Whatever. We’ve been through around eight iterations of “Republicans ready to dump Trump” since the primaries began last year. They didn’t do it at the convention, they didn’t do it after the “Access Hollywood” tape, they’re not going to do it over his Charlottesville spin, and they’re not going to do it for Mueller unless he finds something so foul as to leave Ryan no choice politically. And by “foul,” I mean more than Trump nudging James Comey to “let this go” with Mike Flynn. I’m talking about bodies buried in the basement of Trump Tower.
And even then, most of Trump’s fans would say, “Well, whose bodies were they?”
Here’s Erick Erickson talking to a “senior Republican congressman”:
You could hear the frustration in his voice. “He just can’t shut up…. And we go home and everybody blames us for what’s going on. I don’t think the people on TV understand that most people still hate us more than him, but he’s making it even harder. We may be the turd in the field, but he’s the worm in the turd.”…
Here’s the big thing though. With all the frustration the congressman says there are no grounds to impeach the President. The consensus, even among senior Democrats, is that impeachment cannot be done just because the President is an idiot or a sympathizer of white supremacists. There must be a crime and right now there is no sign. “I hate to say it, but some of us would really like Mueller to find something we can use,” he said. I asked if he was one of those and all he said was “maybe.”
Here’s where I gently remind you that 60 percent of Trump supporters openly admit they can’t think of anything that Trump could do, or fail to do, as president that would make them disapprove of him. If the House GOP makes enemies of those people by impeaching him, the midterms will be a catastrophe. Mueller’s evidence would need to be strong enough, and the offense severe enough, that Republicans would have more to fear from swing voters if they didn’t act than from the base if they did, which is a high bar. And to be clear: Mueller would need to find evidence of a crime, not just “impropriety.” Legally impeachment doesn’t require a criminal offense but politically any effort to remove Trump for behavior short of actual lawbreaking will be spun by his defenders as an abuse of the process. In fact, even solid evidence of crimes committed before taking office would be dismissed as irrelevant to the “spirit of impeachment” or whatever. Impeachment is aimed, in theory, at presidential behavior, not pre-presidential behavior.
And needless to say, anything Mueller turns up that isn’t directly related to the Russiagate probe will be derided as illicit insofar as it’s the product of a “fishing expedition.” If he did turn up bodies in the basement of Trump Tower, some would reply, “What’s that got to do with Russian collusion?”
They’re not going to impeach him. But what about censure?
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 18, 2017
House Democrats introduced a censure resolution a few days ago, about which Ryan and the GOP have been understandably quiet. They’re lying low right now and watching Trump’s polling to see how the public reacts to the intense media heat on him over Charlottesville. If his numbers start to tank, they might panic and consider censure as a way to distance the caucus from him. But the polling on last weekend’s fracas has been no worse than neutral so far. They’re not going to touch censure unless there’s a political cost to not touching it, and right now there isn’t.
It makes me wonder, though, if they won’t return to censure if/when Mueller finds something on Trump that’s damaging but clearly not so outrageous that even some of the president’s fans would start to peel away from him because of it. Censure would be the compromise option between doing nothing and going nuclear with impeachment. For that reason alone, Ryan may be reluctant to consider it now. How many times can you censure the guy? If you think you might have to do it later, over Russiagate, all the more reason to keep your powder dry and not do it now.
Here’s Rush musing that it wouldn’t surprise him to learn the RNC was counting impeachment votes among Republicans already. Point taken, but between having Ronna Romney McDaniel as chair and Kayleigh McEnany as spokesman, the RNC is a highly Trumpy operation these days. The “RNC = establishment” narrative will never die given how useful it is to populists, but the president’s done a solid job of putting his stamp on the group.