A bombshell report detailing President Donald Trump’s request to FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, who had resigned from his post as national security adviser one day prior, has renewed speculation that his presidency is in peril.
Although talk of the president’s potential removal has revved up in the last few days ― following a week in which he fired Comey, who was overseeing an investigation into allegations of the administration’s ties to Russia, and revealed classified information to Russian officials ― pundits have been predicting Trump’s political demise since he declared he was running for office in 2015.
There was the moment last year when his campaign manager was charged with battery after grabbing a reporter (the charge was later dropped). Months later, the name of Trump’s new campaign manager, Paul Manafort, appeared in a secret ledger belonging to a pro-Russia party in Ukraine (Manafort resigned shortly after). And most notably, weeks before election day, a tape emerged in which Trump could be heard bragging about being able to grab women “by the pussy,” a comment that many Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), said they couldn’t defend.
So far, Trump has survived all his scandals. But now there’s a noticeable change in tone.
Republicans didn’t even bother going on television to defend the president after the revelation that he reportedly asked Comey to drop an investigation into Flynn. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who is the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and no longer bound by the pressures of re-election, has said he’s prepared to subpoena memos Comey is said to have written following meetings with Trump. Even Trump, usually quick to respond to negative stories on Twitter, has been unusually quiet following this latest report.
David Remnick noted in The New Yorker that a charge of obstruction of justice will be complex and difficult to prove, but said Trump’s removal from office now seemed a reality.
“Discussion of Trump’s Presidency ending before his four-year term is up is no longer an oppositional fantasy,” he wrote. “The events of these recent days—the Comey firing; the opera-buffa intel giveaway with the Russian delegation to the Oval Office; and now the news of the Comey memos—just may be the point of no return for a Presidency that has been a kind of emergency of chaos, incompetence, injustice, and deception from its first days.”
Ultimately I do not believe that our president sufficiently understands the nature of the office that he holds.Ross Douthat, New York Times columnist
Ross Douthat, a conservative columnist at The New York Times, commented on the “childishness” of Trump’s behavior over the last week. He also called for using the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office, which could happen if the majority of Trump’s Cabinet said he couldn’t exercise the duties of his office and two-thirds of Congress affirmed that recommendation.
“It is a child who blurts out classified information in order to impress distinguished visitors,” Douthat wrote. “It is a child who asks the head of the F.B.I. why the rules cannot be suspended for his friend and ally. It is a child who does not understand the obvious consequences of his more vindictive actions — like firing the very same man whom you had asked to potentially obstruct justice on your say-so.”
“But a child also cannot really commit ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ in any usual meaning of the term,” he added. “There will be more talk of impeachment now, more talk of a special prosecutor for the Russia business; well and good. But ultimately I do not believe that our president sufficiently understands the nature of the office that he holds.”
Writing in The Washington Post, David Ignatius compared watching the White House to watching a horror movie.
“The threat to Trump’s presidency is deepening,” he said.
The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board on Tuesday wrote a scathing editorial about the president, saying he had undermined the credibility of his office.
“The portrait of an inexperienced, impulsive chief who might spill secrets to an overseas foe is one to which Mr. Trump has too often contributed,” the Journal editorial said. “Millions of Americans recognized Mr. Trump’s flaws but decided he was a risk worth taking. They assumed, or at least hoped, that he’d rise to the occasion and the demands of the job. If he cannot, he’ll betray their hopes as his Presidency sinks before his eyes.”
But as Remnick noted, little is likely to happen until congressional Republicans sign on.
“Trump will survive until he loses the Republican Party,” he wrote. “Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are not likely to act out of an attack of moral conscience. But at some point, and it may come soon, they will begin to feel political pressure—pressure from Republican constituents in swing states and districts; pressure on their own reputations—and their patience with Trump will run out.”