A Bad Day for The Donald
Breaking news this afternoon from the Supreme Court should remind us that for all we think will happen politically in the months and years ahead, there is so much we don’t know.
Donald Trump wanted to prevent the Congressional committee investigating the insurrection of January 6, from getting access to White House records for that day, invoking executive privilege. The justices overwhelmingly, 8-1, ruled against him. What is in those records we can only guess, but we apparently won’t have to guess for long.
Make no mistake, this is a monumental setback for the former president, and one likely to make him madder than a mamma wasp. In the transactional way he views the world, the justices he appointed to the Court were “his” justices, there to do his bidding. They didn’t do that today in a way that opens him up to a lot of exposure. He is not likely to remain silent, no matter what his lawyers might counsel.
Where does this take the investigation, and what might it mean for the legal jeopardy of the defeated president and his abetters and enablers? The track record of Trump’s life - one of constantly escaping the consequences of his actions - is enough to provide caution that he will face any meaningful criminal judgment here. But one cannot also rule that out. And the chances he is in legal trouble, not to mention political peril, are a lot higher this evening than they were this morning.
But there is another aspect to this story, and the direction of the political winds more generally, that perhaps is being overlooked. And it boils down to the reality that Donald Trump is not a Republican. Yes there was an R next to his name, but it was just like the gaudy signage he affixes to his buildings - a marketing gimmick meant to achieve personal benefit.
Trump is and always has been loyal to himself. And only himself. He’s a party man, but it’s a party of one. In a life as inconsistent as a top in a tornado, the only thing you can bet on with him is that he will always put his own needs above all others, including those of his children.
Being a Republican was something he could co-opt to reach his own ends. And then he took over the party. He thinks, and for good reason, that he is more important to the Republicans than the Republicans are to him. In this case, his ego happens to be correct.
Now look at the Supreme Court, and consider what elected Republicans would feel like they need to do, for their own ambition, if he gets more enmeshed in the public accounting of January 6, or of the investigation in New York, or all the other legal predicaments in which he finds himself. If they try to cut him down, or even just distance themselves, he will go at them with all the fury he has leveled at the Democrats. Of this I have no doubt. We have already seen hints at it with Fox News or Republican politicians who even show a hint of objectivity.
What might it look like with Trump and Republicans at war? Or what might it look like if Republicans continue to surrender their backbones to a man who the public can see is increasingly unhinged and compromised?
Trying to predict the future with Donald Trump is a fool’s errand. But we would also be fooling ourselves if we think that this can’t get a whole lot messier in ways that exposes the Faustian bargain that the Republican Party has made with a man without conscience or loyalty.