Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) just articulated one of the main rationales certain Republican senators are giving for not voting to impeach President Trump for what they agree are his misdeeds regarding Ukraine and Joe Biden. "I believe that the president has learned from this case," Collins told CBS News anchor Norah O'Donnell on Tuesday. "The president has been impeached. That's a pretty big lesson. ... I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future."
"The president's call was wrong," Collins added. "The president of the United States should not be asking a foreign country to investigate a political rival. That is just improper. It was far from a perfect call."
Trump, it appears, disagrees with Collins. "It was a perfect call," Trump told O'Donnell and other TV news anchors during a two-hour lunch ahead of his State of the Union address, according to The Washington Post. He again insisted he did nothing wrong. The lunch was off-the-record for journalists who attended — nobody from the Post was there, and CNN was pointedly not invited — but Trump's lack of contrition over impeachment matches other reporting and Trump's frequent public statements.
Trump also mocked his former national security adviser John Bolton during the lunch, saying he wants the White House to block publication of Bolton's forthcoming book and jabbing Bolton for always insisting on being referred to as "ambassador," despite earning the title during a brief, non-Senate-confirmed tenure as United Nations ambassador under President George W. Bush, the Post and CNN report. Trump discussed his potential Democratic rivals, reportedly calling Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) "nasty" and fixating on former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
The White House declined invitations to respond to the reports. "I'm not going to comment on an off-the-record lunch because I actually have ethics," said White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.