I am not a D.C. insider, nor am I an attorney who has represented presidents facing serious investigations (though I am an attorney who has done criminal defense). I am not a Robert Costa or any of the other brilliant journalists who have done yeoman’s work in exposing this White House’s many mistakes, and deplorable actions. I’m damn sure not a prosecutor, especially one as good and principled as Robert Mueller. Yet, I do believe that I have an idea as to how this all ends. I certainly have nothing to gain by putting this out here, I may end up looking foolish. But, I still believe that some will benefit by hearing out my reasoning.
President Trump will not be impeached. Of this I am absolutely positive, with one significant caveat. If Mueller’s second report to Congress (more on the 2 reports later) – the one that is not expected within weeks to months, but after the November elections, the one involving what happened during the campaign, contains an explosive finding that demonstrates Trump received direct funds while running for president, or knew of Russian efforts to assist him, or knew that his fraudulent loans (money laundering) left him with no choice but to act as Russia’s aide, coupled with Mueller having direct proof that Trump instigated some U.S. policy solely because Russia favored it and instructed him to instigate it (same goes for Saudi or the Emirates), in THAT scenario along, then I believe Trump could be impeached.
I actually believe some of this happened, especially the blackmail concerning fraudulent land deals – if such a situation is proven so clearly that even Fox News struggles to explain it away, then it is possible that a Democratic House could impeach him, and enough Republican Senators, facing increasing voter anger, would find their inner practicality, and send Trump packing. It requires 66 votes, and thus we are speaking of a post-November congress, it is unlikely there would be more than 48-49 Democrats, so we are looking for almost 20 Republican votes. Exceedingly difficult absent just shocking evidence. The other reason that I believe this is unlikely – even though the circumstances almost surely occurred, it is so difficult to prove intent. Proving Trump’s intention to act on behalf of Russia will be nearly a block to such an impeachment.
However, that is not the end of the story. Mueller’s team is reportedly weeks to months away from issuing a report on possible crimes committed while president. These crimes involve primarily obstruction. No amount of obstruction will move Republicans in the House to impeach the president. The House Republicans already know that Trump fired Comey because he wanted the Russian investigation stopped. It does not move them in the slightest, even though the same moves ended Nixon’s presidency. It is possible that some of the latest evidence, evidence of money going to Cohen, and possibly then directly to Trump, would constitute crimes exceeding obstruction. It is possible that the evidence will be so overwhelming that Republicans will be left without a choice, but I do not see it, not this Republican House.
Mueller does not believe he has the authority to indict a president for crimes committed while in office. It is an open legal question, but ultimately, Mueller is conservative when it comes to constitutional questions – he will leave the consequences of this first report to Congress. Congress would likely reprimand the president, a formal “censure,” but not remove Trump from office.
That still does not end the story. Mueller is working on a second report, with a separate team, one concerning crimes committed prior to taking office. This is the portion of the Mueller investigation which terrifies Trump. Trump knows he has the money laundering history and tax evasion issues to worry about. That is why Trump has drawn a “red line” in looking at his financial history. Trump knows this is where the easily proven stuff lies.
Mueller does believe that he has authority to indict a sitting president for crimes committed prior to taking office. However, there is a question about whether he could prosecute those indictments while the president was in office, or whether he would need to wait until Trump is out of office, whether by being voted out, or impeached. But, Mueller can and will prosecute these indictments. It would only be a matter of when.
The second report containing evidence of these crimes would not come out until after November, when it is likely that a Democratic House will suddenly be in charge of oversight, and will institute real investigations into White House abuses. Trump will face scandals and trouble on a level that makes today look like nothing. The indictments, coupled with what could be exposed in a House investigation will motivate Trump to “end this,” “somehow.”
Trump’s primary concern is first and always money. He does not care in the least if he goes down in history as the most corrupt and worst president in history. He cares about whether he enriched himself. If Trump is indicted and convicted of money laundering or any other felony, he will lose whatever “fortune” he has. I do not believe he actually has a large fortune to begin with, I believe he moves massive amounts of cash around, but there is little “there” in actual wealth when one counts the money owed on the other side of the ledger – – Trump made payments to Stormy in installments, he kept money made at fundraisers for veterans until caught – he’s not rich. After the indictments, Trump would face personal bankruptcy – after all, he makes most of his money by laundering it, loaning his name out as a label associated with luxury and value. After Trump is exposed, his name will no longer being value but shame. He could also easily face jail time after stepping down from office. Most importantly, he faces financial ruin.
Knowing this, Trump will look to make a deal, one that preserves the only thing he cares about, his money. Trump’s team will start exploring the possibility of him “stepping down” “for the good of the country” to not have to put the country through the “turmoil” that Putin wants, on the condition, that President Mike Pence (who will have his own issues awaiting) gives Trump a blanket pardon on all things Russia.
This would be an exceedingly tough call, and one that Mueller may not accept. However, Mueller would have to fear that Trump would leave office at the end of the first term, face criminal charges, only to have a possible Republican president (I believe Trump will choose not to run, or be primaried by Mitt Romney, among others, if he is still president going into the campaign season for the 2020 campaign.). If Trump lost the primary, it is possible that the Republican nominee would go on to win the general (possible, not likely) and pardon Trump anyway. The Republican would do so to preserve some of the dignity of the Republican party, but also stating that his motivation is to “not put the country though such a trying period, giving Putin what he wants” – and thus Trump would get off scott-free, having served his full term.
Thus, there would be tremendous pressure upon Mueller to make an agreement whereby Trump steps down from office in exchange for a blanket pardon by the next president. Such a deal would likely have to be ratified by Congress, because it would require agreements made by Mueller with a person (Pence) who is not even president yet. Democrats would not likely agree to such a deal unless it involved a commitment to open real investigations into the full role of the Russian government in penetrating our voter rolls, and other mechanisms as yet not investigated.
Trump will attempt to fire Mueller at some point, however, if enough evidence is brought out through the second investigation, and especially after the evidence brought out in the first investigation, Congress would likely block firing Mueller, even a Republican Congress. I expect Mueller to have evidence so strong that the country is shocked and between 66% and 75% will be demanding that Trump be held accountable.
The deal will be made, Trump will declare it was all the Deep State attempting to get him, he will maintain his innocence through the end, and will be willing to step down, only because he has “already made the country great again” and staying in office longer “will only hurt the country” – when in reality, Trump is doing it as the best possible way to ensure that he does not end up in prison, and retains some fraction of whatever wealth he claims to have.
Trump will then attempt to build some sort of media empire from the outside, though his “magic” effect on his strongest supporters will wane, there will still be that 20-30% that believes anything Trump says, and supports Trump through everything.
The entire matter will near rip the Republican party in two, those who favor Trump through it all, and those who favor America through it all. It will require congressional investigations that will rival the Church Committee in scope and length, about how this level of corruption was allowed to happen, and how deep did it infuse the Republican party. Many laws, and perhaps a constitutional amendment, will be made, prohibiting some of the worst abuses.
It is merely my best guess, and I look forward to hearing people’s thoughts in the responses.