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Republicans - and the media - should re-examine their assumptions

  • Author: Jennifer Rubin
    | Opinion
  • Updated: January 27
  • Published January 27

There is no end in sight to the shutdown; Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will never put a clean continuing resolution on the Senate floor; Senate Republicans will never turn on President Donald Trump.

Each of these assertions fell apart Thursday when McConnell did put a clean CR on the floor (which got more support than the one that included Trump's $5.7 billion for the border wall). Senate Republicans reportedly were at each other's throats by week's end. And boom, the shutdown was over by Friday. Trump suffers a humiliating defeat, which was entirely avoidable had he not been goaded by the hoots and hollers of the right-wing media. Trump is not only weakened; many Republicans in the Senate are furious with him. (To be fair, they could have brought this to an end weeks ago.)

Meanwhile, Trump’s “no collusion” refrain was eviscerated by the indictment charging Roger Stonewith obstruction and witness tampering. How many Republicans have repeated ad nauseum that they see no evidence of collusion? They should look again. From the text of the indictment: “A senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the [Hillary] Clinton campaign.” If Trump is anywhere in that chain of “A told B to find out C,” the president was conspiring with others after the campaign had been warned about Russian infiltration attempts — and after the hack of the Democratic National Committee was known.

Trump, in late July 2016, publicly called on Russia to go find Clinton’s emails. That very day, Russians attempted to hack into Clinton’s emails. Soon after, a cache of DNC emails gets dumped. Days after that, now-former Trump strategist Stephen K. Bannon (identified in a prior New York Times report) was told (by whom?) to reach out to Stone and find out what else WikiLeaks had. Within hours of the Access Hollywood recording’s release on Oct. 7, WikiLeaks began dumping Clinton’s emails. Bannon, that day, texted his praise to Stone for the WikiLeaks email release. If that isn’t collusion, the word has no meaning. The only question is how much Trump knew and what actions he specifically directed.

In sum, the Republicans' assumption that there was never really any collusion has now been undermined. The assumption that Trump had some clue how to govern and would not put the Senate at risk was blown up, as well. If so many assumptions about the Senate and the evidence in the Russia investigation turned out to be faulty, maybe we should rethink three other assumptions: 1. The Senate will never vote to remove Trump; 2. He’s so popular with the GOP base that any primary challenge would be fruitless; 3. His nomination in 2020 is certain.

If the special counsel Robert Mueller III's report is truly damning (and every filing has surprises, new facts and story lines previously unknown), maybe the Senate will be happy to run Trump out of town - especially if he is polling in the low 30s. If Trump's presidency has been derailed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the wall never gets built, and Trump continues to make everyone look foolish, it's not too far a leap to think donors, operatives and other pols will try to find a 2020 alternative. And if the Senate looks like it just might vote to remove him, and/or a credible challenger (or more than one) pops up, I could imagine Trump stomping off - with a pardon in hand from Vice President Mike Pence.

Don’t get me wrong. None of that is a given. However, within just a week’s time, such developments seem as possible as the Senate will never turn/Mueller will never find collusion/challengers won’t step forward chain of assumptions. The only rule of thumb in this, the most mind-blowing and serious scandal in history - we’re talking working with the enemy to grab an election, in part by weaponizing stolen emails - is never assume anything. Mueller will be smarter and Trump will be dumber than you can possibly imagine.

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