You can take this to the bank: Before the year ends, Donald Trump will become the third American president to be impeached by the House of Representatives. The mounting, overwhelming evidence of his bad acts, the House’s constitutional obligations, and, frankly, Trump’s real-time, in-plain-sight meltdown—which has so far included calls for the whistleblower and a member of Congress to be treated as traitors and, on Sunday night, a threatened civil war if he is removed from office—all point to its inevitability.
You can take this to the bank, as well: By the time it happens, the American public will want it to happen. They’ll want the Trump Show to end, one way or the other.
The president will only degenerate as more shoes drop, as more whistleblowers come forward, as more witnesses are called, as more documents are subpoenaed, as more officials leave, as his entirely unprepared White House, stripped of the Republican Party’s best minds and most skilled operatives, is left to wither in the dark while the walls close in, the president tweeting furiously into the void.
What happens after that will depend on Republicans—in particular, the ones who haven’t been completely sucked into the Fox News alternate-reality vortex of bullshit, the ones who, in their bones, know that our democracy is in dangerous, unprecedented territory. And, despite all appearances, I still believe—or maybe hope—that’s there are enough of them in the halls of power to make the right call when the time comes.
They’ve read the same documents and stories we have. They know that Trump’s excuses for the Ukraine affair are paper-thin, even as they mouth them for TV cameras. They know they can whine about the whistleblower’s complaint being “hearsay” until they’re blue in the face, but they also know that the report was meticulously and expertly crafted, then vetted and judged credible by a Trump-appointed inspector general.
They know that the president and Rudy Giuliani have confirmed that they’ve spent months pressuring Ukraine’s government to dig into debunked allegations about Joe Biden’s family. They know that the White House has confirmed the whistleblower’s account that officials moved records of Trump’s calls with Ukraine’s president—and almost certainly leaders of Russia and Saudi Arabia, as well—to a classified server so as to spare the president humiliation and possibly criminal inquiries. They know that Trump unilaterally blocked aid to Ukraine. And they know that, on the now-notorious phone call, when Ukraine’s president asked about buying anti-tank missiles key to fighting Russia, Trump responded, “I would like you to do us a favor, though.”
They know that, while the president’s most ardent defenders—among them, Senator Lindsey Graham and North Carolina congressman Mark Meadows, who have Gorilla Glued their lips to Trump’s ass—have harped on the fact that the “favor” Trump sought had to do with something called Crowdstrike, and that the Biden stuff came a few seconds later, this doesn’t exactly help Trump’s case. Because they know that the reference to Crowdstrike is a nonsensical conspiracy that emerged in the right-wing fever swamp, a theory that Russia was framed for the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee server and the evidence is in Ukraine.
Besides, they also know that Trump did ask for Ukraine’s help in investigating the Bidens, so as to provide him with vague innuendo he can wave around no matter how times it gets fact-checked, and they know that had a Democrat asked for this sort of assistance, they would be pounding the tables and demanding that Democrat’s impeachment.
They also know that Trump knows that Russia really did help him become president. The Washington Post reported last week that, in the same 2017 meeting in which he shared classified intel on ISIS, Trump assured the Russians that he didn’t care about their election interference—a year before he shared a stage with Vladimir Putin in Poland and told the world he believed Putin that Russia hadn’t interfered in American elections.
And though they often deny it, they know they’ve seen the president’s Twitter feed—including his Sunday tweet favorably quoting Dallas megachurch preacher Robert Jeffress saying (on Fox News, of course) that removing Trump would “cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country would never heal,” or when he likened U.S. Representative Adam Schiff paraphrasing parts of the Ukrainian call memo during a hearing last week to treason.
They know that this is all beyond the pale. They know that Trump is an unstable narcissist only loosely tethered to reality. They know what should be done. They know they have the power to bring it about.
They know that, in 1974, Richard Nixon was convinced he could hang on until Republicans told him it was over—that he would be replaced and removed unless he bowed out. They know that if enough House and Senate Republicans came out tomorrow and said publicly what they reportedly say privately, the president would have little choice but to resign, and if he didn’t, Mitch McConnell would have no choice but to hold a trial that ended with Trump’s removal.
But they also know that going into 2020 with a clear conscience would likely mean facing an electoral wipeout: a progressive president, a Democratic Congress, Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, tax hikes for the rich, all of it. Even if that didn’t happen, they know that, in their rural states and gerrymandered districts, doing what’s right would hurt them politically. The GOP has sold its soul to Trump and his brand of made-for-cable-news authoritarianism, and going against their leader is a gamble with limited rewards and unlimited downside. And they know that, should Trump somehow survive this, their party and its propaganda machinery will only emerge more tightly wrapped around him.
So politicians like North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, who is facing a tough Senate re-election campaign next year, have a decision to make. They can stand with their president and cling to their political careers, or they can stand with their country. But they can’t do both.
This is their moment of truth.