Personally, I have previously denied (and hereby deny again) any knowledge of how the Trump thing ends. Whether he will complete his term, resign, be impeached, run for re-election, win re-election, be convicted of a crime or take refuge in Russia, I do not claim to know.
The 2016 election result should be a continuing reminder that it is given to few (if any) of us to see the future. Luckily for me, when I was coming up as a scribbler, journalists were told that their main job was to write up things that had happened, not what would happen next or after that.
Those old craft norms have withered away. Now we’re supposed to tell the future, about which we know much less than the past.
So, in my old fuddy-duddy way, I want to chide Trump’s former friend (and former Republican congressman) Joe Scarborough, now an MSNBC talk show host and frequent Trump critic (and Trump target) for writing a recent Washington Post op-ed headlined:
“It’s becoming clear that Trump won’t run in 2020.”
I would attach little importance to Scarborough’s prediction. The fun thing about his column is a small collection of statements from Republican senators when asked whether they will support Trump in 2020. Such as:
“Look, I’m focused on opioids,” muttered Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, suggesting that a U.S. senator is not mentally adept enough to fight a drug epidemic while also figuring out whether he backs a president in his own party….
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (Texas) refused to answer, explaining that he had not given the question much thought because things could change in the time before the 2020 campaign revs up.…
Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Corker (Tennessee) spent four days grasping for an answer to a question he called ‘unfair’ before finally saying he didn’t want to ‘make news.’ Other GOP lawmakers are no more eager to talk about the 2020 campaign than Trump himself wants to discuss the intricacies of Stormy Daniels’s lawsuit.
These are not the normal replies you would get from most same-party senators halfway through a president’s first term.
I was also struck by the tap-dancing of the Republican senators because a couple of weeks ago I pushed back a bit at the argument made by a “Frontline” documentary titled “Trump’s Takeover” that it was at least an oversimplification to argue that Trump has successfully “taken over” the Republican Party. It’s much more complicated than that, and I feel pretty confident that many Republican senators would be much happier if any of the other dozen or so more normal Republicans who sought the nomination were president, but many of them feel bound not to say so.
By the way, and in the category of things that have actually occurred already, Trump has not only said he will seek a second term but has already chosen a campaign manager. Neither of those facts convinces me that Trump will indeed seek re-election when the time comes to actually decide. But that didn’t stop CNN’s political reporter/editor Chris Cillizza from publishing a February piece headlined:
“Of COURSE Donald Trump is going to run for a second term.”
With any luck, Trump will find a way to prove both Scarborough and Cillizza wrong so he can tweet-shame them.
My other pass-along, for the moment, makes a very simple nonspeculative point, which I’m sure others have made. Writing for Slate, under the headline “Trump’s 2019 Nightmare,” Drew Littman (former chief of staff to Al Franken, by the way) notes that if the Democrats do take over the House in the midterm (and the same would be true if they took over the Senate) most of the “Will Trump Fire Mueller?” drama will be much less important.
The committees of either house have subpoena power and the power to investigate anything within their jurisdiction, but, of course, that power rests with the majority party, which controls the committee. Writes Littman in Slate:
Unlike a legislative agenda, executive oversight can be prosecuted by just one chamber. Taking control of the House would empower Democratic committee chairmen to aggressively pursue every aspect of the president’s personal and political interests. I know a little bit about how this would look. I served as the Democratic staff director of a House oversight subcommittee during the administration of Republican President George H.W. Bush, when Democrats like John Dingell, Henry Waxman, and my old boss, Barbara Boxer, wielded their oversight authority aggressively enough to make agency heads quake. Subpoenas were frequently threatened but seldom required, as Bush administration officials usually came around to the notion that compliance was the better part of valor.
There are 21 House committees that endow their chairmen with subpoena power. Some require a committee vote and/or consultation with the ranking minority member, but none endow the minority with veto power. The expansive subpoena power of Congress is limited only by countervailing constitutional rights. For example, Congress cannot force a witness to waive her right not to incriminate herself. Otherwise, Congress can compel testimony, and the production of documents, from any government employee or private citizen in America.”
One reason for Trump to hold back on firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller is that the backlash might help the Democrats take control of one or both houses of Congress. On the other hand, after the midterms, that motive will be minimized.