Sen. Susan Collins has done her best to walk back her ridiculous statement that impeached president Donald Trump learned a lesson from the impeachment process, and to absolve herself of any responsibility for a now totally unfettered Trump. The thing is, though: She can't. Because Trump himself is yelling out the real lessons he learned every damn day. Like on Thursday, when he trashed another presidential norm meant to keep chief executives in check and to protect national security.
In a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera, Trump talked about one of the lessons he’s learned: not to let officials listen in on his phone calls with world leaders. "Well, that's what they've done over the years," Trump said. "When you call a foreign leader, people listen. I may end the practice entirely. I may end it entirely." This came about in a discussion about Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who Trump was bitching about in the interview, calling him "insubordinate" for raising his concerns about Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. "I'm not a fan of Vindman," Trump added. Surprise.
Given his cavalier attitude toward classified intelligence, this latest lesson learned by Trump has the national security community freaking out. "Right now, President Trump is a nightmare to every intel and [national-security] officer, and this is all stuff he's done with their knowledge," a former senior National Security Agency official told Business Insider. "Allowing him to conduct these calls in private would be catastrophic for us."
A former National Security Council senior director under President Barack Obama, Edward Price, told Business Insider that allowing intelligence and national security people to listen to calls "is indispensable to the coordination and implementation of sound foreign policy and national-security practices,. […] No president—but especially not this one—can or should be relied upon to backbrief senior advisers on details that can often be extraordinarily nuanced." Of course it has happened with this impeached president. And it wasn't just a phone call, but also face-to-face meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin: On several occasions, Trump has talked with Putin without U.S. staff present.
So the lesson he did learn from Collins and the rest of the Republicans who let him off the hook is that that's the way he should always conduct foreign policy, with no one around him who can alert the rest of the government—including Congress—about the crime-doing.
Published with permission from Daily Kos.