The Slatest

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Will the President Suffer Politically for Having Obviously Tried to Obstruct Justice a Billion Times?

US President Donald Trump waves before boarding the Air Force One ahead of his departure from Zurich Airport in Zurich on January 26, 2018, after attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump waves before boarding Air Force One in Zurich on Friday.
Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

The Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative daily estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump leaves office before his term ends, whether by being impeached (and convicted) or by resigning under threat of same.

Well, well. Well, well, well. Well! Donald Trump tried to fire special counsel Robert Mueller last June, the New York Times reported—and even Fox News confirmed it, sort of. Apparently White House counsel Don McGahn stopped Trump from going through with the termination—and one of the reasons why he might have been successful is that that he and other advisers made a strong argument that firing Mueller would be politically catastrophic.

But, really, would it be? Jonathan Chait makes the case that things have changed since June ’17:

Republicans have palpably moved from passively supporting Mueller, while dismissing the need to take any concrete steps to protect his work, to actively endorsing smears against him. … Whatever the Russia investigation finds, and whatever Trump does to quash it, or protect himself and his family, or pervert the FBI to rough up his political opponents, the dynamic that has protected him will remain in place. Trump will be popular among the Republican base. Republicans will need their base in order to hold Congress and protect their agenda. 

Chait’s argument seems, uh, inarguable. Nothing improper that Trump has done yet—and, when you put it all together, he and his administration have really obstructed a heck of a lot of justice—has punctured his popularity with the base or, despite some senators’ willingness to talk a little smack here and there, lost him support in Congress in a way that would put him anywhere near danger of being impeached.

But, but. But, but, but. But! Trump’s misdeeds and shenanigans have contributed to a more or less steady decline in the Republican Party’s 2018 electoral expectations—and per a CNN poll released this week, Americans still support the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation by a 58–38 margin. To be speculative about it, firing Mueller seems like the exact kind of egregious impropriety that would both “energize the base” (for Democrats) and alienate the middle-to-upper-middle-class suburban voters whose embarrassment over Trump (and Roy Moore) fueled the GOP-to-Democrat precinct flips that helped elect Doug Jones in Alabama. A Mueller crisis could trigger a Democratic congressional landslide, and an ascendant Democratic majority crushing the GOP’s legislative ambitions under an anvil of Trump investigations could cause him to lose leverage within his party. Which is to say that, as clear as it may be that LOL nothing matters in the short term, the possibility does remain that, in the distant future, something might matter. Maybe.

Today’s meter is back up five points because this space courageously holds the president to account even when no one else will. Resistance! Hashtags!

Impeach-O-Meter: 45 percent.