Although discourse around Trump’s administration focuses on scandals, his power may only be checked by the midterm elections.
November marks the second anniversary of Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States. Since then, he has turned the national news cycle into a “What did Donald do today?” section. I mean, really. For two years, almost every news story that’s grabbed the nation’s attention has been somehow related to the man.
Many of those country-consuming news stories have doubled as moments where any other presidency would have been on its deathbed. The list isn’t short: the firing of James Comey, the bombshell of a Lester Holt interview following the Comey firing in which the president claimed that his predecessor wiretapped his campaign, the ousting of too many advisors to count, the Stormy Daniels revelations and most recent the guilty verdict of his campaign manager coming within thirty minutes of his personal lawyer flipping on him. I probably missed half of the big stories, but that’s the point. Trump has had so many moments that could have been the end of his presidency that it feels like there just won’t be one. And maybe there won’t be.
The complexity of the whole array of scandals has spawned two somewhat misguided takes on the possibility to an ending of the Trump presidency. They both contain some substance but both lack the political realism that the history of both the Nixon and Clinton presidencies have taught us. Without the ability to control committees in Congress, a scandal barely exists. The first take says that all of this mess just proves that nothing will bring down the administration before 2020, and maybe not even then.
The flipside is the view that every major controversy is going to be the one that gets Trump removed from office. After the New York Times released an Op-Ed authored by an anonymous Trump administration official this week, many are seeing this as the controversy that somehow removes Trump from office. The people voicing that opinion have a reasonable argument. The Op-Ed claims that the cabinet has mentioned using the 25th Amendment to remove the man from office. So who’s right? The people who claim that Trump is here until at least 2020? Or the ones who think that the supposed parent in the room who authored the new article will end up dooming the presidency?
Both theories make some good points, but both will eventually prove faulty as predictions of when/if Trump’s presidency ends prematurely. Trump will make it through the Op-Ed episode, but his presidency will not come out on the other end unscathed. Having a high-level staffer claim that they and multiple other ranking members of the administration have actively worked against the president will further hurt Trump’s chances of making a landmark achievement before he has to start campaigning again. Nonetheless, if the Senate confirms Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court seat vacated by Anthony Kennedy, that win could overshadow any other story and provide Trump with momentum heading into the midterms.
The 2018 midterms could be the true beginning of the end of the Donald Trump presidency. If Democrats take back control of the House, which looks likely, then they will have control of the House Committees. With this they will regain the ability to subpoena documents and other materials related to the myriad of scandals that Republican committee chairs have balked at looking into. More than any one scandal, that shift in the power dynamics would mark the real moment where the Trump White House should start to panic. Is this the time the Trump presidency gets the boot? No. November maybe, but it’s much too soon to tell.