Trump Will Be Emboldened on Foreign Policy After Senate Acquittal, Former Russian Ambassador Says

President Donald Trump's foreign policy was at the heart of his impeachment and subsequent trial in the Senate, which ended Wednesday when GOP senators acquitted the commander-in-chief of the House charges against him.

Trump's parallel diplomatic campaign in Ukraine—allegedly designed to bolster his political fortunes at the expense of American and Ukrainian national security—made him only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

He has survived Democratic efforts to force him from office, but a former U.S. ambassador to Russia has predicted his brush with removal will not temper his unconventional, personalized and transactional diplomatic style.

Michael McFaul served former President Barack Obama as the top U.S. diplomat in Russia from 2012 to 2014. Speaking to Newsweek before this week's Senate vote, McFaul said Trump's expected acquittal would likely encourage more questionable behaviour.

"I don't think he thinks very systematically about the national interest," McFaul—now a professor at Stanford University—said of Trump.

The president will likely see his acquittal as a validation of his belief that "he knows best," McFaul added. This could see him "have to lean less on the establishment figures that he had around him" and that were cited as moderating influences.

The rate of turnover has been high for the president's foreign policy team, with multiple key figures having resigned or been fired from their posts after clashing with the commander in chief.

These included former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, former Chief of Staff John Kelly, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.

These so-called "adults in the room" were considered a vital check on the president's foreign policy instincts, some of which reportedly horrified long-time military and diplomatic figures.

But they have been replaced with Trump loyalists, some of whom are said to have encouraged Trump's more hawkish decisions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for example, was reportedly pushing the president to assassinate Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani some time before last month's strike.

McFaul acknowledged that Trump has "cleaned up most of those people already," though noted there are still "a few around." Regardless, "I think he'll feel even less necessary for him to consult the people on his the national security team," the former ambassador predicted. "He'll just do it himself."

The president appears uncowed by his impeachment and subsequent trial. Trump has repeatedly dismissed all allegations of wrongdoing, describing his conduct as "perfect." A White House statement issued Wednesday described the Senate vote as a "full vindication and exoneration" of the president.

Newsweek has contacted the White House by email to request comment on McFaul's remarks.

Donald Trump, Michael McFaul, foreign policy, impeachment
President Donald Trump is pictured at the White House on February 5, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson/Getty Images/Getty