Now that Special Counsel Robert MuelIer has charged three Trump aides and 45 tweeted in response “NO COLLUSION!”, it’s worthwhile to step back from the blur of numbing headlines to visualize the most plausible outcomes of the Trump saga.
Norman Mailer called this neither fiction nor factual but “factional” since it’s speculation grounded in reality. So in a political version of ‘Create Your Own Adventure’, here are six likely inflection points based on the story to date…and based on both Trump’s history as well as American history.
1. Will he fire Robert Mueller? November 15, 2017. Trump has a quandry – do nothing and risk Mueller indicting family members/staff or fire him and generate a huge public backlash. “Hell, I’ve taken dozens of risks and my crazy base always sticks with me,” he confidently tells Steve Bannon. So he instructs the ranking DoJ official to fire Mueller for being too chummy with James Comey and having too many Democrats in his Special Counsel office.
Mueller immediately sues for “fraudulent termination” since these are not remotely “good causes” as required by law…and is reinstated a month later after an expedited process by a 6-3 Supreme Court. (Justices Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch dissent: “The doctrine of ‘the unitary executive,’”, they conclude, means that ‘good cause’ is effectively whatever the President says it is.”) Back to square one – with more indictments expected soon.
Polls favor impeachment by 51% to 38%.
2. Will Trump pardon everyone? December 23, 2017. “Why the hell not?”, he rhetorically asks his White House Counsel. “I pulled it off with Arpaio plus Ford came back from the Nixon pardon to lose only by a point. And it’s Christmas.”
Late today Trump releases a no-cameras statement: “I am issuing a full and complete pardon covering everyone who have been or may be indicted by Mueller because it’s time this national witch hunt was over so we can get back to making America great. And the tradition that a pardon implies guilt should now end since these are all good people caught up in politics-as-usual. They’ve suffered enough.”
He includes himself in the blanket pardon.
There is a huge bi-partisan backlash. “This is not an administration but a junta,” concludes The Nation magazine, as its ideological opposite, the National Review, also dissents. “We cannot in good conscience elevate our agenda over the Rule-of-Law. We’re conservatives, not anarchists.”
This time a 5-4 Supreme Court splits the baby. “The Founders never intended for a President to pardon himself because of the Common Law understanding that no man can be a judge in his own case. As for other family and staff pardoned, we remand to a lower court to determine whether a defendant’s possible criminal conduct includes culpable behavior by the President.” His polls now fall to 28% favorable.
3. Will impeachment proceedings proceed in the Repuiblican 115thCongress? January 20, 2018. Speaker Paul Ryan publicly announces that “it would be unfair if there were impeachment proceedings contaminating the jury pools in the Special Counsel’s cases.” (Privately, he admits to his chief of staff, “We’re screwed – can’t live with him or without him. I had to pick my poison.”)
4. If Democrats win the House majority in mid-terms, will he be impeached…and then convicted? November 6, 2018. An anti-Trump wave election elevates the 198 House Democratic Caucus to 230 seats and the majority. On January 9, Speaker Pelosi announces that the Judiciary Committee under chair Jerry Nadler – a brainy and un-flamboyant House veteran — will initiate impeachment proceedings. After four weeks of revealing hearings, the panel votes 24-17 – and the full House later concurs 250-188 – to charge Trump with three Articles of Impeachment:
According to Chairman Nadler: “First, it’s beyond doubt that Trump did try to ‘Obstruct Justice’ by his own incriminating statements, actions, tweets and pardons – especially the firings of five prosecutors overseeing investigations into him [Bharara, Yates, Comey, Rosenstein, Mueller].”
“Second, he did profit from foreign emoluments by publicizing and maintaining ownership in properties run by his children that kept receiving discretionary benefits from foreign entities. His defense that ‘my sons are brilliant’ wasn’t taken literally by the Committee.”
“Third, it was ‘Dereliction-of-duty- and Abuse-of-power” when his administration failed to do anything significant after Russia interfered with the 2016 election – or even admit that it had; actively sabotaged Obamacare; persisted in undermining respect for major American institutions like the Judiciary and – consistently demeaning the First Amendment — the Media; lying voluminously on major issues; and ignored settled science on global warming, with catastrophic consequences.”
The Senate – which is split 50-50 and has never convicted an impeached president – fails to convict by 62-38 (2/3 being required) as 12 Republicans vote yes due to ”a Niagara of damning evidence,” says Sen. Corker. Headlines everywhere blare “Pyrrhic Victory.”
5. ”The Terrorists are coming! The terrorists are coming!” January 20, 2019. There’s a horrible ISIS attack at LAX when a suicide bomber blows himself up at a terminal entrance killing 43. Three hours later, Trump commandeers all network and cable news to say: “Enough’s enough! We will not rest until we have won this Third World War. So I am today announcing a new National State of Emergency – as presidents Adams, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman and Bush43 did in their wars. Safety First! America First!”
His “Emergency Declaration” allows for pre-trial detention of up to a year, use of Armed Forces domestically to quell any “disturbances”, and the requirement that state laws possibly affecting immigration get DoJ clearance before enactment.
“He thinks he’s Bruce Willis in Siege,” tweets @NicholsUprising, adding “Political Correctness forbids me to use the words ‘Reichstag Fire.’”
While Trump was prepared, so were the ACLU and ProtectDemocracy, whose lawyers argue, “Commander-in-chief of the armed forces doesn’t mean Commander-in-chief of the Nation. Recall that the Constitution does make an exception for a domestic ‘rebellion,’ like the Civil War. But LAX was not a ‘rebellion’.” David Frum goes on @Lawrence: “The chance of an American being killed by ISIS on home soil is less than being killed by your flat screen TV falling on you. Yet we don’t have States of Emergency for Flat Screen TVs.”
Two weeks later the Supreme Court overturns it. “The so-called State of Emergency executive order is null-and-void,” writes Justice Ginsburg for the 5-4 majority, “because it has no basis in law, in the Constitution or in an actual threat level. As even an originalist reading of the Constitution shows, Americans elected a president, not a monarch.”
6. Run Again in 2020? February 15, 2020. With poll numbers stuck in the high-20s and significantly trailing possible Democratic nominees, Trump’s family pleads with him to bow out gracefully: “Daddy, you’ll always be the 45th president. Walk away before they make you crawl away. Pride should not require a 74 year old man run for re-election.”
The next day Trump appears at a Rose Garden press conference in front of an enlarged map of states that he won in red and that he lost in blue.”
“Look at my landslide last time and the record we’ve created – in jobs, spirit, respect around the world. But given some unexpected health concerns and obligations to my family’s world-wide holdings, I won’t be running in 2020 for reelection. I love this job but don’t need this job.”
Eight months later the ticket of Mike Pence and Nikki Haley – their posters read “America Luuvs Guvs” – lose in an electoral rout, 70 million to 54 million votes and 388 electoral votes to 150. The Senate goes Democratic 53-47 and the House Democratic majority grows from 228 to 240.
The next morning, the President-elect – who ran against ”Corrupt Don” and for “The Best America” — tells a room of delirious Democrats: “Plutocracy posing as patriotism has been decisively rejected. No more stupid tweets about stupid feuds. We’ve won the American Future! We will…”
Make your voice heard! Get the attention of President Razzle Dazzle as he scours Twitter at 6am…