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Sherrod Brown: Senate GOP let Trump run 'personal vengeance operation'

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBiden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs Streamlining the process of prior authorization for medical and surgical procedures Top Democrat pushes for tying unemployment insurance to economic conditions MORE (D-Ohio) condemned Senate Republicans on Wednesday for acquitting President TrumpDonald TrumpCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Azar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments Justice Dept. argues Trump should get immunity from rape accuser's lawsuit MORE during last week’s impeachment trial and refusing to criticize his retaliation against witnesses who testified about his conduct.

Brown blasted his GOP colleagues for refusing to remove Trump from office and accused them of giving the president to “a permanent license to turn the presidency and the executive branch into his own personal vengeance operation.”

“If we say nothing, it will get worse. His behavior will get worse. The retribution tour will continue. We all know that,” Brown said at the start of a Senate Banking Committee, on which Brown is the ranking member.

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Brown’s criticism comes a day after four Justice Department prosecutors resigned from the federal sentencing of longtime informal Trump adviser Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneVice chair of Oregon Young Republicans group among those arrested at Capitol Trump supporters show up to DC for election protest DC mayor activates National Guard ahead of pro-Trump demonstrations MORE, likely in protest after Attorney General William BarrBill BarrActing attorney general condemns Capitol riots, warns 'no tolerance' for violence at Biden inauguration Barr, White House counsel told Trump not to self-pardon: report Trump condemns riots, says he will focus on transition in taped remarks MORE stepped in to prevent a steep jail sentence. 

Trump on Tuesday also withdrew the nomination of Jessie Liu, the former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, to a post in the Treasury Department. Liu oversaw the case against Stone until Jan. 31 and was scheduled to testify before the Banking panel Thursday on her nomination to be under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes.

Brown also denounced Trump’s dismissal of Lt. Col. Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanVindman says he doesn't regret testimony against Trump Esper: If my replacement is 'a real yes man' then 'God help us' Ukrainian president whose call with Trump sparked impeachment congratulates Biden MORE from the National Security Council (NSC) and Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandGOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' Top Democrat slams Trump's new EU envoy: Not 'a political donor's part-time job' Trump names new EU envoy, filling post left vacant by impeachment witness Sondland MORE, the former U.S. ambassador to the European Union, earlier this week. Both had testified before House lawmakers about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine that led to his impeachment on two articles in December. The Senate acquitted Trump on both articles on Feb. 5.

“It's pretty clear the president of the United States did learn a lesson,” Brown said. “He can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. He can abuse his office. He'll never ever be held accountable by this Senate.”

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien denied Tuesday that Vindman’s dismissal was retaliation, saying "their services were no longer needed.”

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But Trump also dismissed Vindman’s brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, from the NSC and suggested Alexander Vindman face disciplinary action from the Defense Department.

"We sent him on his way to a much different location, and the military can handle him any way they want. Gen. Milley has him now. I congratulate Gen. Milley. He can have him," Trump said, referring to Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Brown’s Wednesday rebuke of the Senate GOP follows an op-ed published in the New York Times last week in which he criticized his Republican colleagues for privately admitting Trump’s guilt but refusing to vote to remove him.

“For the stay-in-office-at-all-cost representatives and senators, fear is the motivator,” Brown wrote.

The Ohio senator had briefly considered a bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination after immense pressure from Democrats who were concerned with the party’s prospects in the Midwest. 

Brown decided against running for president in early 2019 after launching an exploratory committee and touring the country with stump speeches focused on restoring “the dignity of work.”