McConnell's Weak Hand, Trump Russia Returns

Despite all that has happened in the past few weeks, the basic structure of the 2020 election appears unchanged – Biden is in the best shape of any Dem, Dems are in better shape than Trump, and Trump is not winning the Impeachment argument in ways that should worry Republicans who have seen Trump lead them into three consecutive near worst outcome elections. 

We put together an overview of some of the recent polling on Impeachment and other matters and found that the overall environment is far worse for Trump and the GOP than expected.  On almost every major question regarding Impeachment – should there be witnesses, did the President do something wrong, etc – the President is underwater by large margins, often by 10-15 points, with some margins as large as 50 points.  While there have been some polls favorable on the removal question, an awful lot of polls have scary numbers for Trump on removal – 48/49/52, 6 to 10 point margins.  And as Cook Political Report wrote this week, McConnell’s four weak incumbents – AZ, CO, ME, and NC – mean that the Senate is officially up for grabs in 2020 and McConnell goes into the Senate process far weaker than he would like right now. 

As I argue in a new Medium piece, McConnell’s corrupt threat to rig the Senate trial to make all this Ukraine stuff just go away has been made far more challenging by Trump’s rampant, unceasing criminality.  As the House was voting this week, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, was sentenced to jail, joining the President’s personal lawyer and campaign chair in serving jail time.  Mike Flynn will be sentenced in late January, Roger Stone just a week later, and who knows what else the 11 other investigations Mueller left behind may bring in 2020. 

But the real problem for McConnell is the ever expanding SDNY/FBI criminal investigation into Trump and the Ukraine scandal which has already started arresting close Trump aides and just this past week established a direct pipeline from Trump’s Ukraine “plumbers” to dirty Russian money from oligarchs close to Putin.  As the much discussed editorial from Christianity Today suggests, use of the word “innocent” in any form is just no longer possible with Trump.  And so while the President may be acquitted in the coming weeks, the Republicans now understand that no matter what they will have to defend this reckless President and a brand new criminal investigation into his Russia ties throughout the 2020 election – and there is not a single GOPer in a close race who wants to keep defending the President's indefensible, treasonous behavior. 

That we are once again discussing Putin’s hold over the President should prompt Congress to launch a broad security review into the unusual fealty that Trump has shown to a series of foreign leaders – Erdogan, Kim, MBS, Putin.  Time and again the President has taken steps which appear to be unalloyed gifts to these leaders, often with nothing in return for the US and often at odds with our publicly stated national security objectives.  Nowhere is this more true than with Russia and Putin, where just in the past year the President has taken a series of dramatic steps in regard to Europe/NATO, Iran, Syria, Ukraine, and Venezuela which seemed designed solely to advantage Russia and weaken the United States.  If Trump is on the ballot in 2020, it is critical that Congress do everything it can to answer the questions we all have about Trump and Putin before people vote again – that we are still so in the dark remains a terrifying failure of our democracy itself, and a reminder that it’s time for America’s center-left to get on with the hard, perhaps decades long work of confronting and rolling back the recent gains of Putinism and illiberalism more broadly, here and abroad.