Increasingly anxious Republicans spend much of their time in this Christmas season talking about what they see as approaching doom with Donald Trump in the White House.
While much of the complaining comes in private conversations between GOP House and Senate members, the frustration with Trump shows up publicly. Several say the party needs someone else to run for President as a Republican in 2020.
Trump’s growing unpopularity with voters gave Democrats control of the House in the midterm elections in November and Republicans admit privately that his escalating legal, ethical and moral problems will make matters worse if he runs for re-election.
“I don’t understand the strategy,” says John Cornyn of Texas, the second highest ranking Republican in the Senate. “Maybe he’s figured it out and he will tell us in due course, but I don’t understand it.”
Cornyn was talking about Trump’s threat to “proudly” shutdown the government if he doesn’t get full funding of his Mexican border wall, but a staff member of the Senator says he comments more often about finding a way to “shut down Trump.”
Third ranking Senator John Thune of South Dakota says he can never feel proud about shutting down the government.
“It would not be good,” he says. Trump’s problem, Thune adds, is not having the votes to get his way.
“The only thing I would say is, it’s just simple math — that you’ve to got to get 60 votes in the Senate, and that’s going to require Democrats,” Thune said.
Another Republican Senator, who asked that his name not be used, told Capitol Hill Blue that Special Counsel Robert Mueller “is no fool and knows how to build a solid case. Every move he makes puts the president into a deeper and darker hole. We will not be able to ignore evidence of not only of illegal attempts to affect the prosecution but also of a pattern of collusion with Russia to disrupt and affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.”
Trump’s melt-down in his contentious meeting with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and his claim that he’d be “proud to shut down the government for border security” has left House and Senate Republicans shaking their heads.
“I’m on the record saying numerous times I think a shutdown is a fool’s errand,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) when asked for his thoughts of Trump’s actions.
Privately, the same members say Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior leaves more and more of them finally admitting that continued support of Trump is a loss for their party and the country.
More and more now admit Trump needs to go, but a major question is “to who?”
Several discount vice president Mike Pence, whose blind allegiance to Trump makes him a problem with too many voters, particularly the independents and women who could determine the next presidential election winner.
“Pence could be the next Gerald Ford if Trump is removed before the end of his first term as president,” says one GOP analyst. “Let’s remember what happened to Ford.”
After Ford replaced Richard Nixon, who resigned in disgrace to avoid impeachment, he failed to win re-election to Jimmy Carter. Some feel Ford’s pardon of Nixon made the difference but others said the voters simply did not have the stomach to keep Nixon’s vice president in office.
There are problems with impeaching Donald Trump. A big one is the holy terror waiting in the wings.
That would be Mike Pence, who mirrors the boss more than you realize. He’s also self-infatuated. Also a bigot. Also a liar. Also cruel.
To that brimming potpourri he adds two ingredients that Trump doesn’t genuinely possess: the conviction that he’s on a mission from God and a determination to mold the entire nation in the shape of his own faith, a regressive, repressive version of Christianity. Trade Trump for Pence and you go from kleptocracy to theocracy.
Conservative columnist George Will says Pence is dangerous:
Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.
Writes Greg Sargent in The Washington Post:
Since Election Day, some GOP strategists have concluded that Trump’s closing message of xenophobic, nationalist border-fearmongering actually harmed Republicans more than initially thought. They now believe it was a major factor in the GOP wipeout in the suburbs.
Cohen has maintained that the payoffs to women alleging affairs were done “in coordination with and at the direction” of Trump. Now the National Enquirer’s parent company has admitted to paying one of the women to suppress her story, “to prevent it from influencing the election.”
We don’t know where all of this will end up, but it is obvious that Trump’s legal travails are deepening. And it’s hard to foresee a scenario in which it doesn’t get harder and harder for Republicans to defend him.
Which leaves many Republicans scratching their heads and asking themselves: “Now what?”
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