David Axelrod, a senior CNN political commentator and host of “The Axe Files,” was senior adviser to President Barack Obama and chief strategist for the 2008 and 2012 Obama presidential campaigns. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his. View more opinion articles on CNN.
(CNN) A few thoughts on impeachment.
It’s not an easy or obvious thing to remove a president. That’s why it’s never happened in the long history of the republic.
For all the righteous indignation about the outcome of Wednesday’s vote, I understand the reluctance of any senator to convict an elected president and forever ban them from the ballot.
And if Donald Trump truly were “chastened” by impeachment, as several of the Republican senators who voted against removing him argued, it might have made their “let the people decide” argument more compelling.
But Trump is not chastened. Not even close.
He began Thursday by buoyantly hoisting a headline announcing his acquittal at the bipartisan National Prayer Breakfast. He has scheduled a victory speech at the White House, and we all know how it will go. He will claim complete and total vindication. He will repeat his assertion that he did “absolutely nothing wrong,” and that his shakedown call with the President of Ukraine was “perfect.” He will depict himself as the victim — the target of a failed coup — and his accusers as traitors.
We know he will because he has told us all of this a thousand times before.
Donald Trump is not chastened. He’s triumphant. He got caught red-handed and beat the rap, backed up by the base he long ago predicted would stick with him even if he committed a homicide on Fifth Avenue.
Even without the witnesses and documents Trump denied them, the House managers delivered a devastating circumstantial case that the President used the levers of his office to pressure Ukraine. He was, as Sen. Mitt Romney said in his courageous dissent from partisan orthodoxy, “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.”
More than a few of the Republican members of the Senate who, unlike Romney, fell in line Wednesday to acquit the President acknowledged as much. “Clearly inappropriate,” retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander intoned, while explaining that the President’s behavior fell short of what would warrant removal.
Even Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, who deftly orchestrated the quashing of witnesses and additional evidence at the President’s trial, refused repeated invitations after the final verdict was rendered to defend Trump’s behavior.
Yet Trump betrays not an iota of remorse or self-reflection. Hubris is the order of the day around the White House, and no-holds-barred is the only lesson he will have taken from this episode.
That Trump escaped removal from office for what he did is less the concern about Wednesday’s impeachment vote than the thing an unbridled and shameless President will do next