Is Trump in Trouble?

The outrage of the day is over President Trump’s allegedly sharing classified information with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. That is either high treason or wholly appropriate, depending on who you listen to.

If those now calling for Trump’s impeachment hadn’t been calling for his impeachment for the last six months, their position would be stronger. As it is, they might just be background noise.

At this point I have no opinion on the material facts or on whether Trump should be impeached over it. I would remind people that building a case for impeachment is not a matter of marshalling objective facts. Impeachment is a political and subjective act.

A “high crime and misdemeanor” is whatever the House of Representatives thinks it is and, contrary to what you might believe, nothing passes the House against the wishes of the House leadership.

As of this morning the RealClearPolitics average of polls on Trump’s approval rating is 40.1% and falling. That’s still not in the danger zone. If it falls below the previous apparent floor of 38% into the 20s, Trump will be in trouble. Otherwise not so much.

I did not vote for Trump. I wish he were not president. I don’t think his shenanigans improve his bargaining position.

However, I don’t believe in government by impeachment and the only advice I can provide to those who do is be careful what you wish for.

The Republican-led Congress didn’t impeach President Obama. That wasn’t because he didn’t provide grounds. It was because his approval rating was too high and impeaching him would have placed the Republicans’ majority and their own jobs at risk.

Trump’s approval rating is dreadfully low. It has both a ceiling of around 49% and a floor of around 38% so far. If that floor doesn’t hold, Trump could be in trouble.

22 comments… add one
  • Andy

    This whole story is sad on so many levels and I think this is an excellent demonstration of the dysfunction in our national capital. It’s clear to me the cohort of insular and sectarian elites on all sides of this story care about playing the palace intrigue game above all else.

    Trump, it seems to me, is in way over his head – he apparently can’t predict the political reaction to his actions, nor can he and his administration respond to them in a coherent way. It’s only been a couple months and his VP has already gone on TV twice to explain actions that turned out not to be true. How much more is Pence willing to let Trump damage his credibility?

    There’s a notable lack of organization and discipline in this White House and given Trump’s personality, that will end him politically sooner or later. His enemies list is growing, not shrinking and it’s his own fault. After the past week, I think the chances of impeachment proceedings have increased significantly.

  • Andy

    BTW, I didn’t vote for Trump either and I think my vote for Johnson has been completely justified after seeing this administration and the aftermath of Clinton’s failure. Plus, he was the only candidate not subjected to a criminal federal investigation which is a good, if low, bar.

  • CuriousOnlooker

    If you Trump is telling the truth, I think he wishes he had taped those conversations with Comey – it’s pretty funny it appears Comey was the one who recorded their meetings.

    If Comey did write those memos and the reporting so far is accurate, I think Trump is in big trouble.

    I agree with you Dave, the key is McConnell and Ryan, they have limits and Trump is crossing them. Indeed, I wonder if Jason Chaffetz is plan B. Seems awfully convenient he decides not to run for reelection, freeing him to dig into the mess.

    Trump seems not to realize it’s not the campaign anymore, where Republicans in Congress had to live with him for their own reelection and they had no recourse to get him off the ticket. Now there is a legal way to get rid of Trump and Republicans in congress may conclude that they will do better with the Vice President (who was one of them) in charge.

  • Andy

    Curious,

    The other scenario is that the GoP loses the House in 2018 and it’s not far-fetched. If that happens, I think impeachment is almost certain if Trump doesn’t get his sh!t together.

  • Guarneri

    That’s pretty much where I find myself. The hysteria and wild eyed “analysis” that has prevailed ever since this election casts all the commentary on the matter in a dim light. That said, I confess that very same crazed commentary has not encouraged me to really engage.

    I did, however, have a conversation last night with a friend much more engaged. From this came three observations I have. Any input from GE commenters welcome.

    1. Almost one year after the original surfacing of the notion of collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russians, there has been no evidence presented. The way that town leaks, as we have seen, that seems odd.

    2. The notion of untoward divulging of information during the meeting with Lavrov has been publicly disputed by the attendees. Just the usual unnamed sources.

    3. The notion of obstruction of justice is particularly odd. We are asked to believe that Trump requested the FBI director halt an investigation. Setting aside context etc, we are then asked to believe that this is an impeachable offense that the stand-up FBI director chose to ignore. Further, we are asked to believe either that he did not divulge this to other agents, or that in turn those agents chose to ignore the event. I guess the FBI doesn’t care about impeachable offenses. Yet we do hear that McCabe testifies that the Russian investigation has not been hindered in any way by that lawbreaker Trump.

    Its all odd.

  • Janis Gore

    It’s odd because no one knows how to deal with an ignorant, unethical, conspiracy-mongering, self-indulgent crackpot in the White House. I mean, what could go wrong?

  • Janis Gore

    “National Security Council officials have strategically included Trump’s name in “as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned,” according to one source, who relayed conversations he had with NSC officials.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-trip-idUSKCN18D0C7

  • CuriousOnlooker

    Andy, I currently don’t have Democrats winning in 2018 and then impeaching Trump as a high probability.

    I see it as going two ways.
    First, the investigations will find the “fire”, and Republicans will do the deed before the midterms. I just don’t think Republicans in Congress will fight to the death for Trump if Trump is seen as a huge political liability.
    Second, it turns out there is no “fire”, just “smoke”. As it stands, Democrats intend to make 2018 about whether to impeach Trump. But without fire, Republican VOTERS are going to see it as an illegitimate coup, and will they ever be fired up. It would be like 1998 but on steroids.

    At the speed things are going, I feel the fever that’s building can’t keep building for another year. Its going to break well before then.

  • I don’t think it will be like 1998. More like 1861.

    So far there’s tons of smoke and no fire. There’s also lots of propaganda, the most recent being perpetrated by the NYT re: Comey’s most recent missive.

  • CStanley

    Re:smoke without fire

    I find the reactions to Trump more alarming than Trump himself. I think he’d be fairly ineffective and embarrassing and whatnot, but mostly harmless (perhaps even finding a groove and having some success) if all of the controversies that he creates weren’t ginned up. I also feel that the political and media establishment has always covered for presidents personal foibles in the interest of putting country first. I concede that this president has more foibles and possibly more that relate directly to job performance, but I think it’s telling that the establishment assumed he was unfit right from the start rather than giving him a chance first.

    Case in point as to whether Trumps initial actions are as problematic as the reactions: the “leak” of intel. What’s been reported is that Trump discussed code word intel, and that the reason it was problematic is that a source was endangered because the Russians might infer that the source was Israel and might pass that along to Iran, which would endanger the source. So, the NYT decides that the appropriate course of action is to publish the information that everyone was concerned would leak to Iran?

    Part of my argument here is that if you want me to see Trump as the reckless child who must be removed from a position of power, you first need to use your own position of power responsibly. Who are the grown ups here?

  • CuriousOnlooker

    Dave, before 1861 there was the nullification crisis. It’s all speculation, but I tend to think a nullification type crisis would have to occur before an 1861 crisis.

    But the crazy thing is a 1998 scenario could be devestating to the Dems. If both sides get energized and vote, the house would be status quo (GOP) but the democrats would be devestatated in the senate. In that scenario, without leverage in congress, and a President they cannot tolerate; that’s the ingredients for something stupid.

    It’s a lot of ifs; let’s see where it goes. I am doubtful they will find fire with Russia, but Comey – being a crude bully is very Trump like and believable.

  • Modulo Myself

    I don’t see Trump being impeached unless Democrats win in 2018. And I can easily see a Democratic capture of the house being contested by Trump with a series of 4 am tweets about fraud. And then what? It’s the same shit that we have now. How will the NYTimes respond to the claims of an idiot as he tries to stop the election from being validated?

    As far as 1861 goes–the Civil War was fought because the private property of slaveholders deserved to be confiscated. That’s it. We are so far from any thing like that right now. So very far. What’s happened is that the bottom has dropped out for a great deal of voters and they are firing off random bullshit as they fall. If Trump gets removed there will be overweight dudes open carrying in defiance, and that’s about it.

  • Modulo Myself

    CStanley,

    I suspect that they decided he was unfit after having met with him. Despite all the crying about leaks, it sounds like the leaks are coming as last-ditch efforts to steer the five-year old moron. Yates testified that they told Trump point-blank Flynn was compromised. And what happened? Nothing, until weeks later the leaks came.

    So we have no idea how many times Trump has blurted out stuff to leaders to whom he wants to prove he’s not an idiot. And how many conversations have gone over his head when this has been explained to him in one-page bullet point documents.

  • CStanley

    Modulo- I don’t find that particular instance compelling because the moment Yates informed Trump, Flynn was no longer compromised so it seemed like a rather manufactured crisis. If there was more to the conversation, or if the issue was related to some of the later findings about Flynn, maybe the point of Trump failing to act would have more merit.

    And really my point is that if all these people are immediately coming to the conclusion that Trump is too fundamentally flawed to serve as POTUS, they still need to make that case to the public in a way that doesn’t undermine their own credibility. I’m persuadable but not persuaded at this point, and it’s obvious that a large chunk of voters will never be persuaded and are only going to harden their support for Trump when they are given the impression that his WH is under siege by the establishment. I’m not in that group but I do understand them, and even to some extent agree that the establishment is partly acting out of self preservation.

  • Modulo Myself

    When news that Flynn lied was leaked, he was gone. So if that news hadn’t been leaked, the Russians would have leverage on him because they could leak the news on their own and have him fired.

  • TastyBits

    Anybody who did not vote for Hillary Clinton helped get President Trump elected. If the idea of a President Trump was so horrible, you should have voted for Hillary Clinton.

    As such, I would suggest kicking back and enjoying the show.

    Also, I am not sure what you all think is going to happen when President Trump leaves office one way or another. Using intel for political gain is now an acceptable tactic. Does anybody really believe that there is a way to uncross the Rubicon?

    The world that you knew is over. The smoke you smell is the place burning to the ground.

    Burn baby burn.

  • Gray Shambler

    Hillary’s platform: Immigrants and transsexual bathrooms.
    Trumps platform: America.
    To me, Obama was nothing but a black Fred Astaire, of course Trump can’t be that, so the media hates him.
    I, still have hope, if he fires enough sycophants.

  • Anybody who did not vote for Hillary Clinton helped get President Trump elected.

    Not quite true but I think that reflects the error made by the Clinton campaign. It doesn’t matter whether you get 51% or 100% of the votes in California, New York, and Massachusetts if you lose the upper Midwest while racking up higher percentages in those states.

    Consequently, there are about 2 million voters in states carried by Clinton who didn’t vote either for Clinton or for Trump and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference if they had voted for Clinton.

    Burn baby burn.

    You know, I think that’s exactly what some of those who voted for Trump wanted. At this juncture it does not appear that they’ll be disappointed.

  • michael reynolds

    This cake is baked. Mueller as Special Prosecutor is a dagger aimed at the heart of the whole Trump crime family. Manafort and Flynn will be indicted on money-laundering and collusion charges. Kushner may be as well. Trump will be named as an unindicted co-conspirator – just like Nixon.

    I’ve been telling you this was real and serious and Dave you keep trying to ignore it. You’re sitting out Watergate 2.0. Cheap shots at the press are beneath you. The NYT and WaPo are heroes, as are the leakers whose numbers are legion.

    How this plays out after Mueller exposes Trump as the crook and thief and traitor he is, who knows? Trump’s a mental patient and anything from public nervous breakdown to resignation to holding on as a wounded bull is possible. But either way Trump’s hold over the GOP will fade, his henchmen will lawyer up and flip, his supporters on the hill will start hemming and hawing, his political power peaked weeks ago and ain’t coming back.

    His only play now is a war and hopes that he will rally the nation. If he tries it, it won’t work. This experiment in ‘let’s elect an imbecile’ has failed miserably.

  • CuriousOnlooker

    We have special council, DAG is testifying tomorrow, Comey next Wed. Get your popcorn out – this could be the most watched congressional testimony since Anita Hill. Will Comey cripple Trump, exonerate Trump, or leave a nice stab wound like he did with Hillary. Will Comey play out the drama and require more then 1 day?

  • Andy

    Cstanley,

    What’s been reported is that Trump discussed code word intel, and that the reason it was problematic is that a source was endangered because the Russians might infer that the source was Israel and might pass that along to Iran, which would endanger the source. So, the NYT decides that the appropriate course of action is to publish the information that everyone was concerned would leak to Iran?

    That is something I wanted to highlight as well. This leak (or rather series of leaks) is an attack on Trump and has nothing to do with protecting intel sources. The concern trolling here is really epic in scale. The leakers have put out so many details now that their actions dwarf any security concerns from Trump’s discussion with the Russians. ISIS counter-intelligence will have a much easier time finding the mole in their midst (assuming the reporting is accurate of course, which we shouldn’t assume).

    More troubling generally is use of intelligence as a domestic political weapon, an aspect of the beltway court intrigue that’s increased in recent years. It’s a dangerous slippery slope for a number of reasons.

    And, just as a point of fact, since the press doesn’t seem to understand this – it is impossible for the President to violate the law concerning disclosure of classified information. The rules regarding classification (such as what is and isn’t classified) are governed by executive order and thus are entirely under the purview of the Executive. The President is the ultimate decider when it comes to who is authorized to receive information and who isn’t. Thus a President can share anything they want with anyone they want and historically, every President has shared intelligence with foreign nations as well as the public.

    MM,

    So if that news hadn’t been leaked, the Russians would have leverage on him because they could leak the news on their own and have him fired.

    This never made any sense. The only way the Russians could blackmail Flynn is if they knew he lied to the VP about what he said to the Russians and they almost certainly didn’t since most in the administration didn’t know it until the leaks came out. So there was no blackmail/leverage threat until the leaks actually occurred. Regardless, that is not much when it comes to blackmail compared to all the other stuff Flynn is being accused of which, if true, would constitute a much larger blackmail concern.

  • steve

    Andy- The major news sources have repeatedly made it clear that Trump could not have broken the law. They question his judgment in choosing to pass on the intelligence or suggest that he did it w/o even knowing that he was giving away information. It is more a question of competence than legality.

    Gray Shambler- Trump’s platform was…………..Trump! Always was, always will be.

    Drew- What my friendly conservatives have been obsessed with is the claim that the DNC worked who died was really the one who gave info to Wikileaks. They are all convinced. And how could they not be when the investigator they believe brought us the results of other important investigations. I ma sure you remember how that guy made us aware that there are hundreds of lesbian gangs roaming our cities, carrying pink pistols, raping women and forcing children to become homosexuals. (True, not making this up. They really believe this guy.)

    Steve

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