The Trump administration has been in office for 88 days as I write this.
The persistent incompetence of Trump personally and his administration generally will get no better. But their continuous exposure to the realities of governing and their inability to assuage interest groups with empty promises as they could during the campaign will become more and more obvious.
It is one thing during a campaign to denounce China as a currency manipulator when the people you are talking to both don't know any better, and you don't care whether what you are saying is true or not.
It is quite another to talk to President Xi who, I suspect came here in part because the yuan is tanking against the dollar. It has fallen from 6.2 to the dollar a year ago, which it had been at for many years, to 7 today, a decline of 13%. Chinese investors are the same indifferent-to-patriotism whores as American investor-whores are, so they are moving their money out of China as fast as they can before the yuan falls any further.
Xi apparently does not have the command economy authority to forbid such transfers as his predecessors had, so he has to deal with the currency markets. One thing he came here for, I suspect, was to ask Trump to ask Janet Yellen, chairman of the Federal Reserve, to increase the money supply in the US. Which would reduce the upward pressure on the dollar against the yuan and other currencies.
My guess is that this came as a complete surprise to Trump, who seems to know only what he sees on television, and does not read his briefing papers. After the Xi visit, Trump announced that China was not a currency manipulator.
One can only imagine the look on Trump's face when he had gotten himself all worked up about how he was going to demand that Xi revalue the yuan, demand it right to his face, and then found out that Xi had come here to ask him for help to do just that. Trump also announced that the dollar had "gotten too strong", i.e. is too high against the yuan. Conversely, one can only imagine how hard Xi had to work to show no expression when he realized what an ignorant putz the American president is.
So Trump has now admitted that Obama was born in the US, and that China is not a currency manipulator. It seems to be the consensus of both Republicans and Democrats that the less said about the wall on the Mexican border, the better. Obamacare remains in place. He has not prosecuted Hillary Clinton. If China is not a currency manipulator then those "good-paying factory jobs" are not coming back when Trump forces the Chinese to revalue the yuan. Trump was going to defeat ISIS and then get us out of the Middle East. But he just bombed an Assad airbase and the siege of Mosul grinds on as before, so those campaign promises are gone too.
While it is the general opinion of Democrats that Trump supporters are opaque to facts, I think that is an over-simplification. A small hard core of Trump supporters are, but I think a majority of those who voted for him are not immune to facts. Many are already experiencing buyer's remorse as one Trump issue after another withers and vanishes. I think that has a great deal to do with his rapidly declining public approval ratings.
Further, the White House will continue to stumble from incompetence to corruption to incompetence again, in a constant drip drip drip of bad news. The press, whom Trump has gone out of his way to alienate, will be merciless in pounding away, making sure none of the stories goes away. Trump's support will continue to erode, a percent a month.
---Democrats will win the House in 2018
Which at last brings us to the near future. Extrapolating Trump's declining popularity, currently 37%, into the future, it should be under 20% by the mid-term elections, 18 months from now. Republican congressmen who screamed their lungs out for him during the campaign last year, will claim not to have heard of him.
The Democrats will crush them with footage of the Republican congressman in a 'Make America Great' cap, smiling and waving next to the one he claims to have never met. My guess is that the Democrats will win majority control of the House of Representatives in 2018.
BUT they will actually fall further behind in the Senate. Not because anyone has any love for Republican senators, but because far more Democratic senatorial seats are up for election than Republican seats. When everyone hates the government, incumbents do not fare well so one can expect some turnover. 23 Democratic seats are up for election in 2018, and only 9 Republican seats.
With the House of Representatives in Democratic hands, the gloves will come off in the Russia investigations. There will be damning revelation after damning revelation. There will be other scandals from the two years of the corporate hogs feeding at the government trough that we are seeing now.
Attorney-General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions will stonewall demands for indictments of various high government officials and corrupt businessmen in spite of overwhelming evidence. That will feed the general sense of anger and resentment against the government generally, and against the White House in particular. Trump's approval ratings will fall to the same levels as Congress' are now, low teens or high single digits.
--Impeachment in the House
Sometime in 2019 or 2020, the then-Democratic House will vote articles of impeachment against Trump, based on the results of the investigations.
Which will present a problem for the then-still-Republican Senate. They will be facing the reverse of the 2018 situation. In 2020, 22 Republican seats will be contested, but only 11 Democratic ones.
The Republican senators in those seats, almost half of all current Republican senators, will be looking at political extinction if they side with Trump, and with extinction of their party if they don't.
There will be two strategies. One will be to try to win the trial but go where the evidence goes, to leave Trump and his White House officials slowly twisting in the wind. Another will be to stall in hopes the impeachment trial will take place after the 2020 elections. I predict that won't work because the Democrats will be using footage of the Republican senators dodging and evading at the hearings leading up to the trial. It will finally be in the Republican senators' interest to get the trial to a vote and get it over with and hope the public will have forgotten how individual senators voted by the 2020 elections.
---Conviction in the Senate
As to the trial in the Senate, my speculation is that Trump will lose and be removed from office. He will be the fourth American president to be impeached (Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton), and the first one convicted by the Senate.
Among the reasons: a) the evidence will show he is guilty; and b) if he is acquitted, as a sitting Republican president, he would still be the presumptive Republican nominee in 2020. If Trump were the Republican presidential nominee in 2020, the landslide against him would widen the Democratic majority in the House and give them the Senate as well as the White House. It would destroy the Republican Party for a decade or more. Republicans would be swept out of state governments across the country.
What happens next depends on the charges he is convicted of. There will already have been a prolonged fight and endless negotiations in the House Judiciary Committee and with the House Democratic leadership about what to charge him with.
My guess is that the facts will show at least a prima facie case of treason. The problem with treason is that it carries the death penalty. No chief of state has legally been put to death by a common law jurisdiction since Parliament beheaded Charles I in 1649. That ended badly for Parliament and the monarchy was restored eleven years later.
Trump's defense will be that he had no duty to protect and defend the Constitution until he had sworn the oath of office, not as a candidate. This will be correct but so politically unviable that he will be convicted of something else and then sentenced as though he had been guilty on the treason charge.
With Nixon, the problem more or less solved itself. Nixon resigned when it became clear he would be convicted. His successor, President Gerald Ford, dutifully fell on his sword and pardoned Nixon. Nixon tastefully spent the remainder of his days secluded on his estate at San Clemente.
Imagine the situation in 2019. Trump has been convicted. Vice-President Pence has already in 2017 shown a clear intention to remain sufficiently aloof from Trump to avoid getting splattered with Trump's mud. Pence may well want to run as the incumbent in 2020 and he knows what happened to Ford as well as anyone else does. He lost decisively to the Hillary Clinton of 1976, Jimmy Carter. What if he doesn't pardon Trump? What should the penalty be?
Death is pretty much off the table. But there will still be discussions about guillotine, lethal injection, electrocution, and so on. Liberals will be torn between their opposition to the death penalty and their hatred of Trump. As a traditionalist, I support public hanging.
That leaves prison as a possibility, and removal from office without prison as another.
If Trump goes to Leavenworth, the United States looks like Egypt sending Hosni Mubarak to prison, like a third world country. Plus Leavenworth would become a pilgrimage site for Trump loyalists. And knowing our boy, Trump would exploit it to the max. He would still be able to tweet from there. Imagine how that would work. The better solution would be for him to go to Guantanamo where presumably there would be no pilgrims and no tweeting.
Alternately, the Senate removes him and does not sentence him to jail time. They couldn't duck by referring the case to the US District Court for the District of Columbia because the constitution explicitly assigns trial to the Senate, so the court would give the hot potato right back to them.
Now here's the hard part. If they go with the Nixon precedent and settle for removal and no jail time, what comes next? Not tastefully vanishing into San Clemente. That is not Trump's style.
If he doesn't go to prison, Trump goes back to New York and Trump Tower, to Mar a Lago, he plays golf with celebrities, he builds more hotels, he is in public as much as anyone can be, he gives interviews, he signs autographs, he even goes back on 'The Apprentice' which he owns, he does cameos in movies, he hosts Saturday Night Live, he continuously tweets that he is innocent and that everybody else is crooked. He leads a right-wing political movement, a la Marine LePen.
You know he will. That is just who he is. He has no other way to be him.
That is not acceptable to me nor to you, and it won't be acceptable to the Senate. He has to go to jail. It can't be Leavenworth so it has to be Guantanamo.
Can we really send an American president to prison? On the other hand, can we let him commit treason, prove it, convict him, and then have him laugh in our faces? There will be no good outcomes.