Will Donald Trump Tweet his way to impeachment?
- Credit: Archant
Don't bet against it.
Predictions, predictions….sometimes you can get them right and passionately wish you hadn't. Take June last year when, as a staunchly pro-Remain columnist, I forecast that Leave would win the EU referendum despite the polls telling a different story. That was a forecast based on my own research among contacts in Labour heartland seats in the North and Midlands where even fellow pro-Remainers were telling me the polls were wrong.
Invited on to various television and radio programmes to explain why I'd got it right, I ventured another prediction; that within a year the much-trumpeted 'will of the people' would reverse and Britain would face being marched into a suicidal Brexit on the basis of an over-simplistic binary referendum that was out of date and no longer truly represented that 'will of the people' mantra.
So, it was with a far more genuine sense of satisfaction that I took part in a heated radio debate a few days ago around the latest Survation poll (*the pollsters who did predict a hung parliament outcome to last month's general election) showing that 54% now favour Remain. Similarly, a study by the London School of Economics and pollsters Opinium revealed that 60% of Brits want to retain their EU citizenship and would be prepared to pay for the privilege; among the 18-24 age group, the figure was 85%.
My assertion that a second referendum – to allow the people to reaffirm or reject Brexit – now represents democratic commonsense was greeted with a howl of rage from my Brexiteer opponent and the accusation of being a Corbynista, despite the fact that I'd just accused the Labour leader of 'betraying' his own young pro-Remain voters on the issue.
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Which brings me round to the first birthday of The New European. A publication I'm proud to say I predicted wasn't just a bold, welcome new entrant on the UK's media landscape, but one destined to long outlive its original four-week 'pop up' experiment concept. Delighted now to be a regular columnist, I'd only suggest that The New European should no longer promote itself as the 'Voice of the 48%', but of the 54% (and growing by the week)!
Around the same time in the summer of 2016, I also forecast that Donald Trump (a man I'd met and interviewed several times in the past) would win the Republican presidential nomination against the odds. Right again, while wishing I'd been wrong. But my powers of prediction proved far more fallible when I told a US TV network where I'm a regular guest that 'men in white coats should come and take me away' if I dared forecast he'd actually become POTUS.
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That said, I did go on record during the campaign itself predicting that he'd run Hillary Clinton far closer than the polls were saying and that he might well win the popular vote while she was bound to triumph in the Electoral College and thus secure the White House. Ooops!
But there's good reason for reviving the point this week as Donald Trump is locked in a bitter, escalating dispute with many US states over his dangerous obsession that he really did win the popular vote after all.
At least 29 states are resisting or outright refusing to co-operate with Trump's supreme vanity project, The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity; a body created out of Trump's widely-debunked claim that he didn't lose the popular vote to Clinton by the comprehensive margin of almost 2.9 million (48.2% to 46.1%).
Despite a total lack of evidence, Trump still insists that millions of 'illegal' voters 'cheated' him out of that popular vote victory.
Why does this matter? Well, it offers further insight into the obsessive, narcissist nature of the most powerful man on earth. For years, The Donald mercilessly debunked the electoral college system (he had a point, perhaps) and argued that the US presidency should be decided by the popular vote alone (I once heard him say so at first hand).
Thus, in his own troubled populist psyche, Trump seemingly can't accept the validity of his presidential status without irrationally, illogically seeking the extra endorsement of the popular vote.
But for many of the 50 US states the demands of Trump's commission compromise data and privacy issues and spark Big Brother echoes and comparisons with the kind of autocratic leaders The Donald has lauded such as Turkey's Erdogan, the Philippines' Duterte and the Saudi Royals. (Incredibly, Trump's initial tweeted lauding of the draconian Saudi-led blockade of Qatar came without him even realising Qatar provides the US's main base for striking at ISIS!).
The voter information being demanded includes names, addresses, birth dates, political party affiliations, felony convictions, military records, voting history since 2006 and the last four digits of social security numbers. Among concerns being voiced are that such information could be used by Team Trump to target voters in future elections and potentially deny government jobs to those who didn't vote for The Donald.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the large-scale revolt from states has triggered angry, impulsive tweets from POTUS himself. 'What are they trying to hide?' But if Trump is the president who lives by the tweet, could he be the first to die by it?
Democratic congressman Jamie Ruskin, backed by 24 colleagues, is urging support for a bill citing Trump's Twitter history as a reason he's unfit for the presidency. The Maryland congressman is citing the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, adopted in the wake of the Kennedy assassination, to establish procedures in case the president or vice-president are incapable of performing their duties.
In truth, few US constitutional scholars and lawyers believe that there is yet a strong enough case to bring against Trump, and also point out the amendment was brought in primarily where a president was physically incapable rather than where his mental state was in question.
But, if nothing else, it coincides with a week when Trump's Twitter 'addiction' has come under even sharper focus than usual. Even before his barely coherent Twitter response to North Korea's first intercontinental ballistic missile launch, the president was at the centre of a storm of criticism – much of it from Republicans – over his bizarre, bordering on the deranged, Twittersphere excursions.
That extraordinary Trump tweeted video of the president beating up a CNN journalist (mocked up from a 2007 film of Trump taking part in a joke WWF wrestling contest, he's long been a fan of the fake sport) promoted a storm of protest, not just from journalists such as Watergate hero Bob Woodward, but from many senior Republican figures who accused him of 'demeaning the presidency'.
Coming only days after his Twitter row with political TV host – and former friend – Mika Brzezinski. Affronted by on-air criticism of his presidency by her and her husband and co-host Joe Scarborough, he unleashed a volley of offensive tweets, including the claim she'd attended a New Year's Eve party at his Mar-a-Lago estate, 'bleeding badly from a facelift'. (She denies being there).
Brzezinski, the daughter of the former national security adviser to Presidents Johnson and Carter, hit back with a Washington Post article, headlined 'Donald Trump is not well', in which she opined: 'America's leaders and allies are asking themselves yet again whether this man is fit to be president.'
Coming on the eve of today's hugely-sensitive G20 Summit in Hamburg, the unseemly series of Twitter rants sent a shudder down the spine of both Republican party leaders and senior diplomats. Behind the scenes there were frantically renewed efforts to persuade the president to call time on his incendiary personal Twitter feed.
But is there some method in this madness? Some White House insiders, particularly among the ex-Breitbart cadre, privately point out that most of the media seized on Trump's twitter feuds and lost interest in his growing Capitol Hill crisis over his Obamacare repeal policy.
Either way, The Donald apparently remains defiant, tweeting – where else? – that Twitter is his 'direct line to the people, away from the fake news media' and boasting it epitomises him as 'the modern day president'.
But that came before a poll on his favourite MSM platform – Rupert Murdoch's Fox News – revealing that 71% of viewers think the president's tweeting damages him, with only 17% seeing them as a positive. Could Fox make a difference? Don't bet on it, is my advice.
Meanwhile a new Gallup poll this week disclosed that more Americans (47%) support his impeachment than approve of his presidency (37%). So, having kicked off this piece, on the theme of predictions, I'll risk a couple more on the Trump front.
Eventual impeachment? 50-50 chance, I'd say. But I'd venture another forecast that if the heat fires up too much on the Russian Connection issue or questions over nepotism and potential business scandals, The Donald won't stick around and will do a Nixon and quit first.
And one more prediction: With several White House insiders suggesting Trump is already 'bored' with being POTUS, he won't run for a second term in 2020. Even in the event the impeachment shadow is lifted before that.
Paul Connew is a media commentator, broadcaster, author and former Sunday Mirror editor who met and interviewed Donald Trump several times when he was the Mirror Group's US Bureau Chief