It was a frustrated Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who quipped to reporters this week: “Can we have a crisis-free day? That’s all I’m asking.”
And she’s not alone. She probably spoke for the majority of senators and House members, Republican and Democrat, as well as most congressional and White House reporters, who are tired of reeling from crisis to crisis and yearn for just one day to pursue business as usual without yet another colossal blow-up from the Trump White House.
But the answer is: No, senator. No, you can’t. Not as long as Donald Trump’s in the White House. He’s so inept, and he’s surrounded himself with such a bunch of amateurs, they couldn’t organize a two-car funeral without mucking it up.
Consider the crises we’ve lived through in the last week alone. May 9: Trump fires James Comey. May 10: At the suggestion of Vladimir Putin, Trump invites Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Foreign Minister Lavrov to the Oval Office. May 15: Washington Post reports that Trump gave Russians classified intelligence. May 16: the New York Times reports that Comey revealed that Trump asked him to drop his investigation of Michael Flynn. May 17: Trump claims to be the most persecuted president in history. May 18: Reuters reports that Trump campaign staffers were in touch with Russian officials at least 18 times. OMG.
Fortunately, something else very positive happened on May 17: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named former FBI Director James Mueller as special counsel in the Russian investigation – at which point everybody, even Susan Collins, could breathe a sigh of relief. It looks like we’ll finally learn the truth: whether, for the Trump team, it was just connection or actual collusion with Russia.
Either way, appointment of a special prosecutor is Donald Trump’s worst nightmare. For two reasons. First, because it means “the Russian thing” is not a nothing-burger, as Trump calls it. It’s serious enough to merit a full-scale criminal investigation. Second, with Mueller in charge, the FBI probe will not go away any time soon. It’ll hang over the Trump White House for months, if not years, and could expand anywhere Mueller decides to take it. Remember Ken Starr, who started out investigating Bill Clinton’s failed real estate investment and ended up exposing a White House sex scandal?
Actually, Mueller won’t have to hunt for new material. He has plenty on his plate already, starting with revelations this week that Trump shared state secrets with Kislyak and Lavrov and tried to shut down the FBI investigation. It’s hard to tell which is more serious.
By revealing to Russian officials classified intelligence the United States had received from Israel, Trump not only put Israel’s entire intelligence operation at risk, he undermined any confidence our allies have in his administration’s capacity to keep a secret. And by trying to shut down a criminal investigation into members of his own administration, Trump, like Richard Nixon, seems guilty of obstruction of justice.
Indeed, Trump’s troubles are compounding so much that the unthinkable is starting to happen. Today, it’s not just Democrats like Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who are starting to utter the “I” word. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., told reporters that, if what Comey says about Trump’s efforts to shut down the FBI investigation is true, that would amount to an impeachable offense. And the conservative commentariat is also starting to pile on.
Under the headline “Conservatives Begin to Whisper: President Pence,” Politico notes that leading conservative blogger Erick Erickson, urged his followers to abandon Trump because they “have no need for him with Mike Pence in the wings.” And conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote that Republicans need not fear getting rid of Trump because “Hillary Clinton will not be retroactively elected if Trump is removed, nor will Neil Gorsuch be unseated.” In other words, Trump has served his purpose, but he’s clearly not up to the job, so now let’s dump him.
For those of us old enough to have lived through it, the whole mess is so reminiscent of Watergate – except that the Nixon administration took years to unravel. The Trump administration has fallen apart in 120 days. And, like Nixon, it has become abundantly clear that there’s no way Trump can survive.
This madness cannot last four years. Until this week, I disagreed with friends who insisted that Trump would not serve at least one full term. But no longer. We’re witnessing the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency. It’s no longer a question of whether Donald Trump will go, but how and when.