Like Scandal? Get Used to It
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- With new allegations from former Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that the then-candidate knew about and authorized the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian agents, this week has given us blockbuster developments in the Trump-Russia scandal, the hush-money-to-girlfriends scandal and the emoluments scandal.
I’m exhausted. Aren’t you? More to the point: Imagine trying to run a White House with all of this going on.
We know how this works, and the answer is: Any presidency would be crippled by this level of scandal. We know that was the case for Richard Nixon during Watergate, for Ronald Reagan during Iran-Contra, and even for Bill Clinton during the scandal that produced his impeachment even though it made him more popular. Yes, presidents try to compartmentalize, but we have plenty of evidence that they don’t really succeed. At any rate, Trump in particular sure doesn’t seem like someone who can turn off the TV, ignore the critics and focus on the business of his presidency.
While I suppose it’s possible that the pace of revelations will slow down, overall, none of this is going to go away anytime soon.
One could argue that Trump doesn’t take the responsibilities of his office seriously anyway, so perhaps this is no worse. That’s hardly reassuring.
In fact, Trump also this week claimed that he’s postponing a meeting with Vladimir Putin until after the Robert Mueller investigation is done. It’s quite possible he was just using that as an excuse after he made a public invitation that Putin snubbed, but if Trump was actually telling the truth, then his position is that he’s putting off important foreign-relations portions of his job because of the scandals.
There’s no precedent for this, and no real constitutional cure for it. The 25th Amendment could be used for the president to voluntarily step aside, but of course no president is likely to do that merely because of accusations against him. Especially since most of these scandals, while serious, aren’t really the stuff of impeachment and removal even if the accusations being thrown around are true. Nor does it seem right for Congress to impeach and remove a president merely because of the number and seriousness of the accusations against him. Perhaps at some point the evidence will be overwhelming, but until then, we’re probably in for more of the same.
It’s simply a mess. And I feel as if I keep saying this, but: It’s very unlikely to go away or get better anytime soon.
1. Adam Bonica on a democracy platform for Democrats. I don’t agree with every point here, but the overall idea sounds right to me — and, in fact, a democracy agenda has been moving rapidly up the party’s list of priorities over the last few years.
2. Dan Drezner on the Trump economy.
3. Rebecca Kuperberg and Mary Nugent at the Monkey Cage on paired voting in the U.K.’s Parliament.
4. Jim Tankersley has a fair treatment of the effects of the Republican tax cut.
5. Leah Litman on the emoluments lawsuit.
6. Jonathan Chait sees signs of congressional Republicans backing off their support for Trump on Russia. Maybe.
7. Mark Joseph Stern and Sofie Werthan on Trump’s overwhelmingly male judicial picks.
8. E.J. Dionne Jr. on Trump and the truth.
9. And Glenn Kessler fact-checks a world-class Trump whopper.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and policy. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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