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13 Dec 2018 19:30
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  •   Home > News > International

    Donald Trump is facing two threats that could make this the end of his presidency as we know it

    Donald Trump started December in much the same way that he has behaved during every other month: with a storm of tweets. But to the relief of many Americans, a change may be on the way, writes Micheline Maynard.


    Donald Trump started December in much the same way he has behaved during every other month: with a storm of tweets.

    After pausing briefly to honour the late president George HW Bush, who died on November 30, Mr Trump was back wildly tweeting and uttering his usual brand of head-scratching logic.

    But, to the relief of many besieged Americans, this may be the last month of the Trump presidency as we know it.

    Two forces are colliding to make it so.

    Democrats can launch impeachment proceedings

    In January, Democrats will retake control of the US House of Representatives, where they have not been the majority party since 2010. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi looks likely to again be Speaker, a position she held from 2006 to 2010.

    Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor appointed to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 election, appears to be edging closer to releasing his report.

    In recent days, he landed the cooperation of attorney Michael Cohen, who represented Mr Trump while he ran his real estate empire and then into his presidential term in the White House.

    Democrats have the ability to launch impeachment hearings against Mr Trump, although Ms Pelosi says they are not at the top of her agenda at the moment.

    More likely will be subpoenas asking Mr Trump to turn over all manner of evidence to give an insight into his tangled business dealings.

    CNN recently reported that virtually every investigatory committee in the House will pursue something from the Trump administration.

    The most crucial thing many want is Mr Trump's tax returns, which he has steadfastly refused to release, save for a few pages. They could help trace whether he has ties, formally or informally, to the Russian Government.

    Brett Kavanaugh back in the crosshairs

    CNN says politicians also want data on whether the President's family has profited from his time in Washington, background on issues related to Cabinet secretaries and information about the controversial policy to separate families seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border.

    In addition, some Democrats want to bring back Brett Kavanaugh, the newly confirmed Supreme Court justice, for questioning about whether he lied in his testimony before the US Senate.

    Simultaneously, Mr Mueller's investigation continues to ensnare a growing number of Mr Trump's aides.

    There have been daily rumours that Mr Mueller will indict a member of the Trump family, either one of his adult sons, Donald Jr or Eric, or his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is married to his daughter, Ivanka.

    As is his pattern, Mr Mueller has said nothing publicly, even as Mr Trump rages at him by name, something that must surely cause heartburn for the White House counsel's office.

    Trump now raging through the day

    Indeed, the looming end of his dominance in Washington has sent Mr Trump into what can be described as a frenzy.

    Throughout his presidency, it has been a regular occurrence for Washingtonians to wake up to a series of tweets by Mr Trump, who denounces what he sees as injustices against him, interspersed with occasional reasoned observations that Trump watchers are certain were written by someone else.

    But most recently, Mr Trump has raged throughout the day. And a series of tweets by Mr Trump on Monday led to speculation that he had violated federal law governing tampering with witnesses in legal proceedings.

    The legal question with his tweet about Roger Stone, his flamboyant political associate, was noted by none other than George Conway, an attorney who is married to Mr Trump's close aide, Kellyanne Conway.

    He tweeted the citation in federal legal code regarding witness tampering. It caused a gasp in DC circles, and triggered an admonishment from Eric Trump.

    Mr Trump, it seems, may be his own worst enemy when it comes to his legal defence.

    Yet, to borrow a phrase from the movie Brokeback Mountain, Mr Trump just can't quit tweeting, no matter how it hurts him.

    He explained why, in his usual scattered way, to editors of the German magazine Bild in early 2017.

    "I thought I'd do less of it, but I'm covered so dishonestly by the press — so dishonestly — that I can put out Twitter — and it's not 140, it's now 140, 280 — I can go bing bing bing and I just keep going and they put it on and as soon as I tweet it out."

    'We should have gotten an Emmy'

    The ability to speak directly to the American people seems only to encourage Mr Trump's outrage, which is also fed by conservative commentators on Fox News, which he watches religiously.

    Numerous people have matched up his tweets to the issues discussed on Fox. And yet, since he returned from a trip to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Mr Trump has gone far beyond what he sees on screen to reiterate his own personal gripes.

    Asked in an interview with the New York Post last week whether he had lost a chance at the Nobel Peace Prize, which some conservative commentators said he deserved for his talks with North Korea, Mr Trump replied, "Well, they'll never give it to me. We should have gotten the Emmy for The Apprentice, you know?" a reference to his former TV program.

    "I had the number one show, The Apprentice. Arnold Schwarzenegger blew it. Big movie star. It was dead in two nights. I had it for 14 seasons."

    Mr Schwarzenegger served as host of a version of the show called Celebrity Apprentice, and left after one season.

    Ex-presidents may shut Trump down

    Last week, a clip of Mr Trump showed him to be distracted, to put it gently, at the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires.

    There's good reason for his mind to be elsewhere. This week, a number of former presidents and their spouses will be in Washington to bid goodbye to Mr Bush at his funeral.

    For a rare moment, Mr Trump is set to be surrounded by other men who have held his job, and faced the same sorts of decisions and pressures he has faced.

    Needless to say, most of them handled things with a greater amount of grace than he has shown.

    So if he tries to rant to the ex-presidents, he may be shut down with stony silence, if not an admonishment to cool it.

    Soon, others in Washington could follow suit. And Mr Trump, as we know him, may be in new territory.

    Micheline Maynard is an American author and journalist.

    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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