President Trump is testing the rule of law one week after his acquittal in his Senate impeachment trial, seeking to bend the executive branch into an instrument for his personal and political vendetta against perceived enemies.
And Trump — simmering with rage, fixated on exacting revenge against those he feels betrayed him and insulated by a compliant Republican Party — is increasingly comfortable doing so to the point of feeling untouchable, according to the president’s advisers and allies.
In the span of 48 hours this week, the president has sought to protect his friends and punish his foes, even at the risk of compromising the Justice Department’s independence and integrity — a stance that his defenders see as entirely justified.
“He knows exactly what he’s doing,” this official explained. “He knows that he has more power than anyone else in the government — and when he tweets, everyone has to listen to him.”
A second former senior official, former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, said of Trump, “He is mad and he should be mad. The Democrats and the media wasted three years of the nation’s time on a witch hunt. Now he understands how to use the full powers of the presidency. The pearl-clutchers better get used to it.”