I may not be all that great at “game theory,” but I’m pretty good at strategic thinking. I have been wracking my brains the last few days as to what Trump is thinking now that he’s lost the House. It is telling that he fired Sessions so quick after this happened. But what, exactly, does it mean?
Look at it from Trump’s point of view — he knows he’s done some very, very bad, un-Constitutional things, but he also knows that no matter what he’s not going to be convicted in the Senate. It’s just not going to happen. There’s no way 67 Senators are going to convict the president, no matter what he does.
This is why it’s so difficult to figure out Trump’s strategy at this point. He knows some basic things to be true. He has two month so do whatever he wants to, but at the same time once those two months are up things change dramatically. If he’s thinking long-term, he knows anything drastic he does simply increases the already high likelihood that he will be impeached sometime in the first quarter of 2019. It’s a real struggle for me to figure out what he does. It seems to one scenario is he might leverage the next two months by striking first. It’s a risky strategy in some ways, but in other ways he’s simply what comes naturally to him — strike back and strike back hard.
So an argument could be made that he would rather declare war first and then hunker down for an impeachment fight rather than wait until January when it’s almost inevitable that there will be investigations and he will, in turn, be impeached. A lot depends on Mueller. If Mueller throws down the gauntlet between now and January, we will enter a surreal moment in our nation’s history when we pretty much just sit around and wait for the new House to be sworn in.
That’s why is seems from a cold, hard white-knuckled political point of view, it makes a lot of sense for Trump to strike first by firing everyone he feels he needs to fire and pardon everyone he feels he needs to pardon — looking at you Don Jr. — and declare war on the House using every available political tool and resource at his disposal. Trump knows that he is, because of the 67 votes needed to convict him in the Senate, pretty much a dictator at this point. He’s a king. And he’s almost certain to be re-elected for various reasons including a riled up base, an exceptional economy and general Constitutional rot.
So, in that sense, I have a hunch that very, very, very soon Bob Mueller will be fired, half a dozen people will be pardoned and absolutely nothing happens in real terms for two months. Trump will have two months to pound away at the in coming House, he can frame any investigations in cold, hard political terms to his base and the country is completely torn apart for the few months it takes to investigate everything, impeach Trump, have it go to the Senate and then die there. Of course, given the states, Trump’s trial in the Senate is likely to be a modern day OJ trial for a lot of people.
On a personal note, I would like to call bullshit on anyone who waves off the need to impeach Trump. I feel it’s out of hands at this point. History has made its decision and it won’t take too much investigation on the part of the House for it to become apparent that Trump has to at least suffer the historic shame of impeachment, even if we all know he won’t be convicted. Remember, the absolute last argument of MAGA will be, “Yeah? Well convict him.”
In other words, we will all know the gory details of Trump’s obstruction of justice, his conspiracy with a foreign power to influence his election….and nothing will happen to him. He will be impeached, but not convicted and that, as they say, will be that. He will win re-election and there will be a lot — a lot — of stories about Trump is now “unbound” because we had one silver political bullet and we didn’t manage to strike the werewolf.
Or, put another way, what will have to learn about Trump will have to be simply staggering for us to get anywhere near convicting him in the Senate. I would also like to note that the moment MAGA people do the “Pence Pivot” whereby they talk about what a “man of God” Pence is and they really voted for Pence, not Trump in 2016 is the moment Trump’s goose is cooked. But what would have to happen for the Pence Pivot to happen would be so astonishing as to leave me astonished.
In short, Trump is likely going to get impeached, be acquitted in the Senate and cruse to a pleasant victory in 2020. That is without considering the possibility of a major terrorist attack or war with either Iran or the DPRK. So, Trump will start campaign in 2024 for his “legacy” and hopefully by that point The Resistance will have come up with the leadership necessary to deny him one.
Shelton Bumgarner is a writer and photographer living in Richmond, Va. He is working on his first novel. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail (dot) com.