Last week White House counsel Pat Cipollone notified leaders in the House of Representatives that the Trump administration will not “participate” in an impeachment investigation in any way.
If you are looking for the most prominent indicator of the outrageous nature of Cipollone’s letter, you have a lot to choose from. I would probably choose Section II, which asserts that the impeachment investigation “Plainly Seeks to Reverse the Election of 2016.”
But most Americans would love to “take a mulligan” on the election, to step back to Nov. 8, 2016, and have another shot at getting it right. Who are these people? We could begin with the 65,900,000 who voted against Donald Trump, which are about 3,000,000 more than voted for him.
But even among the 62,900,000 who did vote for Trump, there must be many who have second thoughts after his two and a half years in office. Many voters were willing to accept Trump based on the hope that the awesome responsibilities of the presidency would make him more “presidential.”
That has not happened. And these voters are reduced to defending Trump’s chaotic administration by asserting that Trump is just not another ordinary “politician,” as though that were any man’s highest accolade.
Others might reconsider their votes in the 2016 election in light of new information. For example, special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in our election reached the debatable conclusion that the Trump campaign’s level of cooperation with the Russians would not be considered “conspiracy” by many prosecutors.
But the thing we know now that we didn’t know in 2016 is the astounding extent of Russian interference and the eagerness with which Trump campaign officials welcomed it. We’ll probably never know how much Russian tinkering actually affected the election, but among the Americans who voted for Trump, there must be fair-minded citizens who wonder if they should have voted for a man so willing to accept illegal help from Russians and, evidently, from Ukrainians and Chinese, as well.
Of course, many persist in their support for Trump. But some evidence suggests that even many Republicans may be looking back at 2016 and wondering, “What were we thinking?”
In fact, GOP consultant Mike Murphy claimed recently that a Republican senator confessed to him privately that if a vote on Trump’s impeachment could be taken anonymously in the Senate, 30 Republican senators would vote to remove him from office. Rational Republicans must occasionally ask themselves whether they had to sacrifice the Republican Party in order to defeat Hillary Clinton. Some of them must be wishing for a mulligan, as well.
While a majority of Americans have good reason to rue the result of the 2016 election, others remain content and would not welcome a do-over. The wealthy enjoy lower taxes and businesses have been freed from troublesome regulations. The likes of David Duke, Richard Spencer and other denizens of the alt-right have rarely enjoyed such a sympathetic occupant in the White House.
Ironically, however, some of the biggest winners in 2016 didn’t even vote: Vladimir Putin, with Trump’s help, has managed to sow chaos in the West beyond his wildest dreams. What other president would have allowed Kim Jong Un to so burnish his brand and still retain his nuclear weapons? And it’s difficult to believe that Hillary Clinton or any Republican apart from Trump would have been willing to give Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman such a casual pass for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
But this week’s big winner in the 2016 election is Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is unlikely to have extracted from any other president with merely a phone call his much-desired “green light” to betray our allies, the Kurds.
Of course, last week’s letter from the White House wants to picture the Democrats as sore losers. But this is disingenuous. Plenty of Americans have good reasons to wish for a do-over of 2016.
Unfortunately, there are no do-overs in politics. But there are second chances. In the meantime, what is impeachment but a constitutionally sanctioned way for a country to admit that it made a mistake?