President Trump will be impeached, possibly before Christmas. This sobering reality is setting in as the evidence against Trump builds. His request for a favor from Ukrainian President Zelensky, bolstered by the withholding of American military assistance, is widely viewed as an illegal impeachable offense. News as October starts includes involvement by Attorney General Barr and Secretary of State Pompeo in the scandal. Trump’s response to the whistleblower, his imprudent tweets, attempting to cover up evidence, suggesting a civil war will break out if he is removed from office and accusing a Member of Congress of treason, is perhaps worse.
Trump’s Presidency is in jeopardy and he knows it. His response is that of a shady New York real estate developer in trouble with the regulators—deny everything, throw up a smokescreen, accuse the accuser, and fight back with everything you got. That approach is not likely to work in Washington, especially now that the evidence against him is overwhelming and growing. Urgency has replaced hesitancy as Democrats are no longer afraid to take Trump on. Impeachment seems inevitable.
As this sad story unfolds, we will come to understand Trump better. Among the insights on the horizon is that he did not realize that asking the Ukrainian President for a favor was wrong, that hiding evidence of his conversation with Zelensky was illegal, and that, of course, lying is not okay, even if you believe all politicians lie. If you are “the most powerful man in the world,” can’t you do whatever you want? Isn’t it true that the President is immune from criminal prosecution? And can’t he just pardon himself?
Trump is a believer in the adage that all is fair in love and politics. His rise to the Presidency reinforced his belief that to win you must fight. What many see as moral failings or worse, he sees as evidence of his strength and leadership. And given his belief that his political opponents, including the press, are out to get him, he no doubt feels justified in hitting back, hard.
Better understanding Trump, or thinking that you do, doesn’t make what is happening any less unsettling. In many ways, it makes it worse. Damage has been done, and more is coming. The impeachment process itself will be ugly. And Trump’s reactions if the Senate removes him from office could be worse. Would he leave or would he claim the process was rigged and refuse to exit?
Many of the President’s opponents are expressing relief that the Trump era may soon be over. If he goes, that relief may be short lived. A President Pence would trigger a year of world-wide confusion about who is running the country. He is unknown to most, here and abroad, and his extreme views on many matters preclude his ability to reunify the country in the way Gerald Ford did after Nixon. Even worse, Trump’s departure is likely to leave the Republican party in irreparable shambles. The party has been tarred with the racism, incompetence, and greed of Trump and the cowardly responses of Congressional Republicans to it. Many believe the brand has been permanently destroyed. And until a new party emerges to represent limited government, balanced budgets, free trade, and neutrality on social issues, we may effectively have one-party rule in most of the country.
These are unsettling times for America. As citizens, we can only hope that the nightmare ends soon and that a rebuilding process begins.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. He is a former counsel to the House Committee on Education and Labor. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy. He is the former chairman of the National College Access Network (NCAN), a group promoting success in higher education among underrepresented groups, and KnowledgeWorks Foundation, a national leader in strategic foresight and education innovation.