With impeachment over, critics see Trump ‘retribution tour’

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the week since his acquittal on impeachment charges, a fully emboldened President Donald Trump is demonstrating his determination to assert an iron grip on government.

President Donald Trump listens to a question during a meeting with Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump is pushing his Justice Department to ease up on friends while exacting payback on real and perceived foes.

Trump has told confidants in recent days that he felt both vindicated and strengthened by the Senate acquittal, believing Republicans have rallied around him in unprecedented fashion while voters were turned off by the political process.

That’s according to four White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

The four lawyers who prosecuted longtime Trump ally Roger Stone quit the case this week after the Justice Department overruled them and said it would lower the amount of prison time it would seek for Stone.

The resignations raise questions over whether Trump had at least indirectly exerted his will on a Justice Department he often views as an arm of the White House.

Trump and the Justice Department say there was no communication.

The four attorneys had signed onto a Monday court filing that recommended up to nine years in prison for Stone.

Trump blasted the original sentencing recommendation as “horrible" and "unfair.”

Trump tweeted a congratulations to Attorney General William Barr “for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have been brought."

Barr has agreed to testify March 31 before the House Judiciary Committee regarding Stone’s case.

Stone was convicted in November of a seven-count indictment that accused him of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.

He was the sixth Trump aide or adviser to be convicted of charges brought as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Stone has denied wrongdoing and called the case politically motivated. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Trump is also suggesting that the Pentagon review the conduct of a former White House national security aide who played a central role in the Democrats’ impeachment case.

Until last week, Army Lt. Col. Alex Vindman was detailed to the White House as a National Security Council aide.

He testified before the House impeachment panel that Trump inappropriately pushed Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Trump says that any discipline of Vindman is up to the Pentagon but that he expects commanders to “take a look” at his conduct.

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