 interview, she described herself as “a suburban mom who was a military wife for 20 years.” The couple divorced in 1990.

Ms. Tripp married Dieter Rausch, a German architect, in 2004. In later years she worked with him in his family’s retail store, the Christmas Sleigh, in Middleburg, Va., a Washington suburb.

In addition to Mr. Rausch, her survivors include a son, Ryan Tripp, and a daughter, Allison Tripp Foley.

Ms. Tripp was dismissed by the Pentagon in January 2001, on the last day of the Clinton administration. She later sued the Justice and Defense Departments for having released her security and employment files to the news media and was awarded a settlement of almost $600,000, plus back pay for three years.

On Twitter on Wednesday, Ms. Lewinsky wrote: “no matter the past, upon hearing that linda tripp is very seriously ill, i hope for her recovery. i can’t imagine how difficult this is for her family.”

The Lewinsky story has continued to fascinate Americans. The FX series “American Crime Story” plans to devote its third season, beginning in September, to the scandal. Sarah Paulson is scheduled to portray Ms. Tripp.

In a 2003 television interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Ms. Tripp said: “Actions speak louder than words. My actions over the last five years should be pretty clear evidence that this was not about self-enrichment, political gain, partisan interest. It was about good government.”

As for posterity and the view that she was the betrayer and Mr. Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky the victims, she said, “I think history will see things through a prism that will make it easier to understand that it wasn’t black and white.”

Mihir Zaveri and Peter Baker contributed reporting.

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John Rood, Top Defense Official, Latest to Leave After Impeachment Saga

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WASHINGTON — John C. Rood, the Defense Department’s top policy official, is the latest member of President Trump’s national security team involved in the Ukraine matter to leave the government.

Mr. Rood, the under secretary of defense for policy, will step down at the end of February, the department’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, said Wednesday.

Mr. Rood was part of the team at the Defense Department that told Congress last year that Ukraine had made the necessary reforms to justify sending the country $250 million in promised security assistance. The certification was widely viewed as undermining a key argument Mr. Trump’s defense team made during his impeachment battle: that Mr. Trump withheld the aid because he was concerned about corruption in Ukraine.

Mr. Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House but acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate. Since his acquittal, the president has moved swiftly to purge administration officials whose presentation of events did not align with his own.

Mr. Rood’s departure, reported earlier by CNN, was not entirely unexpected; he and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper were known to clash frequently early in their careers, and Mr. Esper was expected to fire him when he became Defense Secretary last year. But the dearth of respected national security policy experts willing to work for Mr. Trump has made it difficult for administration officials to fill jobs.

James H. Anderson, the acting deputy under secretary of defense for policy, will be taking over Mr. Rood’s duties until a replacement is appointed by the president, the department said.

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A Presidency Increasingly Guided by Suspicion and Distrust

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WASHINGTON — President Trump suggested in recent days that he had, in fact, learned a lesson from his now-famous telephone call with Ukraine’s president that ultimately led to his impeachment: Too many people are listening to his phone calls.

“When you call a foreign leader, people listen,” he observed on Geraldo Rivera’s radio show. “I may end the practice entirely. I may end it entirely.”

Mr. Trump has always been convinced that he is surrounded by people who cannot be trusted. But in the 10 days since he was acquitted by the Senate, he has grown more vocal about it and turned paranoia into policy, purging his White House of more career officials, bringing back loyalists and tightening the circle around him to a smaller and more faithful coterie of confidants.

The impeachment case against Mr. Trump, built largely on the testimony of officials who actually worked for him, reinforced his view that the government is full of leakers, plotters, whistle-blowers and traitors. Career professionals who worked in government before he arrived are viewed as “Obama holdovers” even if they were there long before President Barack Obama. Testifying under subpoena was, Mr. Trump has made clear, “insubordinate.”

The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., said on Twitter after the acquittal that the investigation was useful, in its own way, because it made it easier “unearthing who all needed to be fired.” The president and his staff have increasingly equated disloyalty to him with disloyalty to the nation. All of which makes for a volatile eight months ahead as Mr. Trump fights a rear-guard battle with his own government while facing off against Democrats on the campaign trail to win a second term.

“I think he feels like the people are out to get him, going overboard. I mean just put yourself in his shoes,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a staunch ally, told reporters this past week as the president railed on Twitter against Justice Department prosecutors. “There’s just a general frustration that the system is — there’s a double standard in the media and actually in the law.”

In the last week and a half, Mr. Trump has pushed out two witnesses who testified in the House inquiry, stripped a nomination from an official he blamed for being insufficiently loyal and assailed prosecutors, a judge and even the jury forewoman in the case of his friend Roger J. Stone Jr.

His national security adviser has just finished transferring more than 50 career professionals out of the White House and back to their home agencies. The president has brought back two of his earliest and most trusted aides, Hope Hicks and Johnny McEntee, as he retreats into a cocoon of his original 2016 campaign team. And more personnel moves are likely in the days to come.

Mr. Trump’s personal loyalty test now extends not to whether someone has worked in his White House since his inauguration, but to whether someone was part of his 2016 campaign and there from the beginning, according to interviews with more than a half-dozen administration officials and advisers to the president. His decision to turn the Office of Presidential Personnel over to Mr. McEntee, a 29-year-old aide who was once ordered marched out of the White House by John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff at the time, was born out of concern about who is surrounding him, people familiar with the move said.

While some officials cited a lack of responsiveness from officials working in the personnel office, others said that Mr. Trump had taken to blaming them for appointments that he made, on the advice of other advisers. That included Gordon D. Sondland, the Republican donor he appointed ambassador to the European Union who became a key witness in the impeachment inquiry and has now been dismissed. It also included John R. Bolton, his former national security adviser, who plans to publish a book next month revealing Mr. Trump’s machinations about Ukraine.

In private conversations, Mr. Trump has complained bitterly that none of his enemies have been criminally charged, citing James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, and his onetime deputy, Andrew G. McCabe. Mr. Bolton in particular has been a source of his anger in several conversations, according to people familiar with what the president has said. He has accused Mr. Bolton of betraying him, and made clear his anger extends to anyone he believes helped Mr. Bolton.

Mr. Trump’s suggestion that he may bar government officials from listening into his phone calls with foreign leaders would reverse decades of practice in the White House. Presidents traditionally have multiple aides from the National Security Council and State Department monitor foreign leader calls to help interpret their meaning, record any agreements and inform relevant parts of government.

Mr. Trump, however, felt burned early on when transcripts of his calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia were leaked to The Washington Post. During subsequent conversations with foreign leaders, he sometimes kicked out aides for more private talks and in the case of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia even demanded that his own interpreter turn over notes of the discussion.

“He knows that anything even reasonably controversial out of his mouth, on the phone or off, will be reported out and construed in the most evil way possible,” Mr. Rivera, a friend of the president’s who interviewed him for his Cleveland radio show, said on Saturday. “As a result, he indicated to me that he’s dramatically scaling back” the number of people “looped into a state call.”

Going back to his days in the real estate business, Mr. Trump has long considered suspicion a key to success. “Be paranoid,” he advised in a motivational seminar in 2000. “Now that sounds terrible. But you have to realize that people, sadly, sadly, are very vicious. You think we’re so different from the lions in the jungle? I don’t know.”

Nor is presidential paranoia a new phenomenon even as Mr. Trump seems to have elevated it to a guiding philosophy of his White House. From Thomas Jefferson to Franklin D. Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy, other presidents turned at times to unseemly and even ruthless methods against their enemies like illegal wiretapping. Probably no previous presidents were as paranoid as Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon and in the latter case it helped bring down his presidency.

“The paranoid style is an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent,” as Richard Hofstadter, the famed midcentury American historian, wrote in his landmark 1964 essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” In Mr. Trump’s case, it connects with supporters suspicious of the elite.

John A. Farrell, a Nixon biographer, said most other presidents managed to contain or disguise their paranoid elements, but it drove Johnson and Nixon to extremes that were ultimately self-destructive. Mr. Trump, he said, sees no need to hide it.

“He has responded to criticism, opposition and other curbs on his power with a vulgar energy and the vile Nixonian strategy that making Americans hate each other is a potent way to seize and secure power,” Mr. Farrell said. “It is no accident that a president acting this way comes from a chain of influences that includes Roy Cohn and Roger Stone.”

Mr. Trump’s advisers and defenders turn to the old nostrum — just because he may be paranoid does not mean people are not out to get him. The relentless investigations against him, the Trump-bashing text messages by F.B.I. officials, the excesses of the surveillance warrant on a former campaign adviser, the longtime lawyer-fixer who turned against him, the whistle-blower who took his concerns to House Democrats, all of it, they said, has contributed to an understandable defensiveness.

“Trump came to office with an almost pathological distrust of others and an irresistible impulse to attack any perceived threat,” said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who testified against impeachment last year before the House Judiciary Committee. “The well-documented bias in the F.B.I. and Justice Department against Trump fuels his suspicions and tendency to counterpunch. Both his perceptions and his responses became more exaggerated.

“However,” Mr. Turley added, “his suspicions were validated to some degree in these investigations — something that many refuse to acknowledge. He came to Washington with an agenda that was highly antagonistic and threatening to the status quo. It was immediately clear that he faced deep opposition to his agenda.”

As with so many aspects of his personality, the seeds of Mr. Trump’s reaction may lie in his biography. Michael D’Antonio, the author of “The Truth About Trump,” recalled that the future president was raised by a father who taught him that all of life is a battle for power and that he should be a “killer.” Mr. Trump, Mr. D’Antonio said, came to see others as useful for his own purposes or obstacles to be crushed.

“In this way, he’s forcing us all to live in the world that once existed only in Trump’s mind and in his close circle,” Mr. D’Antonio said. “Here, in Trump’s America, we’re to believe that all institutions are corrupt. No one is to be trusted. Those who would speak against him hesitate. Words of protest and revelations that might be made by whistle-blowers are stifled by fear. This is the world Trump has always inhabited and he wants us to live there too.”

Peter Baker reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

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As a Post-Impeachment Trump Pushes the Limits, Republicans Say Little

WASHINGTON — On a day when President Trump congratulated the attorney general for overruling career prosecutors in favor of the lighter prison sentence he sought for a longtime friend, Senate Republicans agreed on one thing: Reining in a president emboldened by the impeachment acquittal they orchestrated is not on their to-do list.

“Kind of immaterial,” Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said on Wednesday, waving off the question of whether the president or his allies at the Justice Department may have interfered with the sentencing of Roger J. Stone Jr., Mr. Trump’s longtime associate.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the Judiciary Committee chairman, said he was not “losing any sleep” over the departure of the four prosecutors who had handled the case and withdrew in protest on Tuesday, having assured himself the president did nothing wrong.

Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, refused to broach the topic: “I’m not going to have this conversation right now,” he said, ducking into the Senate subway on his way to the Capitol.

In the week since the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Mr. Trump of two impeachment charges, lawmakers in his party have watched as he has purged key players in the case against him, including the ambassador to the European Union and two White House National Security Council aides, and put in motion plans to banish others he considers insufficiently loyal. They have listened as he has called for one of those officials, Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, to be investigated by the Pentagon.

They have read his tweets and heard his comments heaping scorching criticism on the Justice Department for “a horrible and very unfair” attempt to put Mr. Stone in prison for seven to nine years based on a conviction for lying to Congress and trying to block witness testimony. Mr. Trump cheered on William P. Barr, the attorney general, for intervening, while castigating the federal judge overseeing the case.

And they have been forced to reckon with the fact that, far from obscuring his actions or offering innocent explanations, Mr. Trump has been open and unapologetic about his efforts to take revenge on his perceived enemies and assist those he considers loyal.

The warning sirens may be blaring from Democrats and Justice Department veterans. But having expressed confidence just last week that the impeachment trial might chasten him going forward, Republican senators now appear unwilling to grapple with the president who emerged: an emboldened Mr. Trump determined to tighten his grip on the levers of power.



Trump Calls Prosecution of Roger Stone a ‘Disgrace’

President Trump denied that his tweet praising the attorney general for intervening in the sentencing of Roger J. Stone Jr. was political interference.

Reporter: “On Roger Stone, isn’t your tweet political interference?” “No, not at all. He was treated very badly — nine years recommended. If you look at what happened — I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this horrible thing. And I didn’t speak to him, by the way, just so you understand. They saw the horribleness of a nine-year sentence for doing nothing. You have murderers and drug addicts, they don’t get nine years — nine years for doing something that nobody even can define what he did. Somebody said he put out a tweet, and the tweet, you based it on that. We have killers, we have murderers all over the place, nothing happens. And then they put a man in jail and destroy his life, his family, his wife, his children — nine years in jail. It’s a disgrace. In the meantime, Comey walks around making book deals. The people that launched this scam investigation, and what they did is a disgrace.”

Westlake Legal Group 12dc-trump-videoSixteenByNine3000 As a Post-Impeachment Trump Pushes the Limits, Republicans Say Little Vindman, Alexander S United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Stone, Roger J Jr Senate Republican Party impeachment Cornyn, John Collins, Susan M

President Trump denied that his tweet praising the attorney general for intervening in the sentencing of Roger J. Stone Jr. was political interference.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Asked if Mr. Trump appeared to have learned any positive lessons from the impeachment saga that threatened his presidency and prompted her and some others Republicans to criticize his conduct, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska paused on Wednesday to choose her words carefully.

“There haven’t been strong indicators this week that he has,” she said.

In the Oval Office on Wednesday, Mr. Trump insisted he had in fact grown wiser based on the impeachment experience — but not in ways that many in his party were hoping for. “That the Democrats are crooked,” he told reporters when asked about the lessons he took from the episode. “They got a lot of crooked things going. That they’re vicious. That they shouldn’t have brought impeachment.”

On Capitol Hill, Republicans offered up general platitudes about the principle that presidents should stay out of pending legal matters. But none asked for an explanation of Mr. Trump’s handling of Mr. Stone’s case, or suggested his actions warranted further scrutiny.

Instead, after three years of provocations, attacks on political opponents and allies alike, and abrupt policy reversals, Republican lawmakers fell back on a set of neutral responses they have found crucial to navigating the choppy waters of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Privately, many in the party say it is just often not worth it to challenge him in the open. Better to try lobby the White House quietly, like a handful of Republican senators did last week when they tried to intervene to stop Mr. Trump from firing Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who testified in the House impeachment hearings. But their entreaties did not work.

Matters of foreign policy have often prompted more public disagreements, like a planned vote on Thursday to curtail Mr. Trump’s war powers, but they are few and far between.

The handful of moderate Republicans who have broken with the president on matters of consequence — including in recent weeks to criticize his pressure campaign on Ukraine undergirding the House’s impeachment case — are reluctant to to do so again and again.

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, seemed to grow frustrated on Wednesday when reporters pressed her to reconcile Mr. Trump’s recent actions with her assertion last week that he would be “much more cautious in the future” after having been impeached.

“My vote to acquit the president was not based on predicting his future behavior,” Ms. Collins said. She added, “I think the president would be better served by never commenting on pending federal investigations.”

Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who chastised Mr. Trump for his pressure on Ukraine, declined to pass any direct judgment on the president’s actions since.

“The sentencing is in the hands of the courts, which should make an appropriate decision,” he said. “And politics should never play a part in law enforcement. So that’s what I have to say about that.”

Even Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the sole Republican who voted to convict Mr. Trump last week, said he did not have time to get into the particulars of the case, saying he trusted the judge in Mr. Stone’s case to “do what is right.”

“I can’t begin to spend time discussing the president’s tweets,” he said. “That would be a full-time job.”

Democrats have watched with increasing desperation. The House still holds subpoena power, and can use its control of the federal spending process to try to curb some unwanted excesses by the administration. But the chamber just used the Constitution’s most powerful tool for executive accountability, impeachment, and failed to win a conviction.

In the Senate, where Republicans are in control, some Democrats have taken to outright pleading with colleagues to speak up. Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, interrupted a Banking Committee meeting Wednesday morning to implore his colleagues to stop what he called Mr. Trump’s “retribution tour.”

“We cannot give him a permanent license to turn the presidency and the executive branch into his own personal vengeance operation,” Mr. Brown said. “If we say nothing — and I include everyone in this committee, including myself — it will get worse. His behavior will get worse.”

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to convene emergency hearings on the Justice Department matter.

But Mr. Graham ruled it out, saying he had sought an explanation from Mr. Barr’s office about the decision to change the sentencing recommendation for Mr. Stone, and found it satisfactory.

“Should the president stay out of cases? Yeah, absolutely. He should not be commenting on cases in the system,” Mr. Graham said. “If I thought he’d done something that changed the outcome inappropriately, I’d be the first to say.”

“I’m comfortable the system is working,” he added.

Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, chalked the Stone imbroglio up to the president’s social media habits.

“This is a situation where the tweet was very problematic,” he said, hastening to add that tweeting was the president’s right and that all signs he had seen pointed to the situation having been handled properly at the Justice Department.

Other elected Republicans professed a loose command of the facts or sidestepped questions by accusing reporters of distorting them.

Asked whether Mr. Trump had been emboldened since his acquittal, Mr. Cornyn dismissed the idea as a “narrative,” declining to elaborate as he disappeared into a committee room.

Senator Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, said he was “still unfamiliar” with “all the particulars” of the situation around Mr. Stone’s sentencing, but added: “There’s no legal issue here. It’s just a question of propriety.”

Some Republicans did not even bother trying to explain away the president’s actions.

“I do not have an opinion on that,” declared Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader.

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Trump Hails Acquittal and Lashes Out at His ‘Evil’ and ‘Corrupt’ Opponents

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WASHINGTON — President Trump and his Republican allies focused on exacting payback against his political opponents on Thursday after his acquittal in his Senate impeachment trial, signaling that the conflict that has consumed Washington for months may only escalate rather than recede.

Choosing retaliation over reconciliation, Mr. Trump lashed out at Democrats and the one Republican senator who voted for conviction. He turned a prayer breakfast into a launching pad for political attacks and then staged a long, rambling venting session at the White House where he denounced “evil” and “crooked” lawmakers and the “top scum” at the F.B.I. for trying to take him down.

Mr. Trump’s team indicated that his desire to turn the tables on his foes may go beyond just tough language. The White House press secretary declared that Democrats “should pay for” impeaching the president, and the Trump administration worked to facilitate a Senate Republican investigation of Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the goal of Mr. Trump that was at the heart of his impeachment.

“It was evil,” Mr. Trump said of the investigations that led to his Senate trial in an hourlong stream-of-consciousness address to supporters in the East Room of the White House, tossing aside the more calibrated text prepared by his staff. “It was corrupt. It was dirty cops. It was leakers and liars, and this should never ever happen to another president, ever. I don’t know that other presidents would have been able to take it.”

Democrats showed little sign of backing down either. House Democrats have already said they are likely to resume their investigation into Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to incriminate the Bidens, while a Senate Democrat on Thursday called for an inquiry into whether the administration covered up related information by improperly classifying it.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who sat just feet from Mr. Trump as he questioned her faith during the annual National Prayer Breakfast, later pushed back against his implication that she was disingenuous for saying she prayed for him. Some of his remarks, she said, were “particularly without class” and “so inappropriate at a prayer breakfast.”

She also suggested that Mr. Trump appeared to be on medication during his State of the Union address on Tuesday. “He looked to me like he was a little sedated,” she told reporters. “Looked that way last year, too.”

Mr. Trump’s vituperative performance on Thursday was the diametrical opposite of how President Bill Clinton responded to his own acquittal after a Senate impeachment trial in 1999. On the day he was cleared of charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, Mr. Clinton appeared alone in the Rose Garden, said he was “profoundly sorry” and called for “reconciliation and renewal.”

His Republican opponents at the time were just as eager to move on, feeling burned after losing seats in midterm elections and watching not one but two of their House speakers step down. One important difference is that Mr. Clinton was in his second term, while Mr. Trump is seeking re-election in a campaign framed in part by the impeachment debate.

For Mr. Trump, the Senate’s rejection of the two articles of impeachment against him on Wednesday was marred by the fact that Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, was the only senator to break rank, joining every Democrat in voting to convict Mr. Trump for abuse of power.

Angry at Mr. Romney’s defection, Mr. Trump waited a day to appear in person with supporters in the East Room in a ceremony that veered between celebration and confrontation.

Mr. Trump held up a copy of The Washington Post to show its banner headline, “Trump Acquitted,” then reviewed the long litany of investigations against him over the last three years, dismissing them as partisan efforts to stop him from serving as president.

“We first went through Russia, Russia, Russia,” he said, mocking the investigations into the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 presidential election on his behalf and ties between his campaign and Moscow. “It was all bullshit,” he said, the first time he or any president has been known to use that profanity in a formal event on camera in the East Room, according to Factba.se, a research service.

The talk included a greatest-hits string of attacks on some of Mr. Trump’s top villains, including the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey (“that sleazebag”), his onetime deputy Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok (“two lowlifes”), the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, as well as Hunter Biden, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

He called Ms. Pelosi “a horrible person,” Mr. Romney “a failed presidential candidate” who used “religion as a crutch” and Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the lead House manager, a “corrupt politician.”

The president thanked his lawyers and congressional Republicans, praising them one by one for their support. In particular, he highlighted Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader and his most important defender in the Senate. “You did a fantastic job,” Mr. Trump told him.

He called out more than a dozen other Republican defenders, including Representatives Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader; Jim Jordan of Ohio; Mark Meadows of North Carolina; and Elise Stefanik of New York. Noticeably absent, and unmentioned by the president, were Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer at the center of the Ukraine pressure campaign, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of his most outspoken allies.

“This is sort of a day of celebration, because we went through hell,” Mr. Trump said. “But I’m sure they’ll try and cook up other things,” he added of the Democrats, “because instead of wanting to heal our country and fix our country, all they want to do — in my opinion, it’s almost like they want to destroy our country. We can’t let it happen.”

In the wake of Mr. Trump’s acquittal, Republican senators pressed their inquiries into Hunter Biden’s finances, seeking to prove that the president was right to insist that Ukraine investigate him and the former vice president.

A spokeswoman for Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said the Treasury Department had readily complied with a request by the Republican majority for documents related to Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine, contrasted with the administration’s refusal to provide papers for the House impeachment inquiry.

For their part, Democrats were still seeking investigations, too. Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut asked the Government Accountability Office to review whether the Trump administration misused classification power to hide information about the president’s Ukraine pressure campaign. And House Democrats have already said they will probably subpoena John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, to ask about Ukraine.

Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said Democrats should be made to answer for what she called a dishonest attack on Mr. Trump. “Maybe people should pay for that,” she said on Fox News. Asked to elaborate, she equated Mr. Trump with the United States. “People should be held accountable for anything they do to hurt this country and this president,” she said.

Mr. Trump’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast was as overtly political as any president has delivered at the annual event, traditionally a bipartisan affair marked by talk of faith and common ground. He triumphantly held up newspapers reporting his acquittal, cited rising stock markets, boasted about his approval rating and urged the audience to vote in the fall.

Mr. Trump’s speech followed a keynote address by Arthur Brooks, a Harvard professor and prominent conservative thinker, who called on Americans to “love your enemies.” At one point, Mr. Brooks asked the audience, “How many of you love somebody with whom you disagree politically?” Hands around the room shot up. “I’m going to round that off to 100 percent,” he said. But Mr. Trump did not raise his hand.

“Contempt is ripping our country apart,” Mr. Brooks continued. “We’re like a couple on the rocks in this country.” Without directly mentioning Mr. Trump, Mr. Brooks added: “Ask God to take political contempt from your heart. And sometimes when it’s too hard, ask God to help you fake it.”

Mr. Trump made no effort to fake it. “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you,” he said when he took the microphone. “I don’t know if Arthur is going to like what I’m going to say.”

He then launched into his grievances. “As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people,” he said.

Without naming them, Mr. Trump singled out Mr. Romney and Ms. Pelosi. “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Romney. Then, referring to Ms. Pelosi, he said, “Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that’s not so.”

It was the first time the speaker and the president had appeared together since the State of the Union address, when Mr. Trump refused to shake Ms. Pelosi’s hand before his speech and she ripped up her copy of his speech after he gave it. When Ms. Pelosi gave a short talk at Thursday’s breakfast about the poor and persecuted, Mr. Trump refused to look at her, glowering with undisguised antipathy.

By the end of his own speech at the prayer breakfast, Mr. Trump recognized that his message did not fit the love-your-enemies theme. “I apologize. I’m trying to learn,” he said. “It’s not easy. It’s not easy. When they impeach you for nothing, then you’re supposed to like them? It’s not easy, folks. I do my best.”

At a news conference later at the Capitol, Ms. Pelosi dismissed Mr. Trump’s comments. “I don’t know if the president understands about prayer,” she told reporters, but said she prays “hard for him because he’s so off the track of our Constitution, our values.”

“He really needs our prayers,” she added. “He can say whatever he wants. But I do pray for him.”

Reporting was contributed by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Alan Rappeport, Michael Crowley and Maggie Haberman.

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Trump Hails Acquittal and Lashes Out at ‘Evil’ and ‘Corrupt’ Opponents

Westlake Legal Group 06dc-trumpspeechpromo-facebookJumbo-v7 Trump Hails Acquittal and Lashes Out at ‘Evil’ and ‘Corrupt’ Opponents Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate impeachment

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Thursday denounced the “evil” and “corrupt” Democrats who impeached him as he claimed vindication following his acquittal in a Senate trial and expressed deep resentment at the investigations that have marked his presidency.

At a jampacked ceremony in the East Room of the White House that veered back and forth between celebration and condemnation, the president complained about the “crooked politics” that had resulted in his impeachment and trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. In addition to Democrats and other favorite targets, he singled out Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the only Republican to vote for conviction.

“It was evil,” Mr. Trump told the roomful of supporters from Congress and his administration in a long, rambling, stream-of-consciousness talk, tossing aside the text that had been so carefully prepared for him by his staff. “It was corrupt. It was dirty cops. It was leakers and liars and this should never ever happen to another president, ever. I don’t know that other presidents would have been able to take it.”

He reviewed the long litany of investigations against him over the last three years, dismissing them all as nothing more than partisan efforts to take him down and suggesting that the “top scum” at the F.B.I. had plotted to stop him from serving as president.

“We went through Russia, Russia, Russia,” he said, mocking the investigations into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election on his behalf and ties between his campaign and Moscow. “It was all bullshit,” he said, a rare presidential use of profanity on camera in the East Room.

Mr. Trump held up a copy of The Washington Post to show its banner headline, “Trump Acquitted,” to applause in the audience, then picked up the theme he started earlier in the day at the National Prayer Breakfast when he lashed out at his opponents.

He assailed Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Adam B. Schiff, both Democrats from California. “They’re vicious and mean,” Mr. Trump said. “Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person. Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person.”

He ridiculed Ms. Pelosi for saying that she has prayed for the president even while opposing him. “She may pray but she prays for the opposite,” Mr. Trump said. “But I doubt she prays at all.”

Mr. Trump also denounced Mr. Romney, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2012, as “a failed presidential candidate” who used “religion as a crutch” when announcing his vote to remove the president from office.

The talk included a greatest-hits string of attacks on some of his top villains, including the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey (“that sleazebag”), his onetime deputy Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok (“two lowlifes”), the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele as well as Hunter Biden, Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama.

But he thanked his lawyers and a series of congressional Republicans, praising them one by one for their support during the impeachment battle. In particular, he thanked Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader who was the president’s most important defender in the Senate. “You did a fantastic job,” Mr. Trump told Mr. McConnell.

The president’s angry performance was the diametrical opposite of how President Bill Clinton reacted to his own acquittal after a Senate impeachment trial in 1999. On the day he was cleared of charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, Mr. Clinton appeared alone in the Rose Garden, avoided any gloating, apologized for his part in leading to the conflict and called for reconciliation.

Mr. Trump insisted again that he did nothing wrong although even some of the Republicans who voted against conviction said that his efforts to coerce Ukraine into helping him tarnish his domestic political rivals were inappropriate. Instead, he has presented himself as the victim of a partisan witch hunt and his aides and allies over the last day have expressed a desire to exact payback.

The Senate rejected both articles almost entirely along party lines, with Mr. Romney the only member of the upper chamber to break party ranks. Mr. Romney voted for conviction and removal from office on the article charging abuse of power, calling the president’s actions a blatant violation of the public trust, but voted against the obstruction of Congress article, arguing that the House should have pursued court options to obtain information blocked by the White House.

The first article thus fell 48 to 52, far short of the 67 required by the Constitution for conviction and the second article was rejected 47 to 53.

The battle is hardly over, though. House Democrats indicated they will continue their investigation and subpoena John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, while Senate Republicans moved to investigate Hunter Biden for his business dealings in Ukraine while his father, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., was in office.

Michael Crowley contributed reporting.

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