There could be a huge, unpleasant surprise at the end of this.
Remember, Trump surprised us all on Election Day of 2016 when, with Putin’s help, and Republican voter suppression efforts, he actually won. Is he capable of surprising us again, by being let off scot-free by the Special Counsel?
Like the rest of you, I’m a pretty good consumer of the news, and I try to figure out what’s really going on with the investigation from the [admittedly scant] pieces of evidence we get from Mueller from time to time.
My latest thinking (aside from the “feeling” that Trump personally has committed numerous felonies) is that no smoking gun has yet emerged. If Mueller has one, we certainly haven’t heard about it. Those individuals who have already been indicted, or have pleaded guilty, committed acts that were relatively minor, or were peripheral to the Trump campaign. Yes, we don’t know what we don’t know, including whether or not Donald Jr. and/or Jared will be indicted. We also have no definite outcome on the Flynn or Manafort cases. But right now–and it pains me to say it–there is some suggestion that Trump is correct when he says he did nothing provably illegal, even if his actions were questionable from an ethical point of view.
So it’s entirely conceivable that when Mueller issues his report (if we, the public, are allowed to see it), his conclusion will be that Trump skirted the boundary of illegality, but never actually crossed it. If that happens, we have to be ready for an extraordinarily violent reaction from the White House.
VINDICATED! will be Trump’s triumphant battle cry. The tweets will be all caps: I TOLD YOU ALL ALONG IT WAS A WITCH HUNT! I TOLD YOU ALL ALONG THERE WAS NO COLLUSION OR OBSTRUCTION! NOW I’M PROVEN RIGHT! As soon as the exculpatory report comes out, we can expect a Tweet Storm of unprecedented magnitude from the tweeter-in-chief, leading to what might be called the Witch Hunt of the Witch Hunters.
And his allies will be right behind him. Breitbart will scream for blood—Mueller’s, Hollywood’s, Democrats’, Hillary’s, anybody whom they deem a traitor. Limbaugh will demand that Democratic heads roll. The Republican Senate, already deeply compromised, will go to war with the Democratic House.
And what of that House? Democratic morale will collapse. The Adam Schiffs, Eric Swalwells, et al., who have been T.V. stalwarts in the anti-Trump Resistance, will find themselves embarrassed, reduced to sputtering protest. With a get-out-of-jail-free card, a victorious and vindictive Trump will be at the height of his powers—bloodied and battered, for sure, but ready to lick his wounds and march back into the arena, intent on extracting vengeance. And his legions of poor, white, rural followers will be emboldened as never before.
This is admittedly a worst-case scenario. But it’s a plausible one. There is of course an opposite one: that the Mueller report is highly condemnatory of Trump. That is what Democrats hope and pray for. And then, as is usual with clashingly different potential outcomes, there is the possibility of some wishy-washy middle ground: Mueller ultimately cannot determine if Trump committed specific crimes, because potential witnesses take the Fifth Amendment, or they live abroad and cannot be subpoenaed, or the documentation has been lost or destroyed or never existed. This would be the most unsatisfactory development of all: neither side would like it, because it would leave the whole issue hanging fire. Democrats would insist on digging deeper (which they would have the ability to do in the House). Senate Republicans would refuse to cooperate with any further investigations, and accuse Democrats of only trying to hurt Trump based on the hatred of “the mob” or a dozen angry Democrats. The end result: more stalemate. And before you know it, we’re into the 2020 election cycle.
The mood of Democrats is key. Despite reports of “pro-Impeachment” versus “anti-Impeachment” sentiment in the newly elected House, Democrats around the country remain enormously angry at Republicans, and especially at Trump. The Blue Wave which captured the House (and it was a Blue Wave, no matter how much Republicans deny it) was fine recompense for nearly two years of slander against Democrats (three years, if you count the campaign and the run-up to it).
But the piper has not yet been paid. Democrats, deeply wounded by and resentful of the non-stop horrors they’ve witnessed from the Republican Party and its president—horrors that continues to this very moment–demand more. They—we—want nothing less than tit-for-tat, karmic payback: Trump’s job and reputation, for starters. We want the prosecution of Donald Jr. and Jared. We want his remaining supporters in the Congress driven from office. We want the Republican Party entirely purged of extremist, evangelical-white supremacist elements. We want to see the McConnells pilloried before the Bar of History. We want to see Republican voters confused, frustrated, lost. We want Breitbart, the NRA, the anti-choice and homophobic wing of the Christian party broken and crushed. That sounds pretty rough, I realize; but what Trump and Trumpism have put America through has been simply terrible. Democrats will not settle for crumbs, not this time.