Four main ingredients go into this stew:
1) The combined revelations of the Woodward book and the anonymous op/ed seem to have had an impact. Both testify to the dangerous unfitness of Donald Trump to be President. And now a recent poll from Quinnapiac finds that 55% of Americans believe the President to be, indeed, unfit for his office.
2) The anonymous op/ed, published by the New York Times, also reports that people high up in the Trump administration gave early consideration to invoking the 25th Amendment, i.e. to the possibility of removing Trump from the Presidency because of that unfitness.
3) The probability of the Democrats taking over the House of Representatives has been gradually climbing in recent months– hitting 70% just yesterday.
4) It seems almost certain that the Mueller investigation will expose a wide and deep pattern of criminality in Trump and his presidency.
From those pieces, the following scenario seems possible to envision:
It’s not a 25th amendment scenario: Although that step requires only a “majority” of the cabinet, it also requires the Vice President’s agreement. And nothing in the conduct, nor character, of Vice President Pence suggests he would take that step.
(Trump would protest, the Republicans in the Congress would not furnish the super-majorities necessary to override the President, and Pence would be left without the presidency and having alienated a great many Republican voters. Pence apparently hankers for the Presidency, and he’d take the cautious approach here and do nothing to rock the boat.)
But even though it seems evident that the 25th Amendment won’t be the means of removing Trump, the idea of Trump’s being dangerously unfit — made vivid by this Woodward-&-Anonymous moment, and continuing to percolate in American public opinion — might intensify the pressure from the electorate for Trump to be removed for the good of the nation.
And that intensification of public desire for Trump to be removed could make more possible that other means of removing the President: impeachment.
If we assume that the Democrats gain control of the House, and that Mueller (plus perhaps hearings in the House, run by Democrats) exposes significant “high crimes and misdemeanors” in Trump and his presidency, we can reasonably expect that at some point the House will impeach Trump.
Then it goes to the Senate, of course. That’s where everyone has always assumed the effort would fail because of the Trump Party’s craven protection of the President. And so it might. But here’s where recent events may result in a different outcome.
The Republicans in the Senate — whether they are still in the majority or not — will not be able to prevent the case against Donald Trump coming to them from the House. Nor will they be able to prevent a full airing of that case.
And here’s where things may have changed:
- Although Trump’s “unfitness” — his “inability to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” in the words of the 25th Amendment — will not get rid of him.
- And although Trump’s criminality, by itself, might not be enough to induce enough GOP Senators to vote for his removal.
- When the unfitness issue is combined with the “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the weight of public opinion might well be so great as to compel the Republican Senators to break with Trump and vote to convict. (By then, the 2018 elections should have clearly shown the dangers of their putting Trump and their dwindling base too far ahead of the desires of the larger electorate.)
In other words, if there’s a strong feeling among the people of wanting to get rid of this President for 25th Amendment reasons, and if that desire is frustrated by the unwillingness of Pence and the Republicans to do anything, the crimes uncovered by Mueller may become in part an excuse — or at least a means — to accomplish what the voters want for other reasons as well.