Susan Collins flees from reporter when asked if she still believes Trump learned "a very big lesson”

When asked in the Oval Office what "lesson" he had learned from impeachment, Trump said: "Democrats are crooked"

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published February 13, 2020 11:02AM (EST)

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, dodged questions from a reporter Wednesday who pressed her on whether she still believed her claim that President Donald Trump has learned a "lesson" by being impeached. 

Collins, along with several other Republicans, defended her vote to acquit Trump in his Senate impeachment trial by arguing that though his actions were "wrong," he had learned a "pretty big lesson" from being impeached.

"I believe that the president has learned from this case," Collins told CBS News. "I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future."

Collins later acknowledged to Fox News that her view was "more aspirational on my part."

Trump rejected Collins' claim that he learned any "lesson," and followed up his acquittal by leading a purge of administration officials who testified against him or were involved in the impeachment.

Attorney General William Barr appears to be equally emboldened, intervening in a case to reduce the sentencing recommendation for longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, prompting all four prosecutors in the case to withdraw. Barr also reportedly replaced a top Justice Department official who oversaw the Stone case and intervened to reduce the sentencing recommendation for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Barr admitted earlier this week that he created a process for Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to submit information he obtained during his hunt for damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden to federal prosecutors. Giuliani is under a federal investigation, and there is no evidence Biden abused his authority.

CNN's Manu Raju pressed Collins on whether she still felt had Trump learned his lesson Wednesday, given his recent actions.

"I don't know what actions you're referring to," she replied. "I've made very clear that I don't think anyone should be retaliated against."

Collins argued that she did not vote to acquit Trump, because she believed he had learned from his impeachment.

"That has nothing to do with the basis by which I voted to acquit the president," she said. "I voted to acquit the president, as I made very clear to you, Manu, on numerous occasions, because his conduct, while wrong, did not meet the high bar established in the Constitution for the immediate ouster of a duly-elected president."

Pressed again on whether Trump learned any lessons, Collins shut the door and walked away.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who also voted to acquit Trump, acknowledged that Trump's behavior since the trial does not suggest he learned much from the months-long ordeal.

"There haven't been any strong indicators this week that he has," she told Raju.

Collins was not the only senator that predicted Trump would behave differently after impeachment. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., asserted that the president would "think twice" in the future. Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va., argued Trump had "learned that he has to be maybe a little more judicious and careful."

Despite becoming only the third president to be impeached, Trump dashed those hopes Wednesday when he responded to a question from a reporter in the Oval Office.

"Some Republicans have said they hoped you would learn a lesson from impeachment," NBC News' Peter Alexander said. "What lesson did you learn from impeachment?"

"That the Democrats are crooked — they've got a lot of crooked things going — that they're vicious, that they shouldn't have brought impeachment and that my poll numbers are 10 points higher because of fake news like NBC, which reports the news very inaccurately," Trump responded.

Author Molly Jong-Fast wrote at The Bulwark that there was only one lesson Trump was likely to learn from his party giving him a pass on impeachment.

"The lesson he was destined to take from impeachment was that he can get away with everything and anything," she wrote. "Trump learned that he owns the Republican Party, that they will do whatever he wants, that they will sign off on all his criming. Trump learned a lesson this week: He learned that he is our mad king and nothing and no one can stop him. "

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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