Jeffrey Toobin: This is the first day I thought Trump might not finish his term in office

Another leftover from yesterday. I’ll take this seriously just as soon as someone does the math for me on how Democrats get 20 Republicans in the Senate to agree to remove the president. What offense would Trump need to be accused of, and how much evidence would there need to be, to so alarm 20 Republicans that they’d make him the first president in American history to be ousted? Unless there are audio recordings (or wiretaps) of Trump on the phone conspiring in a crime, the evidence against him on collusion is likely to rest heavily on testimony by all sorts of untrustworthy sleazy cronies. Show me the path to 67 votes in the Senate based on that.

And after we do that math problem, let’s do another. Show me what sort of job approval Trump would need to sink to in order to make 20 Republicans think, “I’m more likely to be voted out of office if I don’t vote to impeach than if I do.” Twenty-five percent? Twenty? Is it even possible for his approval to reach that low, given the absolute loyalty of the GOP’s Trumpist contingent? Assume he was caught red-handed in a crime so serious that he really did drop to 20 percent approval. Even then I think it’d be difficult getting 20 Republicans to vote to remove, for the same reason that it ended up proving impossible to organize a delegate revolt against him at the 2016 convention. Establishment Republicans worry that any attempt to block Trump from power, no matter how meritorious the reasons, will so alienate his core fans that they’ll boycott the party for years. The GOP will lose election after election as payback for its “treason” in ousting him, with Trump egging on his base not to vote for his betrayers.

Senate Republicans can’t risk that. So what they’d do, I think, is resolve not to remove him but to hope and trust that the voters would relieve them of their Trump problem in 2020. They’d distance themselves from him, of course, but I think they’d end up adopting a variation of the Merrick Garland strategy from 2016 to justify their vote to leave him in office: “This is a matter for the electorate to decide.” They’ll almost certainly lose some Senate seats in 2020 by taking that position but at least they won’t have fatally alienated Trump’s fans. They can bounce back in 2022 or 2024.

And even if you think there’s theoretically some misdeed so great that some part of Trump’s base would tolerate impeachment and removal for it, it’s surely not going to be a failed hotel deal whose particulars we’re currently being asked to take on faith from Michael Cohen, of all people. Ken White’s point yesterday was well taken: It’s not the deal per se, it’s the fact that Cohen lied to Congress about it and Trump must have known that he was lying and allowed it to happen that’s so astonishing. But as White himself acknowledged, whereas something like that might have ended presidencies in the past, in the Trump era it’s a one-day (well, two-day) story. There’s no deceit that’s disqualifying for him because deceit has always been priced in. Part of Trump’s populist message in the primaries, in fact, was that all Washington politicians are cutthroat liars looking out for themselves. Who are they to judge him? Are they mad at him because he’s just better at it, more honest about it, than they are?

He’s not going home before 2021. Whether the younger Trumps might be going to prison before 2021 is a different matter, although I’m sure dad will answer the bell with some well-timed pardons if need be. And that will be excused too, of course, because hey, pardons are legal and it’s a “witch hunt,” etc etc. Exit question: Does Jeffrey Toobin seriously believe that all of Trump’s ass-kissing towards Putin over the years, enduring endless criticism for it from left and right in the process, was driven by an unquenchable passion to … build a hotel in Moscow? There’s a much more obvious explanation for Trump’s Putin admiration. He admires tyrants, sincerely. He’s not shy about admitting it, you know.

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Jazz Shaw 7:31 PM on October 02, 2022