This clip from Saturday was advertised over the weekend by some as a plan to oust Trump and Pence so that Pelosi can become president. Not true — it’s even weirder than that. What Jill Wine-Banks, a former Watergate prosecutor, is proposing is a way to oust Trump and Pence so that Pelosi doesn’t become president. A “President Pelosi” scenario is preposterous inasmuch as Senate Republicans would never allow it, but as a melodramatic plot arc it’s perfectly straightforward. “Democratic coup! First Trump goes, then Pence goes due to his own role in the Ukraine matter, then Pelosi takes over as next in line in the order of succession.”
Wine-Banks recognizes that that’s a complete nonstarter for Senate Republicans and Republican voters. What she’s offering here is a way around it, a sort of compromise in which Trump and Pence both end up booted but a Republican nonetheless remains as president. Essentially we’d just reprise the sequence of events from 1973-74 but on an expedited timeline, and with the VP removed from office instead of forced to resign. Step one: Pence is impeached and removed. Step two: Trump is told that he’ll be impeached and removed too — but not until after he nominates a new VP, who’ll be confirmed by the Senate. Step three: Once the new VP is installed, Trump is impeached and removed and the new Trump-appointed VP takes over.
To which I say: What?
There’s no scenario in which Senate Republicans would agree to remove Trump *and* Pence. Absolutely none. If Trump wants to make Pence the fall guy for all this somehow, the Senate might conceivably and reluctantly remove the veep *if and only if* they had reason to believe that that would placate the public and Trump would remain as president. Alternately, if the Senate GOP arrived at the point where they felt Trump had to go, they’d remove the president but grasp at any excuse they needed to in order to leave Pence in place. Everyone understands this. Except, I guess, Jill Wine-Banks and the Russiagate junkies in the MSNBC audience who have been jonesing since March for a reason to believe Trump might leave office early, destroyed by scandal. Wine-Banks is giving them a deep drag off that pipe here.
Even in the outlandish scenario she proposes, in which Pence is ousted and Trump is given an ultimatum to appoint a new VP with the prospect of his own removal looming, you know what he’d do: Nothing. He’d refuse to nominate anyone and dare Democrats and Republicans in Congress to remove him knowing that it would mean Pelosi would succeed him. That would be enough to make Senate Republicans balk from removal. The only move Democrats would have would be to get Pelosi to somehow disclaim her right to succeed Trump if he’s removed, which would push Senate president pro tem Chuck Grassley up into the top spot. We still get a Republican as president once Trump’s gone! An … 86-year-old Republican. And needless to say, the party would be reduced to chaos as a bunch of Republican candidates jumped into the presidential primaries belatedly to be the party’s nominee next year.
I feel myself getting a contact high from how completely hallucinatory the whole thing is. Although, in fairness to Wine-Banks and MSNBC, they’re not the only ones who have retreated into hallucinations to cope with the stress of impeachment:
In numerous recent conversations with colleagues, including last week’s senior staff meeting, White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has said he thinks President Trump could win 45 states in 2020 after the impeachment process — a magnitude of landslide that few if any independent pollsters would dare predict.
Between the lines: People who’ve heard Mulvaney make this remark say he wasn’t joking or even exaggerating. He appears to genuinely believe that impeachment will have a profoundly positive effect on Trump’s political fortunes, according to 3 sources who have heard Mulvaney make the 45-state prediction.
Mulvaney also believes that the longer the impeachment process drags on, the better it is, politically, for Trump, these sources added.
Mick Mulvaney was also known to claim in the past that Republicans care a lot about spending and deficits. Oh, and that a Republican Congress would certainly stand up to a Republican president who overreached on executive power instead of cowering before him. The guy is barely in touch with reality anymore. A much safer bet about impeachment’s effect on the election is that it won’t have much at all. It’ll be over and done with within a few months, a distant memory by November of next year. To the extent that it changes anyone’s pre-impeachment opinion about a second Trump term, it might make swing voters marginally more likely to vote Democratic in hopes of avoiding another four years of maximum drama. It’s not going to benefit Trump much, if at all. No candidate in hyperpolarized America circa 2019 is getting anything close to 45 states, especially not one whose job approval is below 45 percent. This must simply be something Mulvaney’s taken to saying because he knows he’s wearing out his welcome with Trump and thinks flattering the guy’s ego is the way to keep him happy.