This post is based on an article by Elizabeth Drew, published in the June 22 issue of the New York Review of books. Her article is titled, Trump: The Presidency in Peril. Read the original article here. All quotations in this post are from the Elizabeth Drew article.
This article considers the question of whether or not the Trump presidency is crumbing, whether or not it’s on its last legs. Obviously this is impossible to know for sure, as it depends on exactly what happens next.
But there are strong indications that the Trump presidency is in big trouble. Drew’s article is a discussion of these problems.
Trumps’s number one problem right now is the ongoing Russian investigation. The appointment of Robert Mueller as a special council has given this investigation some new teeth. But this investigation is limited to criminal acts only. Some say that this is a problem and that a lot of the objectionable actions Trump is accused of are not criminal acts.
However Drew points out that there are actual crimes that Trump may be guilty of.
“Among the crimes that the Watergate defendants were convicted of and that might be applicable to the more recent misadventure are bribery, subornation of perjury, criminal obstruction of justice, money laundering, tax evasion, witness tampering, and violations of election laws including campaign finance laws. Other crimes that might have occurred in the Russia affair are violations of the foreign agent registration laws and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, perjury itself (including lying to federal investigators), plus espionage and even treason.”
And there are other problems associated with the Russia investigation. All of the bizarre actions of the president toward Mike Flynn are still a serious problem. Trump ignored all kinds of warnings that Flynn was compromised, had connections to various foreign governments and that Flynn had lied to numerous people. In spite of this, Trump appointed Flynn as the National Security Advisor.
Here is one example of Flynn’s egregious actions. Flynn asked the Obama government to to hold off on its plan to arm Kurdish forces. This was something Turkey didn’t want and, since Flynn was a paid lobbyist for the Turkish government, his actions could be interpreted as treason.
Here is another example of Flynn’s unacceptable behavior that Drew mentions: “In late May, it was reported that Flynn had told Kislyak that it would be preferable if Russia didn’t retaliate against sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in response to Russia’s meddling in the election. Flynn was leading the Russians to believe that they’d receive much better treatment under a President Trump and the Russians went along.”
The list of Flynn’s sins, goes on and on.
However, Flynn is just one of of the problems that Trump is finding more and more difficult to explain away. Lawrence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School is working on a list of impeachable offenses against Trump, most of which concern Trump’s acceptance of various kinds of emoluments or payments by foreign governments. “Examples include accepting money paid by foreign governments to Trump’s luxury hotel just down the street from the White House in order to curry favor with its owner, and Trump’s failure to cut himself off from ownership of a business that has projects all over the world.” And this is just the tip of a huge iceberg. Tribe has been collecting impeachable offenses by Trump since the very beginning of his presidency up to now.
Another Trump problem is that he can be accused of impeding the FBI’s Russian investigation. Drew notes that “In addition to his request to Comey that he “let…go” his investigation of Flynn, this could include Trump’s firing of Comey for, as he ultimately admitted, “this Russia thing.” Or Trump’s saying to Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and to Ambassador Kislyak, of firing Comey: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Any of these things, says Drew could be taken as impeachable misdeeds.
And then there are all the leaks coming from the white house staff and the various intelligence services. Drew says the massive volume of these leaks is an indication of “the state of near collapse of the White House staff.”
The leakers reveal that Trump constantly screams at his staff and that he watches right wing TV for hours at a time. White House insiders and visitors to the Oval Office “have come away stunned by Trump’s minimal attention span, his appalling lack of information, his tendency to say more than he knows. (Intelligence officials have been instructed to put as much of his daily briefing as possible in the form of pictures.)”
Another thing that alienates Trump’s staff is that he sullies the reputations of everyone who tries to support him. The respected general HR McMaster, has now lost much of his previous reputation.
And worse things happen to many who work for Trump, even at a distance. The Washington Post reported that Trump had revealed highly classified intelligence about ISIS to Lavrov and Kislyak. This seems “to have endangered the life of an Israeli intelligence asset who had been planted among ISIS forces, something extremely hard to pull off.”
One big question is will Congressional Republicans finally get tired of Trump and decide that they have more to lose than to gain from supporting him? And it may well be that the survival of Trump could depend on what congressional Republicans do. Will they turn on him as soon as the 2018 midterms? Drew says that “too many different unknowns are in play to predict the outcome of the midterms, though the respected Cook Report anticipates substantial Republican losses in the House. Republicans are starting to panic.”
One problem that may be undermining Trumps congressional support is the fact that legislators thought Trump would help them get legislation, like a replacement of Obama Care and a tax cut, through congress. But so far, Trump seems to be incapable of passing anything. His sole accomplishment so far has been the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. They did get their version of health care through the house, but final approval still depends on Senate approval. And the fact that Republicans know that Mike Pence, if he became president, would back their legislative program, gives them additional reason to abandon Trump.
Drew says that “it’s possible that when Trump becomes too politically expensive for them, the current Republicans might be ready to dump him by one means or another.” After all, this is what happened to Nixon says Drew. But, says Drew
“Trump, like Nixon, depends on the strength of his core supporters, but unlike Nixon, he can also make use of social media, Fox News, and friendly talk shows to keep them loyal. Cracking Trump’s base could be a lot harder than watching Nixon’s diminish as he appeared increasingly like a cornered rat. Moreover, Trump is, for all his deep flaws, in some ways a cannier politician than Nixon; he knows how to lie to his people to keep them behind him.”
The really critical question says Drew, will Trumps base ever realize that he has betrayed them. She says that,
“People can have a hard time recognizing that they’ve been conned. And Trump is skilled at flimflam, creating illusions. But how long can he keep blaming his failures to deliver on others—Democrats, the “dishonest media,” the Washington “swamp”?
None of this is knowable yet. What is knowable is that an increasingly agitated Donald Trump’s hold on the presidency is beginning to slip.”
Post by Fred Hanselmann
June 7, 2017