I have not been watching as much television as before Nov. 8. But I did go to bed resolved to watch Morning Joe at 5 a.m. and monitor the three major news network in light of The New York Times breaking the latest revelations on Trump-Russia. Morning Joe is not a bad place to get a sense of how official Washington is initially reacting to an overnight development.
Having seen the “shows”, I believe that enough of the GOP on the Senate side is moving to make Mike Pence president. My judgment might not matter. I wrote that Hillary Clinton was going to win, and easily. But elections are not fact until after the voting stops. In comparison, you cannot get more factual than live intelligence intercepts, to which the Times presumably has access.
Everyone should understand something very important: This has nothing to do with Trump cavorting with prostitutes in a hotel near Red Square. I believe the military-intelligence establishment and others have concluded that Trump jeopardizes and already hurts the national security of our country.
Even if there were nothing in the intercepts, Russia now can control Trump. If Russia doesn’t like what Trump does, it can simply build on and confirm the stories that are out there right now. Whether the stories about cooperation are true barely matters. If Russia confirms a cabal, Trump is in trouble. Russia can expose him if they don’t like the line he is taking. Trump is therefore compromised and so is our national security. And that is what responsible parties in Washington do not like.
Take Sens. Bob Corker on MSNBC and Lindsey Graham on ABC this morning. Politicians and other leader-types get animated when they get defensive or want to make sure that they justify their actions. Unconsciously, Corker started to raise his arms and his voice, and he did everything to keep his eyes from popping out of their sockets the more he spoke. Graham was the kid barely suppressing his giddiness at finding a bag of candy on the sidewalk he is keeping secret from his parents.
The straw that most likely has broken the camel’s back are the comments made by the active general in charge of special operations in Florida who said Washington is in chaos. Do you know how many conversations that general had to have with fellow generals before he opened his mouth?
I should not have been surprised by how quiet John McCain and Graham were on Trump’s Cabinet appointments in general. That they let Rex Tillerson skate into State now makes more sense, as does briefly watching former CIA director Michael Hayden on television two weeks ago. Up until then he had been careful to mince his words as he has all his career. Now Hayden seemed full-bore against Trump. It would have been unthinkable last month that Hayden would have authored the op-ed which appeared in the Times two weeks. What caused him to move?
When Trump dissed the CIA, the NSA, the intelligence units of State and Defense etc., some within – those just angry and others motivated by fear of Trump’s incompetence – moved all they knew, I suspect, over to McCain or some other place before Trump could take full control of their agencies. They then laid the groundwork for what we see now, starting with the release of the dossier on Trump compiled by the British spy or former spy. How on earth did BuzzFeed get it or parts of it? Did someone mistakenly leave it at the Dairy Queen on Route 50? I don’t think so. Then came news quickly on CNN that parts of the dossier had been corroborated.
And when nine sources confirm the intelligence reports, it should be clear that McCain and company have much bigger fish to fry than Tillerson or Betsy DeVos — with a lot of help. Rather than a Sam Dash at the Watergate select committee years ago orchestrating events, this drama seems to be a full-scale attempt by the military-intelligence establishment to rid us of a dangerously incompetent chief executive. Michael Flynn being forced off the National Security Council is nothing compared to what seems to be building.
If the grounds existed to force the resignation of Flynn, then forcing the resignation of Trump would be easy in normal times. But it most likely will require the threat of a looming impeachment before he goes on his own.
We should suspect by now that the McCains, Grahams, Portmans, the Collinses, the Murkoswskis, the Rands would not be hard to get to vote for conviction of Trump in the Senate if the facts support it. In the House, at some point, Paul Ryan, who nauseatingly bides his time in classic political fashion, will have to act. He might be pushed by GOP members like Michael McCaul and Will Hurd.
These two congressmen from Texas have national security experience and either man would make a better President than Trump. They probably are alarmed at what is happening. And other members, some from farming states who are starting to hear from their districts about Trump’s ideas about Nafta and women members who cringe when they see Trump on television – what makes anyone think these Republicans are immune from voting with the simple majority it takes for the House to impeach?
Other than impeachment, the other forced-resignation route could be found if the FBI (or any of the intelligence agencies or even Interpol that want Trump gone) know or uncover something that Trump did himself that constitutes a felony.
All this is enough to get up and watch television again.
Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.