The Memo: GOP talk of impeachment highlights Trump’s troubles

Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRussian bank owners sue BuzzFeed over publishing dossier Why global health investments are key ‘Making America Great’ Major golf tournament opens at Trump National Golf Club in Va. MORE’s presidency is mired in such deep trouble that people in his own party are speculating about impeachment.

Just four months into his term, Trump faces questions over whether he obstructed justice with his firing of FBI Director James Comey, who reportedly authored a memo that said the president sought to quash an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia.  

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Late Wednesday afternoon, the Justice Department announced the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to look into the broader question of alleged links between Moscow and Trump campaign associates.

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainArmed Services chairman unveils .1B Asia-Pacific security bill Overnight Defense: Trump scolds NATO allies over spending | Flurry of leaks worries allies | Senators rip B Army 'debacle' | Lawmakers demand hearing on Saudi arms deal The case for protecting America's intelligence agency whistleblowers MORE (R-Ariz.) has compared the Comey controversy to Watergate, the 1970s scandal that culminated in the resignation of former President Richard Nixon, who left office rather than face near-certain removal via impeachment.

Stock markets fell sharply on Wednesday amid uncertainty over whether Trump’s promises for tax and regulatory reform are dead, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffering its worst day since last September. The 372-point drop was a real signal of falling confidence in Trump’s ability to survive.

At least two Republican congressmen — Reps. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.) and Justin AmashJustin AmashGOP lawmaker backs Dem push for Trump tax returns The Hill's 12:30 Report The Memo: GOP talk of impeachment highlights Trump’s troubles MORE (Mich.) — have now raised the prospect of impeachment if the Comey memo turns out to be true.

To be sure, there is a long road to travel before impeachment proceedings might get underway.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP leaders launch internal review into leak Opinion | Michael Steele: Gianforte better put his ‘big boy’ pants on Washington needs high-level science and technology expertise – now! MORE (R-Wis.) reaffirmed that he had confidence in Trump Wednesday, urging the need to “get all the facts” before “leaping to judgment.” 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellOvernight Energy: Trump energy nominees face Congress | OPEC to extend production cuts Senate confirms Trump's first lower-court nominee Top GOP senators tell Trump to ditch Paris climate deal MORE (R-Ky.) confined himself to a call for Comey to testify in public “to hear from him about whatever he has to say about the events of recent days.” 

The previous day, McConnell had said that he remained confident in Trump’s ability to handle classified information.

But the controversy over what Trump told Comey has become all-consuming.

It has left the Trump administration flailing, reduced its most media-friendly staff members to shell-shocked silence and deepened the problems in the president’s knotty relationship with GOP colleagues on Capitol Hill.

Anti-Trump Republicans are urging those who support the president to abandon him.

“I think the Trump presidency has blown apart, and I think it is dawning on more and more Republicans that the Trump presidency is unchangeable because Donald Trump is unchangeable,” said Peter Wehner, a critic of the president who worked in the administrations of former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. 

“I think Republicans are in a state of despair,” Wehner added. “They are stuck with Donald Trump and they know the Trump presidency is not going to end well.”

New York Times conservative commentator Ross Douthat set off a debate in right-wing intellectual circles Wednesday with a column arguing that Republicans should remove Trump from office, not through impeachment but by the use of the 25th Amendment. 

The amendment provides a path for a president to be ousted if he is declared “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

The chances of that process being initiated seem vanishingly small. But the mere injection of the possibility into the mounting national debate is unhelpful for the White House.

The president himself has blamed the media for his troubles — a strategy echoed by some supporters, including former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). 

Trump, speaking at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut on Wednesday, hit back.

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly,” he said. 

The president also struck a note of defiance during the commencement speech, saying: “I didn’t get elected to serve the Washington media or special interests. I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women of our country, and that’s what I’m doing.”

But many Republicans aren’t sure that strategy will be a success.

“Every president complains about his media coverage, and I think working over the refs can be helpful at times,” said Republican strategist Alex Conant. “That said, Trump’s current problems are much deeper than headlines. His problem is that there have been some very serious accusations leveled, and we need to get the facts straight before we can move on.”

The White House has been uncharacteristically reticent since The New York Times published its bombshell story early Tuesday evening. Trump surrogates have been largely absent from the hours of unremitting cable news coverage of the furor. White House press secretary Sean Spicer gave a postponed and short briefing to reporters aboard Air Force One in the afternoon on Wednesday. 

“The president has been very clear that this is not an accurate representation of that meeting,” he said, referring to the Times story. 

Many Republicans can only look on forlornly, remembering that just two weeks ago they were celebrating the House’s passage of legislation aimed at dismantling and replacing the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.

The overall atmosphere was one of “frustration, deep frustration,” said Dan Judy, a GOP strategist who worked with Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioSenate panel could pass new Russia sanctions this summer McConnell on Trump: 'We could do with a little less drama' Taking the easy layup: Why brain cancer patients depend on it MORE’s (R-Fla.) 2016 presidential campaign. 

Right now, Judy added, “It’s not even a drip-drip-drip of scandals. The faucet has been turned on in full.” 

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.