The Republican establishment has long wanted U.S. President Donald J. Trump out and still wants him out, but any move in that direction would enrage its own base and destroy party cohesion.
Public humiliation or impeachment would only disaffect Trump’s own base further from themselves and increase political polarization in the country.
So for now, they are waiting for financial disclosures from the trial of his former lawyer Michael Cohen in the New York Southern District.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been using the cover of the Russian-collusion investigation in order to target the financial operations of the Trump family.
This is why some observers have long predicted that Trump will not run in 2020, in order to save his family business and/or son and/or son-in-law.
Trump is a political pragmatist
Yet at his press conference this week, President Trump gave no indication of being so inclined. When surprisingly asked by a reporter whether he would want to “lock down” Vice-President Michael Pence as his running-mate in 2020, he turned to Pence, who is in the room, and asked him point-blank. (Well, that settled that.)
Trump’s astonishing political pragmatism, an instinct developed through decades of business dealings, was on display once again during the press conference.
In response to questions, he praised Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, saying that she had worked very hard and was a very good and smart politician and that she deserved to become Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Against the background of divisive U.S. partisan politics and personalized invective dating back at least a decade if not more (therefore including the entire generational memory of many of the least reflective reporters inside the Washington Beltway), the statement appears almost as if uttered in a foreign language.
House Democrats will be required to work with the President
But it is very clear that there is some common ground, for example on infrastructure funding.
Indeed (and Vice-President Pence with his long experience in Congress was probably instrumental in bringing Trump to realize this), the Democrats, having now the majority of the House, are obliged to “produce” or as being accused in 2020 of being at the source of continued gridlock in Washington.
The political situation is arguably even more favorable for Trump then a small Republican majority of a few votes in the House. In that situation, he would be dependent upon negotiating with them, much as he has been in the Senate for the last two years.
As it is, he has even offered Pelosi to corral some Republican votes for her for the Speakership, in case any of the challenges to her leadership materialize amongst her own party.
An opportunity for cooperation
In typical Washington fashion a reporter asked him, “What is your plan for convincing the Democrats to work with you?” Trump literally didn’t understand the question: “My plan? There is no plan.”
Then a split-second later he said: “You want to know my plan? I’ll ask them if they want to cooperate. If they say yes, then we will. If they say no, then we won’t, because there’s nothing we can do about it.” Such plain, direct speech still shocks.
I was not a fly on the wall during their conversation, when he congratulated Pelosi on the Democrats’ victory in the House elections.
Still I can hear him telling her, “Nancy, please work with me to overcome and heal the divisions in our country. Years from now, let them compare our cooperation to how Tip O’Neill worked with Ronald Reagan.”
Trump has still not ceased to confound the expectations of political pundits.