It was not as if we did not already know. Donald Trump has made a daily habit of showing how unsuitable for the job he is. Fact-checkers, for example, have calculated that he makes false claims more than 10 times each day. On average. But on Holy Thursday, Trump’s unsuitability became official. On that day, while Norwegians went into Easter-time hibernation for the “silent week,” a redacted edition of the Mueller report was released in the U.S. It did not go out quietly.
For a few weeks, Trump was alone, after his attorney general, William Barr, leaked what he considered to be the main conclusion of the report at the end of March — that Mueller had not found sufficient evidence to recommend impeachment of the president on the grounds of suspected collusion with the Russians to sway the results of the 2016 presidential election. And Trump, as usual, did not delay pulling the trigger. “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION,” Trump rejoiced. He had good reason to be satisfied, especially since, according to the Mueller report, Trump’s first reaction to Mueller’s investigation of him in 2017 was “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.”
Trump, that is, was not so confident that he would be “exonerated” by Mueller’s report. Trump’s reaction indicates that he himself thought he had such a poor case that the report would break him.
Exoneration, in any event, was not what happened, even though Trump initially tweeted it. What Mueller’s report lays out are no small trifles. It shows that a foreign state — Russia — influenced the election in 2016, and hoped to help Trump to win the election. It shows that the Trump campaign was aware of this, and wanted it to happen. And when Trump was elected, he took great measures to try to stop the investigation into what had happened.
The “fake news” about Trump, which he has talked about since the Russian efforts to influence the election became known — and even long before then — is thus not fake. Quite the contrary, it is true. The Mueller report states this clearly. And it is here that we come to the more important political content in the report. Because, even though the report does not directly tie Trump to criminal acts, it paints a picture of a morally stunted president, who neither knows nor cares what is truth and what is fiction, who presses his colleagues to make false statements, and who publicly behaves like a bully. This is important, because it is this portrait that is important for the Democrats to win the presidential election in 2020.
Until then, Trump will stew in his own juices. He will be pulled here and there when the Democratic majority in their House committees start their own investigations of Trump’s business. He will curdle in his own juices when the Democratic majority call Mueller as a witness to set the scene for Trump’s suitability to be the president of the United States again. This is the strategy of the Democrats and especially Speaker Nancy Pelosi. An impeachment process is both an unrealistic and undesirable way to get rid of Trump. The Republicans in Congress remain almost united around their president.
Therefore, the only realistic point at which Trump could disappear is the election in November 2020. We do not yet know who among the Democrats will challenge him. There is a wide field with old — Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden — and young — Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg — and the prominent Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who will gladly challenge Trump.
And even though Trump, despite these extraordinary circumstances, has stable support from about 40% of the electorate, he is the only American president in the history of opinion polls who has never had a majority of voters backing him. Trump, in other words, should be possible to beat in 2020.
In “God’s own country,” there is reason to remember that rarely has one committed the seven deadly sins of the Catholic Church as Trump has, the sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. And only one of them leads to destruction.
Do we have him now? Yes, but not entirely. However, if he cooks a little longer in Mueller’s frying pan, he will be ready for the stew pot, and can be served to voters in November 2020. This is the Democrats’ hope and strategy.
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