Will he stay or will he go? Speculation about President Trump’s future began with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s comment this past weekend that she worried in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections that Trump wouldn’t accept a close result and deem it a Democratic hoax. Now she’s indicating that she’s not convinced that he will abide by the results of the 2020 election if they are close and he’s the loser.
As it happens, Trump amplified those concerns with a tweet riffing on Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s contention that he deserves an extra two years added to his first term because an attempted deep state putsch, led by Robert Mueller and his minions in the FBI, deprived him of the ability to govern effectively over the past two. Trump’s feelings about the Mueller report, which he initially welcomed as a total exoneration, prompting him to extol Mueller himself as ‘honorable,’ seem to have reverted to their original state: ‘Despite the tremendous success that I have had as President, including perhaps the greatest ECONOMY and most successful first two years of any President in history, they have stollen two years of my (our) Presidency (Collusion Delusion) that we will never be able to get back.’ Was Trump unconsciously referring to his German heritage when he wrote ‘stollen,’ a Teutonic Christmas bread that is made out of yeast, dried fruit, nuts, spices and a pinch of rum?
Stollen or stolen, the fact of the matter is that it was the Democrats, not Trump, who ended up complaining that the election amounted to a heist in 2016. In a sense they outmaneuvered themselves by propagating the meme that Trump would never abide by the results. When he won, they were caught flatfooted in more than one way.
If Trump has returned to his pustular wrath about the Mueller report, it’s also the case that he’s once more denouncing China for its perfidy. He shook up financial markets around the world with his latest tweet announcing that it’s Friday or bust when it comes to levying a 25 percent tariff on an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods, plus new tariffs on another $325 billion in imports. In Trump’s mind, the tariffs amount to a freebie for the American economy even as they appear, in reality, to be wiping out the farmers who formed an integral part of his base in the Midwest. In China, Trump is apparently being likened to Thanos, the super-villain in the new movie Avengers: Endgame. But a slumping stock market, the apple of Trump’s eye, is something that is likely to spook him. The question is whether he is bluffing to try and extract a few concessions or really intent on confrontation with China.
At the same time, Trump’s negotiations with North Korea are also running into trouble. The portly pariah of Pyongyang fired off several missiles that landed in the Sea of Japan. By Kim’s standards, this was fairly restrained, but the message was clear: he’s doing to Trump what Trump is trying to do to China. Bully it into submission. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that a deal is still possible: ‘We still believe there is a path forward where Chairman Kim can denuclearize without resort to anything beyond diplomacy.’ The problem with this is that Chairman Kim has no intention of denuclearizing. What he wants is a fig-leaf of a deal in exchange for the departure of American troops from the Korean peninsula, thereby ensuring the longevity of his regime.
The sheer weirdness of it all is difficult to overstate. Trump keeps upping the ante on Iran, huffing and puffing about Venezuela, and making conciliatory noises about the worst regime of them all in Pyongyang. Meanwhile, Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who testified before Congress that he was skeptical Trump would be willing to step down in 2020 even if he was officially defeated, entered the hoosegow this morning, making his own ominous-sounding threats about his old boss: ‘There still remains much to be told. And I look forward to the day that I can share the truth.’