There is no question McConnell possesses a keen legislative mind that is not hindered by any notions of integrity or consistency. This approach has allowed him to thrive and succeed as the leader of his party in the Senate, but he is now being tested like never before. The dilemma McConnell faces is that as the evidence against Trump mounts, and as public opinion begins to turn even more firmly against the President, McConnell may have to choose between his President and his Senate majority.
As the impeachment inquiry heats up it still remains unlikely that Donald Trump will be removed from office by the Senate, but the motivations and goals of some of the major interests are becoming clear. Donald Trump, as has been the case for much of his presidency, is in survival mode. The crisis might be more acute now, but the basic framework is the same. Trump must, and will, fight with all his power to stay in office because removal by the Senate leads to humiliation, a lifetime of legal hassles and very possibly jail time for him and several members of his family.
The biggest political question is what impact a House impeachment and Senate acquittal would have on the presidential election. There is no way to tell, but we know that impeachment proceedings would last well into 2020, and the political impact well beyond that, thus making it very likely that the campaign would not primarily be about climate change, health care, education, guns or any other issues that are good for the Democrats, but about impeachment. That might help the Democrats, but it seems apparent that there is no guarantee of that. In fact, it may be precisely what Trump wants.
The consensus that has emerged from Mueller’s statement his that rather than indict the President, he has given Congress a mandate to pursue impeachment. This allows Mueller to present himself like an institutionalist, suggesting that our Constitutional processes can kick into gear and right the wrongs of the Trump campaign administration. The problem with this ostensibly patriotic notion is that anybody who has been paying attention knows that congress will never remove Trump from office because there will never be 67 votes in the GOP controlled Senate to convict him. Thus, by pushing the responsibility to Congress, all Mueller really accomplishes is to create a political conundrum for Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House and leader of the Democratic Party in Washington. If Mueller was not aware of this, it is not because he eschews politics, but because he is appallingly ignorant. For that reason, it is likely he was aware of the consequence of what he was doing, which raises the question of why he did it.
The impeachment hope rests on the belief that Mueller will find something out that is so extraordinarily bad about the President that almost half of the Republicans in the Senate will vote to remove Trump from office. To hold out hope that will happen is to believe that Republicans in positions of leadership do not already know about Trump’s involvement in Russia and will be shocked when they find out, but given the last two years that is not plausible. The only way Republican senators will vote to remove Trump is if their constituents demand it, but many Republican senators come from strongly red states where Trump is still quite popular.
Despite the fear of a President Pence being somewhat overblown, those hoping for a combination of Mueller indictments and a big Democratic win in 2018 to combine to save us must consider what impeachment would mean for the country. One of the unique characteristics of the Russiagate scandal, which is the most likely series of events that could potentially lead to impeachment, is that none of the news we are hearing now is actually news. While some details are new and Robert Mueller III is doing a great job of connecting the dots, the evidence of Russian meddling in our election with the knowledge of the Trump campaign was present well before the election. In fact, the GOP leadership was briefed about this in fallof 2016.
It is frightening, although not as surprising as we might like, that despite Trump's clearly tenuous mental health, most Republican leaders have been complicit in trying to conceal this for months or longer. The reason for this, is similar to the reason why the likes of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have been reluctant to probe deeply into Trump’s Russia ties-once the issue was ignored initially, Republican leaders became complicit in the cover up. For Ryan, McConnell or any other influential congress member to recognize what is palpably obvious to millions ofAmericans would force them them to confront their previous silence on the issue and lay bare the reality that for the Republican Party lower taxes and partisan victories are more important than to have a president who is sane. Rather than do that, the GOP leadership avoids confronting the reality of Donald Trump’s mental instability.
As the Trump administration descends further into paroxysms of corruption, obstruction of justice, shady ties to Moscow and authoritarian tendencies, it still has one major strategic advantage. Too much of the punditry, Congress, the media and even people in the resistance continue to underestimate the extent to which the old rules of politics, constitutionality and even rule of law no longer apply. This has made it possible for the Trump administration despite its many ethical, legal, strategic and tactical missteps to stay at least one step ahead of its many critics.
While the Trump presidency, desperately tries to present itself as normal, advocates of restoring democracy must recognize that this struggle is going to be difficult, and potentially take a long time. No special counsel, even one with Robert Mueller’s impressive credentials, is going to bring this presidency to a premature end absent political pressure from Republicans in Congress. Similarly, while the 25th amendment solution is attractive, simple and neat, it is very unlikely to happen until the political climate changes significantly. For these, or any other approaches, to reign in the excesses of the Trump presidency, and perhaps the presidency itself, extreme vigilance is essential even when there is a shiny object in the Middle East or elsewhere.
As Obama's presidency winds down, one of the stranger stories to emerge has been the impeachment, or more accurately the Republicans threatening impeachment but not really meaning it, saga. Impeaching a president is difficult as it requires a vote by the House of Representatives followed by a trial and vote by the Senate. Two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been impeached. Neither were convicted by the senate. As long as the Democrats retain control of the senate, or have close to fifty votes there, it is almost certain that efforts to impeach Obama would lead to the same result.