Let’s run through some of the highlights of the last week:
Tuesday, May 9th: Trump fires FBI Director James Comey citing his unorthodox behavior during the Clinton email investigation, and the subsequent public reaction as precipitating factors.
Wednesday, May 10th: Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office and only allows the Russian media to cover it.
Thursday, May 11th: Trump, refuting the prior claims of his press team, tells Lester Holt that the ongoing investigation looking into ties between the Trump campaign/administration and Russia did play a role in Comey’s dismissal. He then tweets that he finally agrees with Rosie O’Donnell.
Friday, May 12th: Trump tweets that the “Fake media is working overtime today!” Then he tweets that he’s a “very active” president and thus, it is simply not possible for his surrogates to be accurate all the time. He then threatens to cancel future press briefings outright and threatens Comey with “tapes” of conversations. Spicer is then asked about Trump’s “tapes” and does not confirm or deny their existence, he simply refuses to answer the question and moves on.
Saturday, May 13th: Trump gives a commencement speech at Liberty University in which he calls critics “pathetic.”
Sunday, May 14th (Mother’s Day): Plays golf and wishes Melania a happy Mother’s day on Twitter.
Monday, May 15th: The Washington Post breaks a story that states that Trump told Russian officials (Lavrov and Kislyak) code-word intelligence which is above a top-secret classification. National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster issues a statement in which he says the story, “as reported is false.” But then he goes into a tip-toeing denial that never outright dismisses the truth of the report saying, “At no time—at no time—were intelligence sources or methods discussed.” The Post’s story does not say that intelligence methods or sources were discussed. Trump hops on Twitter at 4 am and does not refute the story, but essentially says he’s the president and he can do whatever he wants.
It’s been quite an eventful, calamitous and self-destructive seven days.
But if you’re thinking,” this is it, this is when everyone starts to turn on him, fire up the impeachment machine!” you’d be wise to pump the brakes. Despite the chaos of the last few days, the Republicans are still very much in line behind the president. Sure, some Grand Old Partiers have said they are “troubled” by the Comey firing, and a few stated that the disclosure of highly classified information to the Russians was concerning and disturbing.
Words that can easily be pivoted upon if the chaos ever stops vortexing. The most brazen initial indictment from the right came from Tennessee Senator Bob Corker who said the Trump administration is “obviously in a downward spiral right now.” But even that statement provides an easy way out; he can cite growing pains and jump right back on the Trump train whenever he feels like it. Today, John McCain released a statement calling Trump’s intel-sharing with the Russians “deeply disturbing” and criticizing the president for ignoring the array of abuses perpetrated by the Kremlin. But even McCain’s statement is mostly toothless, because legislatively, he nearly always falls in line.
Overall, these reactions have been tepid and non-committal. The Hill broke down the responses of GOP senators to the Comey firing and found that 23 supported the president’s decision, while 13 were critical of the method and timing, and 11 neither supported nor criticized the firing.
These numbers are important to keep in mind whenever the word impeachment enters the fray, as a 2/3rds majority is needed in the senate to remove a president from office. That’s remarkably difficult when the opposition party has control, and with the current makeup it’s even more of a long shot. 19 republican senators would have to vote for removal. That’s a big number; a mass exodus is the only way it would happen. And removal through the oft-mentioned 25th amendment brings another series of high hurtles. Congress and the vice president need to agree that the president is unable to perform the duties of the office.
It’s also worth noting that as of today, May 16th, 2017 there are no legitimate grounds for impeachment that would have any chance of removing Trump from office. Despite a massive amount of circumstantial evidence, a smoking gun has yet to surface.
As stated in Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. constitution,
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Right now, there is no concrete evidence that implies treason—there just isn’t. Could that change? Of course it could. A bombshell report could hit today and force the GOP to flee from Trump. But it will take a lot. It will take an event that swings public perception dramatically.
Small drips of information, an array of nefarious connections, a series of embarrassing missteps and some authoritarian posturing will not lead to impeachment. If we continue along this road, bombshell-free, Trump’s approval numbers will continue to decline and the GOP will likely lose some seats, but Trump will remain president.
Currently, the backlash from Trump’s—not exactly enormous, but influential enough—base is enough to scare most republicans from going against the president. The majority of republicans will continue to support Trump until it’s within their best interest not to—regardless of how vehemently they may disagree with his behavior or his approach.
Party loyalty is a debilitating crutch, on both sides of the aisle.
If you’re looking for free-thinking, heart-guided idealists, you came to the wrong place.
by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.