Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday May 18, 2017
Here’s how Trump could survive — even if we learn the worst
Washington is abuzz with what we might call “tipping-point talk” — the idea that this time, really and truly, Republicans are on the verge of breaking with President Trump. The latest revelation stoking that chatter is the New York Times’s report that a memo by former FBI director James B. Comey indicated that Trump privately asked him to quash the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s Russia ties.
Yes, some Republicans are speaking out more forcefully. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) now says that the scandals enveloping Trump are reaching “Watergate size and scale.” Other top Republicans are now calling for an independent commission or special prosecutor. And many analysts are discussing ways in which the latest Trump revelations — combined with Trump’s alleged demand for Comey’s loyalty — amount to obstruction of justice, a potentially impeachable offense.
But even if we do establish clear evidence that Trump obstructed justice, it is easy to discern, based on what we are already seeing, a way that Republicans ensure that Trump survives this.
The wiggle room in proving obstruction of justice could end up meaning that, even if we come a lot closer to establishing that Trump did interfere in the manner reports have indicated, we could still genuinely fall short of proving his clear intent. More cynically, even if that standard is reasonably cleared, Republicans could take refuge in this murkiness and then buttress this position by arguing that we should not re-litigate the election simply due to Democratic sour grapes.
Remember, Trump has been assaulting our democracy on multiple fronts since the beginning, and Republicans have mostly looked the other way. There is an unfortunate tendency to cover these various stories as separate from one another, but Trump has abused his power in multiple ways that, ultimately, all trace back to the same autocratic impulse. In addition to the Russia affair, there’s also the unprecedented, middle-finger-brandishing lack of transparency around his tax returns, even as he backs tax reform that would deliver his family a massive windfall ; the laughably substandard ethics arrangement for his businesses and the perpetuation of likely emoluments clause violations; and the continued use of diplomatic business to promote Mar-a-Lago and steer cash into his pockets.
All of these — taken along with the alleged interference in ongoing probes — add up to a level of autocratic, above-the-law contempt for our democracy that is larger than the sum of its parts. And Republicans have effectively shrugged off most of it for as long as possible. So it’s plausible that even if obstruction of justice were reasonably well established, they’d find a way to evade taking it to its logical conclusion. (Source: Washington Post)