Rudy Giuliani, in his role as Trump’s lawyer, has been crowing about an unconfirmed conversation in which Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team supposedly said that an impeachment would have to come before any indictment of the president.
In the upside-down world of the Trump defense, this is presented as a victory. To paraphrase the Greek general Pyrrhus, one more such victory and Trump is finished.
The end game of this presidency has always been impeachment. An indictment after the president’s removal from office would be frosting on the cake. And one can imagine a deal like the one that got Vice President Spiro T. Agnew out of office in 1973, in which a resignation is traded for reduced criminal prosecution.
(Agnew pled guilty to charges of tax evasion, but the more serious charges of corruption were dropped. The Agnew case is precedent for the assumption that a vice president or president can indeed be prosecuted for crimes committed before taking office as well as be impeached.)
For Trump, impeachment will likely come first. That’s why we can expect the 2018 congressional elections to include more voter suppression and dirty tricks than any in memory—because the stakes are so high.
Whether Mueller tenders his final report before or after November, if Democrats take control of Congress, impeachment becomes the first order of business. There is already enough obstruction of justice hidden in plain view to justify an impeachment, compounded by Trump selling out his country for his commercial interests—another likely impeachment count.
Republicans may hope that the threat of an impeachment will animate Trump voters to come to the polls. But as shown by the average swing of more than 20 points to Democrats in the six off-year elections for vacant House seats, there are just not enough diehard Trump voters to guarantee Republicans retain control of the House.
We may yet lose our democracy. But if we retain any semblance of it, expect impeachment proceedings to begin this fall.