On Saturday morning, President Donald Trump woke up, looked at a few right-wing websites, realized that he was going down and started tweeting blame at former President Barack Obama.
Trump, like most abusive men, can’t get over the fact that his partner’s ex, and America’s previous boyfriend, Barack Obama was pretty good. Moreover, it’s a lot easier to say that the ex is ruining things between Trump and America than to admit it’s been his own muddy shoes on the couch that has the USA scrolling through NCAA prospects.
Amid the political schadenfreude derived from watching the Trump administration burn, however, there is a worrisome feeling that one can’t quite shake. Namely, how does this scandal actually end? And when it does, will that be any good for anybody? No matter how you slice it, the answer seems to be not anytime soon and no.
The Russian timeline with the Trump administration is pretty clear. Last spring the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails. Damaging information from the emails were put out through the world’s pawn shop, WikiLeaks. Information came out at just the right time to damage and distract the Clinton campaign when it had momentum.
So where do the almost half dozen members of the Trump campaign who met with Russian agents and ambassadors come in?
Common sense suggests that the Russians either shared the leaked documents or coordinated the leaked information with what the Trump campaign wanted out there. It doesn’t matter how good Russian intelligence is—only the Republicans would know exactly what was the best, most damaging information to drop on Clinton and when. And with the help of Steve Bannon and the Breitbart website, they’d know exactly which far-right sites would pick up and normalize the information.
The intelligence community in the United States knows this, and it has been following Trump and his whole campaign for months. It already took out Michael Flynn; now it has vote-suppressor-in-chief Jeff Sessions, and it’s only a matter of time before Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is busted. The scandal will eventually make its way to Trump, which gives us three possible scenarios.
Scenario 1: Trump Gets Impeached
Congress appoints a special prosecutor, puts together a bipartisan commission on Russian hacking in the 2016 election, and decides that Trump’s behavior and involvement with Russia rise to the level of “treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors.” At this point Trump would be impeached and could be forced to leave the presidency. There are several problems with this scenario, however.
First, a little Schoolhouse Rock civics lesson: A president can be impeached only by a majority vote in the House of Representatives. Then the case goes to trial in the Senate; the president can be removed only by a conviction there. Does anyone actually believe that House Speaker Paul Ryan would ever get around to impeaching Trump, let alone Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell holding a trial? Ryan knows that from now to the 2018 midterms is his window to turn America into an Ayn Rand/Heritage Foundation wet dream, and there’s no way that happens if Trump isn’t in office to distract “working-class whites” with stories of Mexican rapists while Ryan and Congress snatch their health care.
A Donald Trump who got impeached but stayed in power would be a danger to everyone: He’d be even more unhinged than he is now, and we’d still have the same horrible actors in Congress. The economy would tank because of instability, and foreign powers would be even more aggressive, sensing that the U.S. is in absolute chaos. Not a good look all around.
Scenario 2: Congress Does Nothing
What we see happening now in Congress is what I refer to as “end of empire.” When a domestic political group is more concerned with its power than with the actual sovereignty of the country, then you know the empire is crumbling from within.
The Republican Party cares more about pushing through its policy agenda than about the fact that the nation has been compromised by Russian intelligence, white nationalists and people who literally want to start World War III. But hey, we gotta stop Obamacare, right?
It is possible that Congress does absolutely nothing and continues to scream “Nothing to see here” while every Jason Bourne on the U.S. payroll is handing out Russian receipts like it’s Black Friday. This would erode trust in the U.S. government by all but a few million maniacal right-wing bigots scattered across the nation, and lead to even more aggressive actions by our national security agencies.
How aggressive? Just bear in mind, the spymasters behind this country are more patriotic than partisan (not including FBI Director James Comey). They are more concerned with the future of American sovereignty and democracy than with who happens to run the country at any particular time, and they have concluded that Donald Trump is a threat to the 250-plus years of American government. No one knows how far this could go, but history tells us that a sitting president of the United States has never gone to war with our national security apparatus and come out the victor. That doesn’t bode well for Trump.
Scenario 3: Trump Leaves Office
Despite what the Alex Joneses of the world believe, there is no silent coup against Donald Trump. Obama is too busy play-fighting with Richard Branson and being adored by One Direction-style crowds with every public appearance to be orchestrating some grand plan against Trump. However, there is a potential coup right underneath Trump’s nose that is much more likely to get him out of office and still cause this nation harm.
Come on, don’t these guys look like they’re up to something?
Vice President Mike Pence was not Trump’s first choice. Pence was lied to by former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and likely Trump, and is generally the odd man out. You can just imagine Pence finding out every week that there was a staff party with ice cream cake in the Oval Office and he just happened not to get the email.
Also consider that Paul Ryan is simply a better-looking version of Frank Underwood and he’s never liked Trump. Is it really so hard to imagine a scenario in which, quietly, Pence and Ryan convince Republicans that Trump is so toxic that he poses a threat to their overall agenda? That they would use Russia leaks, a bad 2018 midterm or some other scandal to push for a Pence-Ryan presidency to emerge from the ashes of a failed Trump administration?
The problem, of course, is that Pence is just as dangerous and radical as Trump; he’s just a better politician. Second, Trump is too rich and too powerful and has too much media savvy to go quietly into the night. If he’s not in the White House, then he’s going to cause as much havoc in this country as he can, and the disruption he might cause is more than anyone alive has ever experienced.
So in the end, what does this all mean? It means that the Russian scandal is serious and will likely result in some irreparable damage to the United States. Unfortunately, the result of these scandals might be even worse for the country than what we have now. Sad.