The End Is Near

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Gage Skidmore/Flickr

By ABE ASHER

Donald Trump is going to be impeached. As always, it’s not going to be the crime but the cover-up.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Trump asked the former FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation into the Russian ties of disgraced former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

If true, it’s textbook obstruction of justice — and it harkens resoundingly back to the last U.S. president who failed to finish his term.

After Trump fired Comey last week — because, as the president himself so eloquently put it, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story” — the Richard Nixon Presidential Library cheekily tweeted that even their man never fired the Director of the FBI.

True enough — though he certainly tried. What Nixon did do, however, was order his Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman to get the FBI to stop its investigation of the Watergate break-in.

The tape of Nixon ordering the cover-up was released on August 5, 1974. Nixon was gone five days later.

Trump, according to Comey’s memo, is guilty of the exact same crime: trying to interfere with an active FBI investigation.

Of course, it’s probably going to take more than what sunk Nixon to sink Trump. Nixon’s was a different time. But the clock started ticking on Trump’s presidency the moment he fired the man investigating him for treason.

Comey, once FBI Director, is now just an excellent record-keeper with little to lose and much to gain by sharing what he knows with those who want to know it. Lyndon Johnson’s old quote about keeping J. Edgar Hoover inside the tent pissing out instead of outside the tent pissing in — repeated by Chris Hayes on Tuesday afternoon — comes to mind.

The revelations and leaks will continue. That’s what happens when you, a Commander-in-Chief who can’t keep his mouth shut even when lives are at stake, make an enemy of the FBI.

After all, James Comey didn’t read his memo to The New York Times. Associates of his did.

Associates of Trump, meanwhile — when they aren’t hiding amongst bushes — are giving their own assessments of their boss’ situation. One senior White House official’s take on Tuesday? “I don’t see how Trump isn’t completely fucked.”

That senior official is right. The obstruction of justice charges are piling up. The investigation into Trump’s Russia ties is heating up, with former FBI Robert Mueller appointed special council to oversee it. The president is cooked any time Congress wants to cook him. All that’s left are the politics.

When Trump goes down, it won’t be because Republicans have had some sort of moral awakening. It will be because their political lives depend on it.

A Quinnipiac poll taken last week has the Democrats up a whopping 16 points on a generic House ballot, 54 to 38 percent. Trump’s aggregated approval rating has fallen below 40 percent, with just around 25 percent in strong support of the president.

As of today, more Americans favor the impeachment of Trump than oppose it. Every day we get closer to November 2018, the more compelling those numbers become.

Impeachment, like everything else, has always been political. Bill Clinton was impeached for having an affair. Andrew Johnson was impeached for firing his War Secretary. It takes a whole lot less than what Trump has already done.

The GOP is already beginning to move. Utah representative and chair of the House oversight committee Jason Chaffetz, last seen scootering around the Capitol trying to take away people’s healthcare, has said he will subpoena a copy of Comey’s memo.

Many Republicans will stick by Trump to the bitter end, just as they did with Nixon. But at some point, when there are no other options, they’ll jump ship. Across the political spectrum, that process is beginning.

California representative Adam Schiff, the minority leader on the oversight committee, has called for Comey to testify. From Angus King, to David Gergen, to David Axelrod, to John “It’s Deeply Troubling” McCain, consensus arose yesterday that we’re moving into impeachment territory.

It will take time. It won’t happen before five, or ten, or twenty more bombshells, or, potentially, before Trump tweets the nuclear codes at 4 a.m. or does something equally as damaging.

New areas of constitutional law might have to be established. On Monday, The Washington Post reported that Trump shared highly classified intelligence with Russian officials last week — endangering the life of an Israeli spy who had infiltrated ISIS and endangering the U.S.’ ability to work with its allies around the world.

Impeachable offense? Though the president can declassify intelligence, it’s not entirely clear. The truth is that the office has not yet been fool-proofed for this level of imbecility. Chances are, soon enough, it will be.

In the meantime, Trump’s support will continue to erode, and Trump himself will become more disconsolate and more desperate — a dangerous proposition for a man whose extraordinary insecurity demands that he be universally liked.

The die has been cast. If Trump ever had full control of the course of his presidency, it is now gone. Congress can remove Trump any time it wants to — and when it does, America’s strange, sad flirtation with its overgrown 4-year-old will be finished.

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