Donald Trump will lead the GOP ballot in 2020...probably. The debate on the Republican side has focused on whether Trump will retain his 2016 running mate, Indiana Governor and current Vice-President Mike Pence. (I actually think there is nearly a 50% chance Pence is not on the 2020 ticket, but my thoughts on that subject are too lengthy to be set out here.) This column is about the outside possibility Trump himself won't be on the 2020 ballot.
No, I don't think Trump will be kicked out of office via impeachment. He will certainly be impeached by the U.S. House, and deservedly so, for his participation in the attempt to shake down Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (using taxpayer money no less) to try to get a politically-advantageous investigation into his chief political opponent started. Add to that the fact Trump's bribery scheme put America's national security at risk in the process while aiding his Russia First foreign policy. It's hard to imagine a scenario more justifying impeachment. Not sure if Nixon is in heaven or hell (guessing the latter), but he has to be looking at the Trump impeachment developments and thinking "What the hell?" Nixon's offenses that resulted in his being forced out of office now look like jaywalking versus what Trump is accused of (and has mostly admitted) doing.
Nonetheless, the odds of getting 20 Republican Senators with enough courage to do the right thing and vote out easily the most corrupt and unfit President in my lifetime, is too much to expect. Trump retains a cult leader like control over 85% of Republicans and until that fever breaks, enough GOP Senators will support him to survive. Now whether those GOP Senators end up surviving their own re-election efforts is a different story. But at least supporting Trump means they will not have serious primary opposition in their elections, even if they face a more challenging general election because they failed to hold the President accountable for highly unethical, and likely illegal, conduct.
The possibility that Trump will eventually be prosecuted is real. Besides being an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal enterprise that landed his former attorney Michael Cohen in jail, Trump faces real criminal exposure for his conduct. That Trump may well have run afoul of federal bribery statutes in attempting to coerce Zelensky into launching a bogus investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden is only the tip of the Trump prosecutorial iceberg. Before being elected, Trump had a long history of being a dishonest businessman who skirted the laws. But Trump got a pass for that conduct as legal authorities considered him a joke, a bombastic showman who was simply playing the role of successful businessman, a role belied by Trump's ability to lose huge sums of money on nearly every business venture he tried. When he was elected President though Trump succeeded in getting those legal authorities to finally take him seriously. Given Trump's dishonesty has carried over to the Oval Office, that's not a good thing.
The Justice Department takes the, rather dubious, position that the Constitution does not permit a sitting President to be prosecuted while in office. (It's not clear that states are mandated to take that position.) So that the thought is Trump would run for re-election to try to run out the clock on the statute of limitations that exist for any crimes for which he might be prosecuted. But that is questionable strategy. First, there is a very good chance Trump will not be re-elected. Second, the statute of limitations on many of the crimes for which he might be charged will not have run. And, finally, the strategy assumes that Trump can avoid committing criminal acts during a second term. Yeah, good luck with that one.
Trump fashions himself to be a great deal maker. Certainly we have not seen any of that supposed ability during his tenure in office. But Trump does have substantial leverage to avoid or limit prosecution...he could cut a deal that includes walking away from a possible second term. Prosecutors cut deals all the time with elected officials to step down from office and/or not seek re-election in exchange for more favorable prosecutorial terms.
Could that deal, the greatest deal Trump ever pulled off by far, be in his future? While that is a doubtful scenario, it would leave the GOP facing a chaotic 2020 convention with thousands of delegates untethered to any candidate. Would Trump put his survival ahead of the interests of his (recently) adopted Republican Party? If you don't think he would do that, you haven't been paying attention. What is best for Donald J. Trump always comes ahead of his party and his country. Always.
This scenario is not likely to play out. Nonetheless, it is a real possibility for which the GOP needs to be ready.
Dumber than rocks.
Though nobody ever needed to test it - Trump would pardon himself? or Trump does a Nixon-Ford deal with Pence where he resigns at the 11th Hour and has Pence pardon him.
Regardless, get ready for a President Biden administration.
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