Will Trump run in 2020? Scarborough weighs in, and GOP senators tap-dance

REUTERS/Mike Segar
President Donald Trump has not only said he will seek a second term but has already chosen a campaign manager.

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. 

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Comments (20)

  1. Submitted by cory johnson on 04/24/2018 - 09:39 am.

    Of course he will run…

    His ego wouldnt allow him to do otherwise. Since Mueller hasn’t found anything proving collusion with Russia it would be silly to fire him. At this point Mueller needs to find a face saving way out of this farce so firing him would give him exactly what he wants.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/24/2018 - 05:06 pm.

      So far

      the investigation is still ongoing and is turning over all sorts of rocks with interesting critters crawling out from under them.
      And direct collusion between Trump himself and Russian nationals is not necessary — it would be enough if Trump knowingly benefited from the actions of foreign nations, or acted in a way to impede the investigation (such as lying to Mueller) and thus obstructing justice, which is impeachable.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/24/2018 - 05:11 pm.


      Firing Mueller wouldn’t stop the investigation by New York state prosecutors (not the Federal justice system) which will be tried in NY courts.

    • Submitted by Henk Tobias on 04/25/2018 - 07:55 am.

      Much of what Mueller has

      or hasn’t found is not yet known. Unlike the more partisan investigations carried out by his fellow Republicans Mueller runs a very tight ship so leaks are few and far between. What we do know is that 4 people have been charged, two, close Trump confidant and former Nation Security Advisor Michael Flinn and George Papadopoulos Trump campaign foreign policy advisor have plead guilty. Two other Trump campaign officials with close ties to various Russian “business” people, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates remain under indictment. To be fair they’ve plead not guilty.

      And as has been mentioned Trumps personal attorney is under indictment in the State of New York. Apparently Mueller’s probe found evidence of criminal activity so compelling that the Assistant Attorney General of the United States and the district’s Federal judge signed an order that allowed the FBI to seize documents and materials related to Cohen’s law practice.

      Again Mueller runs a tight ship, given what we are seeing I suspect that collussion with Russia is the least of Trump’s worries.

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/24/2018 - 09:55 am.

    My question is who ? And under what sort of platform ?

    I would guess that Trump’s ability to act in the second-half of the first term would be strongly restricted. A lame-duck the day after with the strong possibility of impeachment in the half term.

    So who would run against him or in his stead ?

    A kindlier, more honest, thoughtful “Trump” stand-in? Is that possible or would it even draw in the Trump hardcore? I would assume the hardcore would be even more defiantly for the “real Trump” after his hard slog of the next few years.

    Given how abjectly former Trump opponents have groveled for him (Cruz writing a glowing Trump review in Time !?!) they would hardly be well placed for a run. There is no strong opposing candidate (looking at you, Michael Avenatti–what are you doing in 2020 ?) so Trump may be the only candidate that would not completely fracture the Republican party.

    Could this be the end of the party of Lincoln ?

    But that’s not to say the Democrats have a clear way forward–who would they run?

  3. Submitted by Sandra Marks on 04/24/2018 - 10:03 am.

    He can run…

    …but he’ll never win. I guarantee it.

    • Submitted by cory johnson on 04/24/2018 - 11:07 am.

      how many…

      Experts said that in 2016?

      • Submitted by edward sheehy on 04/26/2018 - 04:24 pm.

        Won’t get fooled again…

        Independents and some Democrats were willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt in 2016 against Hillary. Now after seeing Trump in action for 2 years, my bet is that many of them have buyers remorse and will not support Trump again (depending of course on the Republican and Democratic alternative).

    • Submitted by Misty Martin on 04/24/2018 - 11:55 am.

      I wouldn’t be too sure to say that.

      After the last election, I believe anything is possible. It’s scary, actually.

  4. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/24/2018 - 10:33 am.

    who cares….

    We all know that Trump is mostly disliked by many of the GOP in Congress and many in the electorate. It is true that the GOP is divided over Trump. (IMO)

    However, the attractiveness of Trump as a candidate not only depends on his agenda but the agenda of the democratic candidate.

    If the Dems insist of running a candidate like the failed HC, the attractiveness of the candidacy of DT improves greatly.

  5. Submitted by Tim Smith on 04/24/2018 - 12:33 pm.

    Now there is an agenda

    Average Americans can embrace, lets be angry obstructionists, get elected and then let the subpoenas fly! Whew, I feel safer and more secure already.

    Funny how interested dems are in investigations now after scoffing at Benghazi, Fast and Furious and Hillary”s crimes, lies and cover ups. Lets throw in her foundation too. Biggest flip flopping since Scarborough flipping to liberal from conservative.

    What is the dem agenda and who is leading the party? You never hear of their ideas other than some unaffordable Sanders ideas for health care and redistribution only safe blue staters endorse. Otherwise is just obstruction, taunting, endless protests, PC and identity politics.

    • Submitted by richard owens on 04/24/2018 - 03:26 pm.

      “obstruction, taunting, endless protests, PC and identity


      Listen to yourself. Keep in mind, if you will be honest with yourself, President Obama met with the worst reactionary obstruction in 70 years. He had a SCOTUS appointment denied him by a single Republican in the Senate.

      As far as Democrats go, you might want to notice they are a coalition, not a cult. I think your identity politics is White Men and their property over public policy and human rights.

      Devout Republicans are not really the kind of people who seek progressive policies and candidates. Wedge issues are more aligned with the Republican perpetual attack on women’s reproductive rights, putting “religion” and “True Belief” above the Rule of Law.

      Republicans coast to coast think nothing of suppressing the vote while every civics teacher in the world tries to instill the basic need for citizens to be aware of issues and vote.

      These are not things I dreamed up. Republicans have lectured us about money for so long you’d think they actually knew something, yet they crash the economy every time they have a majority. Has the MN RNC paid back all the people you stiffed for millions yet? Hypocrites about money, about reproduction, about war, about peace and about real actual patriotism.

      I suggest you aren’t being either fair or balanced, and your post has more than a littler “taunt” built in.

      I’m with Will Rodgers, I don’t belong to any organized party. Yours? No thanks, my mom raised a humanist.

      • Submitted by Tim Smith on 04/24/2018 - 03:35 pm.


        What Obama faced has now been put on steroids to hysterical dem levels. You basicallly verified my point, you have no plan or agenda, just anger.

        • Submitted by richard owens on 04/24/2018 - 03:59 pm.

          That’s it? Steroids? I have questions.

          Do you accept the rest of my critique of the handmaidens of hypocrisy- “Republicans?”

          Doesn’t it break your heart to see Scott Pruitt taking apart our pollution protections?
          Do you feel bad about alienating the whole free world by refusing to TRY to reduce CO2 emissions?
          Do you hate racism and poverty as much as you disilike people who oppose Republican policies to mitigate inequality, hate and injustice?
          Do you think poverty is caused by laziness? Your leaders do.
          Do you have children, and if so aren’t you ashamed of the President’s adolescent behavior?
          Why are Republicans so angry after having WON the White House they still seem hostile toward all Americans who are sick of this war and absolute do nothing Congress making more debt and giving nothing in return.
          Do you really like Russian global behavior more than your own fellow citizens?
          Do you know what Putin has done just in the last 2 years to make war and manipulate foreign democratic populations.
          When you witness this level of dysfunction and constant firings of his own appointees, don’t you think for a minute something is terribly wrong with Trump and the Congressional Republican reaction?
          Do you think we spend too much on A) education B) National Defense C) healthcare D) all of the above?

          What do you have to say for your own “conservative” politics?

          Apologies are in order- not necessarily to me, but to all those hurt by Republican selfishness, cruelty and indifference of their elected leaders.

  6. Submitted by Robert Lilly on 04/24/2018 - 12:41 pm.

    January 21 2017

    The day he registered to run in 2020. He also has his slogan trademarked and a campaign manager. My question is, why is this even a question? If he lasts that long he will run.

  7. Submitted by Bill Willy on 04/24/2018 - 04:26 pm.

    The thud of the other shoe

    Every once in a while I check the Washington Post to see what they have to say about whatever they think’s going on. Whenever I’m there I look at the opinion pieces and just about any time I see a column by Jennifer Rubin (the conservative) or Kathleen Parker, I read it. I like Jennifer Rubin because she’s so good at intelligently trashing the pres and the (“apparently suicidal”) Republican party from her “older-school conservative” perspective; and I like Kathleen Parker because, to me, she’s equally articulate while, at the same time, she can be genuinely funny.

    Here’s a relevant example from a piece she wrote just after “the raid” in which the FBI was picking up some of that (potential) evidence I notice more than one person commenting here doesn’t seem to think could turn out to be important:

    “When the FBI, after a referral from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, raided the offices and hotel room of Trump attorney Michael Cohen, the thud of the other shoe dropping sent ripples along Pennsylvania Avenue, down the Mall and over the Potomac River into Northern Virginia, where more than a few veterans of earlier political wars probably grimaced at what could come next . . .

    “It has been observed that most movies end with a repetition or variation of the opening scene. Increasingly, this plot seems to be foreshadowing a day when Trump, exposed and possibly impeached, is shown going back up the down escalator — alone, perhaps, but glad to be home.”


    How anyone — regardless of political persuasion — can look at everything happening on the investigative and “public record” fronts and still be living in the world of, “Nothing to see here . . . It’s a witch hunt boondoggle based on fake news and, obviously, Mueller’s going to wind up having to eat a boatload of crow,” or “Democrats do the same things or worse,” is way beyond me. Unless, of course, they aren’t paying any attention to anyone or any info source that says anything other than, “Where’s the proof? Witch hunt. Fake news. Forget about it!”

    Those people could be right, of course. But, at the same time, they could just as easily not be right. One of the big sub-points to all the speculation (either way) is that nobody knows . . . It could be that “Mueller ain’t got nothin’,” or it could be that one of his main problems is he has too MUCH and it’s challenging his capacity to nail it all down or put together THE case that would be the absolute dagger to the heart that would bring about an ironclad, irrefutable, “No wriggling outta this one, pal,” immediate end to the (alleged) insanity.

    The president’s defense (now and throughout his entire adult life — see: that long “public record”) is the Bart Simpson defense:

    “I didn’t do it, nobody saw me do it, there’s no way you can prove anything!”

    It’s worked amazingly well for him (and, as most have probably noticed, all the other “authoritarian types” running other countries) but anybody (including him) who thinks Robert Mueller and the people working with him haven’t had a lot of experience teasing out and jackhammering holes in much tougher defenses than that COULD be in for an interesting surprise or two.

    Or maybe not . . . As the president has taken to saying lately when asked anything about anything, “We’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”

  8. Submitted by cory johnson on 04/24/2018 - 07:39 pm.

    The piece you quoted…

    Does the same as every other hit piece. Lots of ominous words without any actual proof. The constant anonymous leaking is nothing but innuendo. Basically because the establishment finds him distasteful he’s guilty until proven innocent.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/25/2018 - 12:40 pm.

      The assumption of innocence only applies

      only applies to legal actions.
      The court of public opinion can adopt whatever standards it wants.

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