Last week, I forecasted a President and Mrs. Pence, predicting impeachment would move promptly. The main reason being that Republicans would come to the realization that they cannot continue to defend the unearthed and unethical conduct of President Trump described in the whistleblower complaint. Given the avalanche of news from Giuliani's goofy TV appearances, Trump's expletive tweets and temper tantrums, Secretary Pompeo's push-back, the process is moving at double warped speed, and dominoes won't fall so much as crush.
Originally, while the thinking behind impeachment seemed rational, to many it also seemed illusory. I heard variations of “fantasy land,” “fairy tale,” and “you must be smoking something.” I suppose that my theory was really a call to the better angels of those who could clip Trump’s wings. Beyond the illegalities, will there ever be illuminations? Beyond the slash and burn, will there be a splash of spurn? In other words, will the Republicans in Congress, in the administration, and Trump’s base agree to beseech and impeach?
I wanted to find out if indeed someone had slipped mind-altering dust on my computer keys, or if we might get lucky and have a quick and clean impeachment, so I sought out someone who would know a great deal more than I do.
Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, serving New York's 18th District, is one of the most impressive LGBTQ members of the House and a leading voice on the Intelligence Committee, which is at the center of the impeachment inquiry. Maloney was credited with asking some of the most compelling questions of Acting National Director of Intelligence Joseph Maguire during the committee’s hearing last week. Most notably, he pushed Maguire about whether or not he spoke to the president about the whistleblower complaint. And last week before the hearing, Maloney decided to join the majority of his House colleagues in supporting the impeachment proceedings.
Maloney threw a punch to my hunch that Republicans in Congress would soon start to fall in line towards impeachment given all of the evidence and Trump's dismal polling numbers. Will they finally end this mess?
“No, not right away,” Maloney explained. “There are a small number of Republicans who will go through the back door and admit that the president’s conduct was unjustifiable, but they won’t all at once decide enough is enough, and they definitely won’t change their minds right away.”
At the same time, Maloney sees some hesitation disseminating from his Republican colleagues and admits that some of them are off their game, on their back feet, and struggling to come to terms with this onslaught of information. He also added that they’re waiting to rally around some meaningful talking points from the White House.
“Trump’s backers in Congress, at the present time, are planning to go all out to defend and support him,” Maloney pointed out. “Those who are a bit more open-minded will most likely pull away when they decide that polling numbers are in their favor, and when the opportunity arises for them to afford to do it.”
As we wait for enlightenment on the Hill, will bulbs brighten over some members of the administration? The former U.S. Envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who resigned last week, testifies today in front of Maloney's committee, and the House subpoenaed Secretary of state Pompeo. And, whether in witticism or in optimism, there are already trending hashtags for #presidentpelosi since the Whistleblower complaint names Pence as an accomplice and the Speaker of the House is second in line of presidential succession.
Seemingly, but skeptically, Pence might still has a political career after Trump. The Washington Post reports that Trump involved Pence in pressuring Ukraine. Thus, I wondered if he is indeed up to his unqueer eyes in this straight guy mess. Would Pence pull a Spiro Agnew and resign? But in this case, try to cut a deal with Pelosi and agree to go rather than face criminal charges? The idea seemed rational, but Maloney wasn’t buying it.
“No, that won’t happen, and I think you’re getting ahead of yourself,” Maloney said with a chuckle. “The Vice President, like his boss, will dig in and fight this tooth nail.”
The bottom line in Washington seems to be that, while there is unending chaos and confusion, it will likely be with us for — at least — the next few months. So that leaves one more group among Trump’s triaging trifecta, otherwise known as “the base.”
This presidency has been compared to a television series, Trump’s reality show, a never-ending saga of deceit, destruction, and desertion. The rebirth of the classic soap opera, and thanks to those middle of the night Twitter rants, the reboot of the late-night horror show. A verifiable dramatization of the 24-hour news cycle. And Trump has jumped the shark so many times, it has swum away. The same station fixed on the same show, the antithesis of a tired Law & Order that has been overplayed, overdone, and over sensationalized. Would people, perhaps parts of his base, become desensitized, pick up the remote, change the channel, and stop watching?
“It’s wishful thinking that his base is tired of him or his tweet storms and won’t tire of the upcoming slash and burn defense strategy Trump will employ,” Maloney said. “And don’t get your hopes up about a mass exodus from Trump. Most will likely stay where they are and won’t be in any hurry to change their minds right away.”
All of this should sadden us. Regrettably, this entire episode is only starting to play out, and so many questions need to be addressed before we all come to a shared resolution. Will there be a return to reverence of our republic among Republicans? Will some of the Trump base open their eyes and avert their allegiance? Will Trump bring the country down to keep himself up?
“To that end, I think most of the country is trying to absorb all of this. The facts matter and everybody — Congress, the administration and the American people — need to take a breath at some point, and really give this the very serious thought it deserves. People need to be prepared for a very difficult fight. There are lots more investigations to come, so the impeachment process is going to take some time,” Maloney concluded.
The country is now faced with a serious illness with no clear cure in sight. Today's news will be old news tomorrow, and the rapid change of story lines will continue the day after tomorrow, and the day after that. It will be a cascading — make that a tsunami — of revelations that will shake our country's soul. We've only just begun. As such, we should hope for the best but prepare for the worst. We should also pray that better angels, like Maloney, continue to come forward and help us heal.