Opinion

White House Apprentice: In Firing Priebus, Trump Moves Closer To Impeachment

Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto

Until Donald Trump’s latest round of White House Apprentice ended with yet another “You’re fired,” I had been among those who considered Trump’s impeachment a Democratic pipedream. Now, after the ouster of Reince Priebus and the failed repeal vote, I see it as a potential likelihood.

Why? Recent bloodlettings have made Trump’s claims to office more tenuous and contentious than ever. And the defections of Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain on the Obamacare repeal vote mean three more G.O.P. senators who have publicly lost faith in, or openly quarreled with, the president.

Whether Collins’, Murkowskis’, and McCains’ reservations about this president run deep enough to vote against him in a hypothetical impeachment “trial” remains to be seen. But if their votes against his legislation, and against the alleged bullying of his surrogates, are any measure, Trump could be in trouble.

Add to this toxic stew the ongoing feuds with “beleaguered” attorney general Jeff Sessions and the firing of “establishment” figure and former R.N.C. Chair Priebus and that’s two more high-profile, high-influence Republicans on the outs with the chief executive. And in tapping a general, John Kelley, and  the now-also-fired Wall Street financier Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci, as his newest hires, the president moves further away from the grand old party whose nomination he once coveted.

Chief Strategist Steve Bannon may be next to go, and when he does, the last of the “president’s men” that helped engineer his election will have exited the scene.

Meanwhile, an angry, frustrated Trump appears to be hunkering down, draining the swamp by first savaging whatever remnants of its establishment players are alive and gasping within it. In purging Priebus and ex-White House Communications Director Sean Spicer, Trump shows he is in lock-down mode, relying on an ever-shrinking circle of those he feels he can trust: his family, his generals, his friends (like Scaramucci), and the few cabinet officials who have supported the president and his agenda unequivocally.

The unprecedented governing coalition Trump has stitched together from a patchwork of populists, nationalists, and Republican party insiders is now badly frayed and unlikely to be saved. In tearing it up, the president moves dangerously free of the practical, grounding forces that helped install him in the White House at a time when his appeal among the people is at an all-time low.

Soon it will be a besieged, isolated Team Trump versus a number of Republicans, every Democrat, and the majority of the American people. And that’s a scenario in which we are all imperiled.

I worry for the Trump presidency because I worry for consequences to governance, the Constitution, and democracy in the increasingly likely scenario that an impeachment case would be brought against him. And with every Republican Trump fires, or, in the case of Sessions, publicly ridicules, he alienates not just that senator, but the electorate in the states where such senators are  supported. In so doing he inches us all closer to the precipice of a potential constitutional crisis. Left for dead is sure to be Mitch McConnell, who may, sooner than later, lose his Majority Leader status over this most recent failure to advance Trump’s conservative agenda.

Trump got elected to “drain the swamp” in Washington, but with this latest round of departures and dust-ups that swamp has turned into a fishbowl, a holding tank, and a democracy-endangering echo chamber in which the only voice the president hears may soon be his own.