We do not know the underlying contents or even the barest conclusions of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s final report as of this writing. The range of outcomes for President Trump run from a declaration by Mueller that “the only thing preventing an indictment of the president was the Justice Department guideline” to “I found no evidence of a criminal violation by President Trump.”
Much has been written about the Democrats’ dilemma once the report’s contents are known. Will their base demand impeachment hearings? What’s the point of impeaching if the Senate won’t act?
However, let’s say for the sake of argument that the report shows: 1.) Trump hired multiple campaign officials who had, collectively, more than 100 contacts with Russians and solicited a hostile foreign power’s help in winning the presidency; 2.) Trump lied repeatedly about his pursuit of a business deal with a hostile foreign power while running for president; and 3.) Trump took a slew of actions (from misleading the public to seeking leniency for Michael Flynn to intimidating witnesses in plain sight) that, if committed by anyone other than the president, would be grounds for indictment. Do the Republicans plan on running in 2020 under the banner: Leave the Russian patsy in power — or What’s a little obstruction between friends?
If so, they will have to defend not simply Trump’s criminal innocence but also his fitness to serve after committing all of the above. They’ll have to explain why none of that rises to the level of “high Crimes and Misdemeanor,” and why the country should allow him to continue as the chief executive charged with enforcement of the nation’s laws and the Constitution. Even in the best-case scenario for Trump, the facts we know about already are damning; in a world without a political party reduced to know-nothing cultists, they would be disqualifying for office.
That’s not all. Maybe before the 2020 election we’ll learn the results of the Southern District of New York investigation(s) on allegations of conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws, defraud banks and cheat on taxes, and other possible crimes. Are Republicans going to back a president who’s found responsible for any or all or those, or, if the investigation is not complete, back a president who, in his second term, could be found to have committed multiple financial crimes? What’s the defense? Hey, everyone pays off mistresses and files false campaign finance statements!
What gets lost in the discussion of impeachment vs. indictment and the presence or absence of a felony is the reaffirmation that Trump’s conduct — be it lying about his Russian business interests or trying to decapitate investigations — is in no sense acceptable for someone sworn to “take care” that the laws are enforced. He’s a menace to the presidency and to the rule of law and patently unfit to hold presidential powers. The Fox News hosts and their zombie audience will deny this, but what about “respectable" Republicans who like the tax cuts and judges but find most everything else objectionable? I suppose they could descend further into intellectual hackery and support reelection, but you’d think they’d at least consider looking for a nominee without an ocean liner full of baggage.
As for potential GOP primary challengers, now is the time, not to wait for polls but to make the case that, even if not indictable or impeachable, Trump in no shape or form should be entrusted with another four years in office. You’d think a few Republicans would feel a moral obligation to say as much.