With a few more races to be decided it is clear Democrats have a commanding majority in the House of Representatives. That majority will allow Democrats to act and pass a wide range of initiatives next session. The question is will the Senate, which remains under Republican control, support any of them?
That question clearly looms large for Donald Trump. If the House impeached Trump would the Senate do the same? It is clearly a concern for the president, considering the series of moves he has made since firing former FBI Director James Comey. And his actions have only accelerated the weeks before and after the midterm election in an effort to protect him from impeachment.
Long before the November 6 election, Trump has been focused on confirming judges. Eighty-four judges have been confirmed as a result, including two Supreme Court justices – the most recent and controversial choice being Brett Kavanaugh.
Trump’s appointment of conservative justices who are indebted to him for their new posts is an insurance policy that they will rule in his favor if Mueller’s investigation should reach their court. Clearly, Kavanaugh is the ultimate goal-line stand in this respect. If any cases about the Mueller investigation reach the Supreme Court, it is clear Trump expects Kavanaugh to side with him. This is why many people believe Kavanaugh should recuse himself from any Mueller case before the Court – especially after his confirmation hearing left many unresolved questions, pointedly asked by Senator Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and others, about his involvement in and knowledge about the Russia investigation.
Trump did little on this from following Kavanaugh’s confirmation, until he fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions less than 12 hours after all the polls closed on November 6, thus setting in motion a series of moves to protect him from the Mueller investigation and impeachment.
Trump long complained about the fact that Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation and wasn’t protecting him as a result. With reports of possible indictments coming, Trump took the first chance to fire Sessions – even going so far as to insist that he leave that very day. Within minutes of Sessions’ firing, Trump installed Matt Whitaker, an unknown Iowa lawyer and Republican activist who had become Sessions’ chief of staff, and is now the Acting Attorney General.
Last but not least is the nuclear option: Fire Mueller. This option is the equivalent of mutually assured destruction in warfare.
Whitaker, without Senate confirmation and with fewer qualifications, is clearly there to do one job: Protect Trump from the Mueller investigation. With hours of cable news appearances available as evidence that he would do just that, it is clear Whitaker opposes the investigation and has offered many ways to end it. For that reason alone he should recuse himself. Yet Whitaker has refused to do so and that suits Trump just fine.
While Trump couldn’t make any moves during the fall campaign without risking political backlash, he did spend weeks campaigning trying to win Republican Senate seats. And he didn’t stop once the election was over. With the Florida Senate seat in a recount (it was decided Sunday in favor of Republican Rick Scott), Trump used his Twitter account to campaign for Scott just as he did during his visits to Florida – as if it were a life or death mission.
Well, it just might be that. If there is a move to impeach Trump based on the Mueller investigation in the House, controlled by Democrats, then he needs to make sure there are enough votes in the Senate to reject it. Trump is clearly betting that the more Republicans there are in the Senate the less likely it is that he will be removed from office.
That is what saved Bill Clinton. The House voted to impeach Clinton but it was the Senate that acquitted him 55-45 in 1999. However, that would require virtually every Republican to reject the findings of the Mueller investigation. That may also explain why Trump is planning at least one campaign trip to Mississippi to make sure the controversial Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith wins her runoff election against Democrat and former Congressman Mike Espy.
Trump is also now hedging his bets with the House by supporting Nancy Pelosi for Speaker. Or so he thinks. Trump clearly believes he can flatter his way into Nancy Pelosi’s heart by promoting her as Speaker, even offering to round up Republican votes for her to make she sure wins the post.
Pelosi will be Speaker, as I wrote last week, without any votes from Republicans, let alone with help from Trump. Nor will she be persuaded not to impeach Trump based on his overtures. No, Pelosi will decide based on the facts and the evidence – as she and everyone else should.
But wait, there’s more…
Trump is not only lobbying to make Pelosi Speaker, he’s also lobbying for Republicans – Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio – to lead the GOP on the Judiciary Committee that will address the Mueller investigation and any impeachment hearings. Graham and Jordan have emerged as two of Trump’s most fierce defenders. Placing them in leadership positions on the Judiciary Committee to derail hearings, squash evidence, and launch investigations of Democrats is exactly what Trump wants from them. They appear more than willing to oblige.
Last but not least is the nuclear option: Fire Mueller. This option is the equivalent of mutually assured destruction in warfare. Trump would fire Mueller out of desperation – a last choice left on the table in an effort to postpone his fate in the investigation. But, postponing is not stopping. Firing Mueller would insure that Trump would set in motion a crisis that would engulf him, his administration, and likely accelerate his demise.
That doesn’t mean Trump won’t do it. And doing so won’t end the investigation or its findings from coming to light either. How that ends, no one knows.
Ultimately, all these measures and more won’t be enough to save Trump if the investigation and the facts prove there was wrongdoing by the president and his associates. But don’t underestimate the lengths Trump will go to save himself. And that means everything we have been through these last two years is nothing compared to what we are likely to go through in the days to come.