A cocky Trump is looking forward to a fist-fight in Congress
Trump has flat-out refused to allow government employees to testify in his case or to release documents to investigators
Washington — For a man on the brink of becoming only the third US president to be impeached, Donald Trump sure sounds confident.
“You’re so lucky I became your president,” he boomed to cheering supporters late on Tuesday in Hershey, Pennsylvania. “A regular president would have been under the table, thumb in mouth, saying ‘Take me home, Mommy, this is too tough for me’.”
Hours earlier in Washington, Democratic leaders unveiled two impeachment charges against Trump that the full House of Representatives, dominated by Democrats, will likely confirm in the near future.
The Republican businessman is now so entangled in controversy that it takes a hardened Washington politics junkie merely to unravel the strands. Russia collusion, Ukraine quid pro quo, foreign emoluments clause, deep state coup — the terminology alone illustrates the increasingly exotic political mess engulfing Trump.
And less than a year from the 2020 presidential election, he’s also struggling in the polls. But Trump is protected by two things.
The first is that he presides over a booming economy, historically a sure-fire way to re-election. The second is more personal: Trump loves to brawl, and with impeachment he has found a brawl that matches his formidable energy.
Fight every step
President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before Congress could even take its impeachment vote over the Watergate affair. Trump, by contrast, is fighting back at every step. Almost daily he brands impeachment a “hoax”, or as he said in Pennsylvania — with a typical flourish of vivid, often violent language — a “big, fat, disgusting fraud”.
He has flat-out refused to allow government employees to testify in his case or to release documents to investigators. That strategy led to one of the two impeachment charges being levied against him: obstruction of Congress. The other charge is for allegedly trying to force Ukraine to open a corruption probe aimed solely at embarrassing one of his main Democratic rivals, Joe Biden.
Even if the Democrats do vote for impeachment as expected, the case will then go to the Republican-controlled Senate, where Trump sees a chance for revenge.
According to CNN, Trump is pushing reluctant Republican leaders in the Senate to make the trial a media extravaganza, giving his take on the Ukraine affair — including a series of unproven conspiracy theories — a dramatic hearing.
“If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate,” he dared the Democrats in one of his torrents of tweets on the crisis.
Bad polls, good economy
The latest national numbers on polling analysis website FiveThirtyEight look bad for Trump.
The billionaire real estate dealer is shown losing to nearly every one of the multitude of Democrats scrambling to take him on. Even Pete Buttigieg, an Indiana, small-city mayor whose name most Americans couldn’t pronounce a couple of months ago, is shown beating Trump if the elections were held today.
But those polls are taken on a nationwide basis, while US presidential elections are won state by state. Just as in 2016, the 2020 election is expected to go down to the wire in a handful of swing states as Trump and his eventual challenger try to claw their way to the magic number of 270 electoral college votes.
So Trump is happy with a new survey from Republican pollster Firehouse that shows him ahead against all comers in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. “As the impeachment process heats up in Washington, Donald Trump is seeing a boost in support in crucial swing states,” the firm said.
It is true that Trump suffered the embarrassing defeats of Republicans he campaigned for in recent state elections in Kentucky and Louisiana. His party also took a tough hit in the 2018 congressional midterm elections and Democrats appear to be highly energised for 2020.
But the famous maxim from former president Bill Clinton’s victorious 1992 campaign — “It’s the economy, stupid” — could yet help Trump win the day. The latest jobs report puts unemployment at 3.5%, its lowest since Nasa landed a man on the Moon 50 years ago.
A Quinnipiac poll on Tuesday found that 57% of voters say that they are better off financially today than they were in 2016, while just 22% say they are worse off.
“We are finally rebuilding our nation,” Trump said in yet another applause line during the Pennsylvania speech. Americans will hear that phrase many more times in the months to come.