For a moment, let us put aside scandals such as President Trump’s receipt of foreign emoluments; his improper retention of the lease on the Trump International Hotel in Washington; his self-dealing; his relatives’ self-dealing; his and his 2016 campaign’s outreach to Russia; his own association as essentially an unindicted co-conspirator in Michael Cohen’s payoff to a woman with whom he cheated on his wife; and the 10 or so grounds for obstruction of justice laid out in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. Just for a moment.
Over the last few weeks, we have learned: Trump ordered aid to Ukraine halted and, to any reasonable observer, was linking that aid and a meeting to Ukraine’s assistance in manufacturing dirt on Democratic presidential contender and former vice president Joe Biden, and in pursuing his asinine conspiracy theory that Ukraine — and not Russia — interfered in the 2016 election; Trump refused to allow witnesses and documents to be produced in response to subpoenas necessary for the House impeachment inquiry; Trump publicly threatened a whistleblower; and, according to a Bloomberg report (in an echo of his attempt to get former FBI director James Comey go easy on fired NSA Michael Flynn):
President Donald Trump pressed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who was a client of Rudy Giuliani, according to three people familiar with the 2017 meeting in the Oval Office.
Tillerson refused, arguing it would constitute interference in an ongoing investigation of the trader, Reza Zarrab, according to the people. They said other participants in the Oval Office were shocked by the request.
And it’s only been a few weeks since the whistleblower’s complaint surfaced.
A single one of these incidents would be enough to sink a normal president. Collectively, they present a picture of the most corrupt president in history. A normal political party — either for political convenience or some remote sense of propriety — would have dumped this guy a long time ago (before, for example, he consigned the Kurds in Syria to a genocide). Trump and the current Republican Party are anything but normal. Their utter shamelessness and the use of propagandist (false) Fox News keeps them bound together in the belief that they can survive this.
How rational is it for Republicans to not only continue carrying his dirty water but supporting his reelection? They would, in 2020, be running with a candidate who comes into their state (if it is remotely winnable for Trump, who exaggerates what “remotely winnable” encompasses), declaring that going to foreign countries to get dirt on rivals is perfectly fine. Ads tying them to his inane defenses and confessions (there is overlap there, I grant you) will rain down upon them.
A presidential nominee with a track record such as Trump’s, and who lost the popular vote in 2016, and who has done nothing but offend voters outside his core base, would ordinarily portend disaster for his party up and down the ticket. Perhaps the incumbent cowards would rather risk losing and watching the Senate and White House turn over to the Democrats than speak out against Trump. They’d rather go down with the cult, for at least they might have a shot at jobs in right-wing organizations.
Other than that, I cannot think of a single, logical reason the Republican Party would want to go into 2020 with this guy. (Who knows which characters — e.g., former national security adviser John Bolton, Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William P. Barr — will finally testify against Trump in an effort to save their own skins?)
The latest Fox News poll understandably shook up the president, who blasted the network for releasing a harmful poll. His approval is deep in the red (43 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove, with 47 percent disapproving strongly). He is trailing among all women, white women, suburban women (56 percent strongly disapprove) and white college-educated women (57 percent strongly disapprove) as well as white non-college educated women (43 percent strongly disapprove). Unless there are states with no women, Trump looks ready to get pummeled in 2020.
Republicans have been granted an off-ramp from the Trump traffic jam, a way of perhaps saving the Senate and holding down losses in the House. All they need do is declare they will not support him in 2020. It would be easier to get a somewhat competitive candidate to win 30 to 35 percent in an early primary race to help nudge him off stage but it is not, strictly speaking, necessary. All they need is a modicum of common sense and a mammalian survival instinct. Well, yes, that’s why he is still a better than even chance to be the nominee. But the odds are increasing that Republicans one way or another may be forced to shove him aside. When they do, the potential replacement better not be someone who excused the inexcusable.