Indeed, it is the muted reaction of Senate Republicans that leads the list of disastrous signs for the president. The assumption that there could never be a vote to remove him or that it would never get Republican votes needs to be rethought.
A second bad sign for Trump: The polls are already moving in favor of impeachment — and moving fast. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll shows a plurality (49 to 46 percent) favors impeachment, a large bump from April, when 39 percent favored and 53 percent did not. Likewise, the Morning Consult polls shows 43 percent favor and 43 percent oppose impeachment, including a small plurality of independents. These figures are stunning insofar as the rough transcript and whistleblower complaint have been out for only a couple of days.
A third negative indicator for Trump is that the involvement of so many people — possibly including Attorney General William P. Barr and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney — gives this a Watergate feel and creates many witnesses. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Did he know that two diplomats were trying to help Ukraine manage Trump’s illegal conduct? Did he recall the ambassador to Ukraine at the request of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump or others mixed up in this scheme?) was potentially involved as well.
Fourth, when Trump’s remarks threatening a whistleblower immediately leaked one could see not only a new basis for impeachment but a willingness of all sorts of people to rat him out. There is virtually no meeting or document that will be shielded from view given the number of people involved and the incentive some may have to step forward and be seen as cooperating with Congress, not as conspirators acting in furtherance of crimes.
Fifth, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has given the laboring oar to the Intelligence Committee headed by the very able Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and on which two of the sharpest Democrats sit — Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). While ranking Republican Devin Nunes (Calif.) is clownish and disruptive, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.), a former CIA officer who is both conscientious and politically liberated since announcing his retirement, also sits on the panel.
Sixth, Pelosi has wisely decided to focus on the whistleblower material for impeachment. This topic alone could provide a basis for impeachment articles on abuse of power, obstruction and threatening a whistleblower. This subject is compelling, recent and easy to comprehend. Some investigative work apparently was already done by the inspector general, making Schiff’s job easier. Indeed, the incident is a microcosm of much of what is reprehensible about the administration — abuse of power, self-dealing, lawlessness, bullying, obstruction.
Finally, Trump is even less circumspect, disciplined and rational than usual. And why wouldn’t he be? He may well be only the third president impeached and has a shot at being the first removed. Surely he must see the walls closing in and the potential for removal, prosecution and, worst of all for a first-class narcissist, humiliation. He was so thickheaded he didn’t even realize what was incriminating. He was so foolish as to take advice from the equally unhinged Giuliani. There is little doubt he will be regarded as one of the worst if not the worst president in history. As that rolls around in his weary brain, he is likely to become more self-destructive, antagonistic and downright crazy. All of that makes it that much easier for Republicans to abandon him.