If Mr Trump implodes, it will be in November should Democrats come back in Congress. (Reuters: Kevin Lamarque)
For those in America and around the world waiting for Donald Trump to implode, this is what they need to see: A president who continues to ride high.
He has neutered his chief of staff and rid his inner circle of the nuisances — a secretary of state, a national security adviser, the head of his economic policy team — who constricted his freedom of action on the world stage.
Mr Trump is now Trump Unleashed.
He can brush the collar of the French president and then brush off the nuclear deal with Iran. He can parlay with the German chancellor and dig in on the trade war with Europe. He harbours grand plans for peace in the Middle East and opens the US Embassy in Jerusalem. He trades jobs in China for agriculture benefits at home.
Mr Trump alights on the high wire with Kim Jong-un of North Korea, with threats of all-out war the only safety net, all the while dreaming of a Nobel.
A winning economy. The tax cuts are in. The economy at full employment. The Dow is holding strong gains. A new conservative is on the Supreme Court. His Cabinet is waging unrelenting war on health, immigrants, gun control, environment and consumer protections — everything from access to abortions to repealing 50 years of California’s tough clean air standards for automobiles.
No accountability. Cabinet officers accused of the most serious ethical charges remain in office, blemished but untouched. Scandals that would bring down any other president (If Michelle didn’t kill him, would Barack Obama have survived anything close to such stormy waters?) leave this one with rising approval ratings. No apologies ever uttered for the casual daily atrocities of this White House, including the slurs against a Senator, an American war hero and patriot in his last twilight.
Legal bomb not yet detonated
A presidency increasingly normalised. World leaders work themselves into contortions as they deal with an American leader who has upended the Western alliance, repudiated international agreements, undermined the rules of world trade and commerce, weakened harmony on the North American continent, and rendered the United States more unpopular around the world than at any time in modern history.
World leaders rotate in and out of the Oval Office, navigating a diplomatic landscape that is wholly alien to 70 years of post-war architecture, pretending it is business as usual — and leaving empty-handed.
And for those waiting for Mr Trump to implode, there is of course the legal bomb that has not yet detonated.
The investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller is a year old. From all the guilty pleas and indictments secured so far, from all the probes of the business and financial dealings of Mr Trump’s associates, the Mueller probe portends a sensational climax.
Mr Trump may, like Richard Nixon 45 years ago, simply snap one Saturday night as Mr Mueller closes in on the Oval Office — fire the Attorney-General, fire his deputy, and fire the special prosecutor. The result then was Mr Nixon was forced, in the midst of constitutional crisis, to resign less than a year later.
Washington in deep tweet watch every weekend
Much of Washington goes into a deep tweet watch every weekend the Commander-in-Chief is ensconced at dawn on a Trump property, waiting for the explosive vest to go off.
Mr Mueller may indict several more Trump associates. He may ultimately seek to indict the president himself, which would trigger a Supreme Court battle of the highest consequence.
He may refer findings of high crimes and misdemeanours against Mr Trump to Congress, leaving it first to the House of Representatives to discharge its constitutional responsibilities to weigh impeachment charges.
But riding high on Iran, Jerusalem, the brinksmanship summitry with Kim Jong-un, and an America First booming economy with tariff walls and stronger borders, Mr Trump feels he has immense political leverage — with his base and with a Republican Party that has fully capitulated to his agenda and temperament.
This gives Mr Trump confidence in managing even the most damning results of Mr Mueller’s work.
Mr Mueller may well find nothing directly attributable to Mr Trump on the Russians or obstruction of justice or violations of law in his business interests.
But even if Mr Mueller confirms the worst fears about how Mr Trump has acted, as a candidate and as president, the only check — the only way to stop Mr Trump’s worst excesses of power and authority — is with the verdict of the voters this November.
If Mr Trump survives the midterms, he can survive Mr Mueller. (AP: Charles Dharapak/Reuters: Kevin Lamarque)
Signs of buyers’ remorse
Midterm elections are a referendum on the party occupying the White House. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and George W Bush all lost congressional majorities in midterm elections.
The early signs — from the special elections for the Senate in Alabama, a House seat in Pennsylvania, the state legislature in Virginia, a Supreme Court seat in Wisconsin, the uprising of women in primaries across the country — are that Democrats are mobilised, and many independent voters have buyers’ remorse from 2016.
Dozens of Republicans, including the House Speaker, are retiring rather than face the voters.
If Mr Trump implodes, it will be in November should Democrats come back in Congress — no matter what Mr Mueller does to the President and his men.
If Mr Trump survives the midterms, he can survive Mr Mueller.
And then go on to complete his term, utterly dominate the Republican Party, further mould the country in his image, and run for re-election.
Bruce Wolpe worked with the Democrats in Congress in Barack Obama’s first term. He is chief of staff to former prime minister Julia Gillard.