Donald Trump's Russia own-goal: Impeachment would be dramatic, but unlikely despite Opposition trouble

“Trump won’t last a full term. I’ve put money on it” he says cheerily on phone from London.

“Will you speak on record?”I ask.

“No”, he says, his voice turning grave. Most of my clients are in the US, it’s a new company, they can run it into the ground if they want to…you know how these things work. I’ll speak to you after he’s impeached,” he says and hangs up.

“Impeach 45” is the bombshell of the day in political sweepstakes, Hillary Clinton has (re)launched a political movement to find an alternative to Donald Trump and the US president’s favourite rag Breitbart says all the revitalised left-wingery about impeachment is a James Comey hit job because he is bitter and hurting after he was fired. This is America’s Page One before Trump climbs onto his big plane and watches the fires from the clouds as he wings to Saudi Arabia bearing gifts — the largest arms deal in history.

Will Trump go?

During the only three other impeachment scenarios in America’s history, the president was facing off against a Congress led by the Opposition. Today, Republicans are the majority party in both the House and Senate.

 Donald Trumps Russia own-goal: Impeachment would be dramatic, but unlikely despite Opposition trouble

100 days on, the shadows get longer/ Reuters

Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker has so far been supplicant to Trump. Unless the entire Republican party turns on Trump, say, while the president is on tour, Trump is going nowhere.

True to form, Breitbart is playing the “Russia can prove Trump didn’t give classified intel” as its lead story.

Putin mocked the idea that Trump shared secrets during the meeting with Russia’s foreign minister, calling the latest wave of allegations "political schizophrenia" and saying people spreading them are either "dumb" or “corrupt."

Citing unnamed sources, The Washington Post reported that Trump had shared highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov regarding an Islamic State group terror threat.

Media get a handle, at last

Make no mistake, even the media that is lambasting Trump maintains that “Impeach 45” is more liberal fantasy and less of distinct possibility in the near term. What they’re thrilled to bits about is that the gunpowder they were so desperately hunting for has been delivered to them, in their backyard, by leaky minions in the White House, with a shiny bow on top.

"I hope you can let this go," Trump reportedly told James Comey about the ongoing investigation into then national security adviser Michael Flynn’s Russia links, after a White House meeting in February, according to a memo written by the ex-FBI director and first scooped by The New York Times.

“His government is a shockingly leaky vessel. Thank heaven for that”, writes Frank Bruni in a searing critique of the yes-men scaffolding around Trump, in The New York Times.

The Criminal President, screams an op-ed page headline in Wednesday’s The New York Times.

“After the revelations of the past 24 hours, it appears that President Trump’s conduct in and around the firing of the FBI director, James Comey, may have crossed the line into criminality. The combination of what is known and what is credibly alleged would, if fully substantiated, constitute obstruction of justice. It is time for Congress and a special counsel in the executive branch to conduct objective, bipartisan inquiries into these allegations, together with the underlying matters involving Michael Flynn and Russia that gave rise to them”, is how this story begins.

It is by now popular lore that Trump doesn’t drink or do drugs. “His drug is himself…himself on TV”, says a close campaign adviser. The liberal media is salivating over this — they know only too well that the history of botched White House runs have rarely been about spy cams and ratting; giants have been demolished before by sheer vanity and their deafness to omens.

The never-Trumpers, out of business for the last 100 days, are grandstanding on prime time telly again.

"After watching the Clinton impeachment I thought I'd never see another one, but I think we're in impeachment territory now for the first time," David Gergen, who advised former presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton while they faced impeachment, told Anderson Cooper on CNN.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in America’s rust belt, Trump voters are sick of the Russia talk while Chinese media is celebrating that their leader has already met the crown prince and princess of America Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump before this Russia thing blew up.

"The president is above law"

An American President can be removed from office if he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”. And, who sits in judgement over this? The vice-president and a majority of the Cabinet secretaries or Congressionally appointed body which could include or comprise solely of say, a panel of medical experts. If the president objects, a two-thirds majority in each chamber of Congress is essential within a time frame of three weeks — there’s no appeal.

The most gaping hole in America’s democracy is this — that the president sits above the law, says Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's Sunday morning 'GPS' show.

“Most lawyers say Trump is right. Impeachment is political, not legal. Since the Republican party controls both houses of Congress, there is little movement there. There are only two controls left that can contain Donald Trump — the courts and the media. We must not start the next President’s term with tattered standards and sunken expectations,” says Zakaria.

“In the past two weeks, a Presidency of ideological meanness and unsurpassing incompetence has moved into another, more recognizable realm. The usual comparison is with the Watergate era,” says the The New Yorker and goes on to explain why the comparison with Watergate is actually quite off ( and Trump’s reign much worse). Trump is no Nixon. Nixon was “shrewd, so strategic, he would never be caught with his pants down,” says the ultra left magazine.

Although 'Will Trump be impeached' is playing on loop, 'Will Trump stay President in 2017' and 'Will Trump remain President in 2018' are the more robust markets on PredictIt, an online real money site that tests the wisdom of crowds.

That’s not all.

Wall Street is tanking after many weeks of steady climb.

Witnessing the chaotic intersect of the Comey firing, its backstory playing on The New York Times page one, the unrelenting comparisons with Watergate and clearer understanding of 'Trumponomics', financial analysts are coming around to the view now that the Trump administration handicapped by repeated crises will fail in its promise to slash corporate and individual tax rates.

Then, there are the Trump voters waiting for the promised jobs when “immigrants” are scrubbed from the payrolls. They’re sick and tired of hearing about a faraway land called Russia and whether or not it meddled. “This is sounding more and more like Clinton’s emails, can’t wrap my head around it” says Cindy from Alabama, a Trump voter who works on a horse farm and carries a gun in her backpack to the grocery store.

“We have no idea where this is going next,” White House courtiers are saying, shaking their heads and walking around in a daze trying to control fires their king had lit all around them.

Trump’s most pressing liability is not getting impeached, it’s about getting hobbled by unpopularity, being seen as someone who is embroiled in dubious engagements with places halfway across the world rather than a doer at home for the people who voted him in.

Trump aimed straight for his core voters as the rift deepened in Washington DC: "You will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted. But you have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight. No other president has been treated worse or more unfairly. I didn't get elected to serve the Washington media or special interests. I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women of our country, and that's what I'm doing," he said in the capital city on Wednesday.

Trump is only the fifth US President who failed to win the popular vote. An impeachment will be dramatic, the possibility that Trump may meander through a 4-year term pockmarked by Opposition blockage is distinctly real.

Updated Date: May 18, 2017 07:40:13 IST