WASHINGTON ― Some Republican senators voting to acquit President Donald Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges Wednesday said they think Trump learned his lesson, even if the president hasn’t actually said so.
“I would hope that the president would look at this whole proceeding and realize that it’s not appropriate to make a call to the president of another country and ask him to investigate your leading political opponent,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told HuffPost.
“We all learn lessons as we go through life,” Alexander said. “Presidents make mistakes. Senators make mistakes. And hopefully we learn from those things.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) also said she thought the president had learned his lesson.
Wednesday night, though, after the Senate acquitted Trump, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) acknowledged that she may have been wrong on Tuesday when she said she believed the president had learned a lesson.
“I may not be correct on that,” Collins told Fox News. “It’s more aspirational on my part.”
The president has maintained all along that he did nothing wrong and that his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was actually “perfect.” On the call, he asked Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, a request that led Democrats to launch their House impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower filed a formal complaint.
Several Republican senators, including Alexander, Ernst and Collins, have acknowledged that the president withheld military assistance from Ukraine in order to pressure Zelensky into announcing the investigation. They said, however, that although the president’s shakedown was inappropriate, it didn’t merit removal from office.
But after these Republicans went out on a limb to say Trump would change, he started sawing off the branch. “It was a perfect call,” Trump reportedly said once again at an off-the-record lunch with news anchors on Tuesday.
“All I can express is my point of view, and he is free to express his,” Alexander said when asked about the president’s comment.
Ernst said, “if he feels that way,” adding that she didn’t see “much of anything” in the record of the July phone call. She previously said it was “maybe not the perfect call.”
Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) said that if the president still maintains that the call was perfect, then that answers the question of whether he’s learned a lesson.
“I think he’s a pretty smart guy,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told HuffPost. “I don’t think this was a pleasant experience for him, and if it were me, I would try to learn from it. I’m sure he will, too.”
“But at some point, you don’t change people,” Cornyn said. “After they’re 70-something years old, it’s hard to do.”
This article has been updated with Sen. Susan Collins’s revision late Wednesday of her earlier remarks about Trump.