The Very Unsurprising End of the Trump Presidency
Assuming you have been paying attention….
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The life of Donald Trump, the life of the nation, the life of Capitol Hill – all chaos and real-time history.
The strangest-ever-bedfellow group opposing the president is made up of
1. Longtime opponents (the entire Democratic Party, the Dominant Media, Trump’s mouth, etc)
2. Dogs-bite-man newbies (Liz Cheney, YouTube, the Koch network, Cushman & Wakefield, Salesforce, etc)
3. People suddenly biting Trump: (Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Ronna McDaniel, the PACs of giant corporations, leaking friends, etc)
Among the many effects of the presence of Donald Trump on the national political stage, one stands out: Anyone paying close attention should have zero capacity to be surprised by anything.
A clearly orchestrated pair of “leaks” about McConnell and McCarthy distancing themselves from the president?
Makes perfect sense.
The prospect that McConnell would effectively lead an effort to convict the president and, perhaps, ban him from the 2024 presidential race?
Wouldn’t startle me one jot or pinch.
Businesses – from left-dominated Big Tech to long-time Trump partners – deplatforming and cancelling Trump Inc and the man himself?
Many Wide World of News readers, like the Gang of 500 and news junkies galore, are consumed with the Perils of Donald.
So I am going to lead with that.
But – spoiler alert – with the president-elect out of sight, we are in the midst of what is arguably the most important news cycle by far for Team Biden since Election Day.
And/but we will get to that.
But first, North America’s most downbeat telenovela.
1. Mitch McConnell has personally detested and had no use for Donald Trump for much, much longer than is commonly known. Trump represents so much of what the Kentuckian does not like.
So his calculated decision to let the world know on the eve of the House impeachment vote that he, in effect, might lead the movement to convict the president in the near future (timing TBD) and then rid the party of the hovering prospect of Trump 2024 is exactly what one might expect under the circumstances.
It is pretty simple: McConnell wants Trump gone; wants vengeance for Georgia; wants his corporate donors back for the 2022 midterms; wants some GOP image rehab; and wants the party’s other potential presidential hopefuls to have the oxygen and space to grow big and tall.
McConnell, a close adviser said, has not decided how he will vote on impeachment and wants to hear the case first.
McConnell has not returned Trump’s calls in weeks and remains livid with him, and he will not pressure his colleagues to oppose or support convicting the president. “He’s not going to whip the vote,” said the adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations…. (Washington Post)
Even before Mr. McConnell’s position was known and Ms. Cheney had announced her plans, advisers to the Senate Republican leader had already privately speculated that a dozen Republican senators — and possibly more — could ultimately vote to convict Mr. Trump in a Senate trial that would follow his impeachment by the House…. (New York Times)
HALPERIN SAYS: The Senate Leader’s greatest political skill is having perfect pitch on what the traffic will bear, especially regarding the House of Lords. He surely will wait to see how many House Republicans vote for impeachment Wednesday night and then gauge the reaction. If McConnell ultimately votes to convict, I think the odds are better than 50-50 that the additional baker’s dozen+ votes of Republican Senators required to do the deed will be there to vote “yes.”
2. Other longtime loyalists are going squishy and wobbly and more at the very time Trump most needs them.
A spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he disagreed with Trump that his comments were “totally appropriate.” The spokesman added that McCarthy told House members on Monday that the president bore blame….
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement, “We all bear responsibility to reflect on the rhetoric leading up to the abhorrent violence of last week, including the president.” (Washington Post)
The White House is rudderless, unwilling or unable to mount any defense other than saying that Trump will already be leaving next week, two administration officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal dynamics….
The White House Counsel’s Office has not drawn up a plan for combating the impeachment effort, an administration official said, and its legislative affairs team is not contacting lawmakers. (Washington Post)
* I will give you two guesses as to who the source of this story is:
The Trump Organization was already struggling, hurt by political backlash and coronavirus-related closures, facing huge unpaid loans. [Tom] Barrack told Trump that he could help that business — as well as his aides, and the country itself — by ensuring a peaceful transition, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
An “elegant” exit, Barrack said, could preclude what could be a painful future: millions of dollars in legal costs, rampant investigations and more boycotts of his businesses.
Trump did not follow Barrack’s advice…. (Washington Post)
I will give you one guess as to who the source of this story is:
“You can either go down in history as a patriot,” Mr. Trump told [Pence], according to two people briefed on the conversation, “or you can go down in history as a pussy.” (New York Times)
HALPERIN SAYS: Although Donald Trump has a herculean capacity to direct massive anger at multiple targets simultaneously, this week is surely testing that ability. It has always been one of the great ironies of Mr. Trump that a man who evinces little interest in demonstrating loyalty to others is absolutely floored and infuriated when he feels he is not being shown the fealty he expects. For the man he calls “My Kevin,” the calculus seems pretty simple. From 2017 to 2020, McCarthy could have Trump and his corporate donors. In 2021, he was forced to choose. It appears not to have been a difficult choice.
Although the McCarthy split from the president is not as wide as the McConnell one, it is more significant, because the Golden Stater has long been much closer to Mr. Trump than the senator ever was in every imaginable way.
3. Trump Inc. is in far, far bigger trouble than the family believes (or lets on…).
Trump lost a much bigger broker relationship Tuesday night when real estate giant Cushman & Wakefield told The Washington Post it would no longer work with him. The company has handled an array of business for Trump for many years, including office leasing at Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street, and retail leasing in Chicago. It means that Trump’s company will quickly have to find someone else to handle lease negotiations at some of his most prominent properties.“Cushman & Wakefield has made the decision to no longer do business with The Trump Organization,” the company said in a statement. (Washington Post)
* The Associated Press’ essential reading story on the perils the Trump Organization is facing ends with this cinematic kicker:
Asked directly in his interview if he felt his father incited the crowd, Eric Trump paused and then the line went dead.
HALPERIN SAYS: The single most undercovered story in all of this is the decision by Salesforce to neuter the Trump email list, effectively stopping the president from fundraising and leaving him without the capacity to rally his troops for impeachment (while, of course, he also lacks Twitter). Good luck finding a new, willing vendor and the consultants needed to perform the very difficult tasks involved with moving the prized database elsewhere.
Trump’s longstanding vision of his post-presidential life (massive speaking fees, a big book deal, unparalleled real estate opportunities, a humming political operation) are looking more mirage than dream at this point.
So, what’s up with The Man Who Will Be President Soon?
For Biden, there is a mix of very significant good news and some potentially perilous situations.
THE GOOD NEWS FOR JOE BIDEN
On Monday, Mr. Biden telephoned Mr. McConnell to ask whether it would be possible to set up a dual track that would allow the Senate to confirm Mr. Biden’s cabinet nominees and hold a Senate trial at the same time, according to officials briefed on the conversation who disclosed it on the condition of anonymity. Far from avoiding the topic of impeaching Mr. Trump, Mr. McConnell said it was a question for the Senate parliamentarian, and promised Mr. Biden a quick answer…
When he spoke with Mr. McConnell about the matter, the Senate leader left Mr. Biden with a bit of welcome news.
Mr. McConnell, who led the 2016 blockade against confirming Judge Merrick B. Garland when he was President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, told Mr. Biden that he would vote to confirm Judge Garland as attorney general. (New York Times)
* The Washington Post suggests that retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin is on track to get the waivers he needs to assume the top Pentagon job briskly.
HALPERIN SAYS: Confirmation headaches and roadblocks have been huge time sucks and media distractions for many previous incoming presidents . Between the Georgia Senate outcomes, Team Biden’s deft inside game, and Trump’s implosion, the new administration might get all its key nominees confirmed with little muss or fuss (and not much delay, even with impeachment). That is quite a change from a few weeks ago.
POTENTIAL PERIL FOR BIDEN
Transition officials indicated in meetings with Democratic staffers that Biden will try to get bipartisan support for the [pandemic relief] measure, instead of using a special budgetary tool that could allow him to push legislation through Congress with only Democratic votes,…
That’s led to speculation that the price tag of the package could be below $2 trillion — although Biden said last week that it could cost in the multiple trillions of dollars. (Washington Post)
* Read this Politico story about Kamala Harris’ float of some of what will be in the new administration’s immigration package and recognize that there is a reason that the Obama-Biden administration never passed comprehensive reform in this hugely sensitive area.
* Essential reading: the New York Times on the vision of incoming Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders.
HALPERIN SAYS: Among the many major items Joe Biden has been able to finesse so far are
* How he plans to use the reconciliation process.
* If he will prefer bipartisan bills that get his party 75% of a loaf versus partisan bills that get them 95%.
* How he will satisfy those who favor strong liberalization of America’s immigration policies while not courting a Tea Partyish uprising.
* What will he do to paper over disagreements with Sanders and the progressive wing.
The capacity to finesse these matters (and much more, including trade) is about to come to an end.