What did the president know and when did he know it?

The reporting in the Washington Post makes clear that both Trump AND Pence have been aware that Flynn had been compromised by Russian intelligence, and have been aware for some time. We are not sure now how all the investigating into this will go. The press will be focusing on this with extraordinary intensity and with a White House that leaks like no other….and will now begin gushing like the Oroville Dam. Congressional investigations are inevitable. A special prosecutor seems at some point to be likely. And the FBI and CIA and several other agencies have been investigating as well, indeed, Flynn’s resignation seems to be the result of those investigations. And should both Trump and Pence be found to have been party to a conspiracy to hide the fact that Flynn had been potentially turned by Putin, then both Trump and Pence could be forced to resign. None of this is likely, but it is well within the realm of the possible without resorting to paranoid conspiracy thinking. In which case, unless Pence were to go first and a replacement chosen by Trump before Trump resigned, Paul Ryan, as Speaker of the House, will be president. People are no doubt talking to Ryan about this right now, telling him he has to be ready because there is an outside chance that he will constitutionally required to take the path of president. And that is how weird this is getting, and getting there so fast. Because we simply do not know. How much did the president know, I have heard asked several times on television tonight, and when did he know it. If you are old enough to remember the Watergate hearings, Senator Howard Baker’s double question to John Dean will send chills down your spine. It seems so impossibly unlikely that any of this could happen, but then Watergate began as an odd little burglary, and this seems to be so much more.

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Republican civil war

Odds are that the GOP will lose a couple dozen seats in the house this year. It seems as of now highly doubtful that they’ll lose more than that. Very effective gerrymandering by GOP controlled statehouses have left enough Republicans in safe districts that can withstand even a severe drubbing of their presidential candidate and a big increase in Democratic voters. But the irony is that the Republicans in districts that are not safe veer to the more moderate side of the GOP, being that the districts they are in are not conservative enough to have elected a Tea Partier. Democrats will pick up those seats, leaving a GOP majority in the house that, though smaller, will be even more conservative than it is now. Trump won’t win the White House, and a lot of Republican senators will be losing their seats because of Trump and likely losing the majority to the Democrats, but the House will be more Trumpified than it is now. There has been a long running Republican trend since 1980 (maybe since 1978) where every election brings more hard line conservatives into the House than before. In 1994–seven elections after the Reagan landslide in 1980–Newt Gingrich took control of the House GOP and set it firmly to the right. Indeed to the right of Reagan, certainly to the right of George S Bush. Clinton’s national health insurance plan was destroyed by the Gingrich revolution. Fast forward ten more congressional elections and Paul Ryan–more Reagan than Reagan just four years ago–is now far too moderate for most conservatives in the House (and among Republican Party rank and file) and in all likelihood will not be Speaker in 2017. Just four years ago he was hardline conservative. Now he is a RINO. Every Republican you see interviewed seems to see nothing but intra-party civil war and bloodletting. Meanwhile, the demographics in the general population run against them, and their base grows smaller and smaller. Parties do disappear sometimes. The Federalists were gone by the 1820’s after being dominant in the first twenty years of the country. The Whigs elected presidents before the Civil War and were national and growing until they almost instantaneously disappeared in the late 1850’s. But we’ve had two dominant parties since the Civil War, it’s hard to imagine one disintegrating completely. Yet that is what seems to be happening. A surreal time. Perhaps it is just a phase and the GOP will re-emerge. Perhaps it will split into multiple parties. The liberal Democrat in me snickers. The historian in me looks on in astonishment. To think I lived to see this day.