One of my favorite quotes is from the British historian A.J.P. Taylor, who was referring to the aborted democratic revolutions of 1848: “History reached its turning point, and failed to turn.”
Will the week of July 15, 2018, be remembered in the same way? By all rights, this should be the beginning of the end of Trump’s presidency. Republican defenders can swallow a lot, but flagrant treason is a bridge too far. Or is it?
Polls now show that increasing numbers of Americans are likely to support a Democrat for Congress, in order to rein Trump in. Even Fox News found the Putin embrace too much to swallow.
If the Republican leadership had a shred of decency and patriotism, they would go beyond the verbal distancing and begin to limit Trump’s powers. Several pieces of legislation would do just that, including bills to punish Russian behavior and to protect the Mueller investigation.
But here, Republican partisanship trumps the all but universal recognition that Trump is both a psychopath and a traitor. Despite the verbiage, Republican leaders continue to protect him.
Trump’s belated attempt at damage control—that he had garbled a double negative and had meant to say something like, “Why wouldn’t Russia meddle in our election?” rather than “Why would Russia?”—was beyond laughable; at a dozen other points in the joint press conference Trump insisted that he believed Putin’s denials.
The Republican leadership could advise Trump now that he needs to resign or face impeachment by a bipartisan effort. But Republicans fear alienating the hard-core Trump base.
So this wretched interregnum will continue a while longer, with Trump at odds with his entire administration and the national security establishment on the Putin question, yet Republicans too divided and paralyzed to act.
Trump’s latest footsie with Putin increases the odds that Democrats will win the House by a wide margin. Once Robert Mueller’s report is made public, the extent of Trump’s financial dependence on the Kremlin will become clear, as will the specifics of his collusion with Putin, and Democrats will proceed with impeachment.
Mueller is now likely to accelerate his efforts to get the report wrapped up. So yes, this week marked a turning point. But the turn will take a little while longer.