Donald Trump has now managed to survive three years in the presidency, despite historically low poll numbers, numerous criminal scandals, and a general public that’s just plain sick of the guy. It raises the question: what is this guy’s secret to survival? I’ve been covering Trump every day for years, and I’m going to tell you precisely what his secret is.
There isn’t one. Donald Trump has no secret to survival. He hasn’t been carrying some evil genius plan all this time. If he were, the result sure wouldn’t look like this – because this has gone very badly for America, but it’s gone very badly for Trump as well. So let’s talk about what’s really prevented Trump from already having been dragged out of the White House on his butt and thrown in prison.
For starters, there’s the flaw in the Constitution that presumes Congress will remove a criminal president. The founding fathers didn’t foresee political parties, and thus never imagined a scenario in which a Senate controlled by one party would simply refuse to oust the president for partisan reasons, no matter how guilty he might be. In addition, if the founding fathers foresaw that a criminal president would be able to block the justice system from bringing criminal charges against him, they’d have cleaned that up in the Constitution as well.
The only reason Donald Trump wasn’t impeached during his first two years was that his party controlled the House. The only reason he won’t be removed during his upcoming impeachment trial is that his party still controls the Senate. The only reason Trump survived the Mueller investigation is that Mueller spent the second half of his probe inexplicably pulling his punches and declining to do his stated job, and then got outplayed in the end by Bill Barr.
In terms of survival, Trump has made one smart move – hiring Barr. But Barr was what, his fifth choice for Attorney General? Trump had a go of it with Matt Whitaker of all people before finally settling on Barr. Trump got lucky with that hire. For that matter, considering how Barr has humiliatingly struck out at every pro-Trump scheme he’s tried since (Inspector General report, traveling the globe trying to extort foreign nations into promoting pro-Trump scandals, etc), you could argue that Barr got lucky that first time, and that it had more to do with Mueller having turned into an empty suit.
So Donald Trump is still in power because his party happens to still control the Senate, and because his fifth choice for Attorney General managed to pull off one victory for him. But let’s not pretend for one minute that Trump is somehow winning. If he were in control of any of this, he’d have a high approval rating, he wouldn’t have lost most of his henchmen to prison, his secret Ukraine extortion scheme would have remained a secret, and he’d have competitive poll numbers heading into 2020.
Donald Trump is the boorish houseguest you just can’t get rid of, because you never put systems in place to keep unwanted company from staying this long, because you never imagined that an unwanted guest would try to stay this long. The guy is still in office because we spent 240 years not preparing for this – but he’s barely hanging on and he’s drowning. There’s no evil genius secret to Trump’s survival. If there were, he wouldn’t be in his current position of being very likely to lose in 2020, and guaranteed to be arrested if he does lose.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report