As GOP support seems weaker than in scandals past, impeachment is not a far-fetched possibility.
President Trump has been the subject of increasing scrutiny over the last several days, as accusations regarding unethical behavior in the White House have started to gain more traction. This scandal is already proving to be unlike the others that have plagued the Trump administration; Republicans have been slow to come to Trump’s defense, and continued blunders have proven that this particular incident could be the final straw for the Trump Presidency.
On Sept. 9, a report was released that revealed an anonymous Trump administration official lodged a whistle-blower complaint that President Trump made an extremely troubling promise while on a phone call with a foreign leader on July 25. This is not entirely unusual: Presidents make promises to foreign leaders on a fairly regular basis. However, this particular promise was apparently problematic enough that someone in the administration felt that it was necessary to report it the Intelligence Community Inspector General, Michael Atkinson.
The procedures in place dictate that if the intelligence community’s Inspector General deems such a complaint to be “urgent,” that information must be shared with Congress. In this case, although it was deemed urgent, the complaint never got to Congress. Atkinson passed it along to the relevant person — acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire — but Maguire didn’t inform Congress.
When the House Intelligence Committee found out about this whistleblower report, they elected to subpoena Maguire to either get the information, or force him to appear before the Committee to explain why he wasn’t providing it. The whistleblower report has spurred wild speculation and prompted Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to open an official impeachment inquiry against the President.
As more information has been revealed, it has become more and more apparent that this scandal is unlike the plethora of other scandals that have grabbed headlines since Donald Trump was inaugurated. The CIA background of the whistleblower, the alleged misuse of the classification system and the downright anemic defense offered by congressional Republicans make this particular situation dire for President Trump.
This scandal has already led to one resignation; Kurt Volker, the special representative for Ukraine has resigned following his name surfacing in text messages revealed by Trump Lawyer Rudy Guliani. Volker was allegedly involved with assisting Guliani in his attempts to get in touch with Ukrainian officials in order to fulfill the requests presented by President Trump in the phone call.
This week, we saw the most potent defense that the Trump administration could muster: the informant received the information secondhand and possessed no relevant skills to judge the situation properly. Therefore, the complaint has no firm ground to stand on; this fell flat when the New York Times regrettably identified the whistleblower as a former CIA official. This revelation appeared just hours after President Trump made a chilling comment that alluded to executing those that contributed to the whistleblower report.
Another situation of note is that the finally-released whistleblower report shows a disturbing trend: White House officials have been using the classification as a means to hide information surrounding other instances of troubling interactions. By declaring that certain phone calls contained privileged information, Trump aides were able to avoid the possibility of leaks calling attention to this behavior that is unethical and illegal at best.
Finally, the most important factor in the prospect of impeachment is the willingness of congressional republicans to defend President Trump against these allegations. This is something that the president has been able to count on throughout all of his issues, questionable behaviors and investigations; however, it appears that goodwill is in short supply for this particular trespass.
Almost immediately following the allegations regarding wrongdoing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held a vote on a resolution demanding the release of the full whistleblower report, as well as a detailed transcript. The Senate voted resoundingly in favor. These actions are taking place under the shadow of mass retirements among House Republicans and intensifying financial investigations into Trump businesses at the state level. Is it possible that this fatigue could cause this scandal to have actual consequences?
If President Trump goes down for something, this will be it. Unwavering support from his party has allowed him to effectively do whatever he wants. Republicans have scarcely blinked at the president funneling money into his businesses, practicing cruel immigrant internment and making outrageous claims about Democrats. However, this is something that cannot be spun, ignored and (as we learned this week) contained. Perhaps the GOP sees the writing on the wall and is looking to shore up credibility for 2020. However, it is equally likely that President Trump has been playing with fire since his inauguration, and this is finally the point at which things begin to go up in flames.