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American Horror Story: 3 Scenarios for 2018

December 30, 2017

Trumpshining

As this horrible year drags itself to a close, there’s reason to think that 2018 could be even worse. Here are three all-too-plausible scenarios for how the 2018 season of Trump’s reality show might go. Of course, these could never really happen, right?

1. “Not With a Bang, but With a Whimper.”  In this scenario, the desultory investigations by the Senate and House intelligence committees are sabotaged and wound down by the Republican majority in charge of them. The committees don’t issue subpoenas to the key witnesses or suspects, who therefore are not compelled to deliver documentary evidence, and they are either interviewed in closed session (so the American public never hears what they have to say) or not placed under oath for open sessions (so that witnesses don’t have to fear prosecution for perjury.) The committees issue reports saying that the evidence is inconclusive.

The administration fires FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe for having a wife who was a Democrat who once ran for office in Virginia. Trump and his allies keep up a steady drumbeat of attacks on the credibility of  FBI professionals on the laughable premise that the agency is a hotbed of crypto-Democrat activists, leading to a spike in early retirements or resignations among senior and mid-level department heads and agents, who are replaced with people more in tune with the administration. The remaining FBI leadership is increasingly cowed by the threat of further firings and puts pressure on the Special Counsel to wrap things up.

Meanwhile, the Mueller investigation has soldiered on despite a crescendo of attacks on its credibility and impartiality from both the White House and congressional Republicans as well as from supportive media like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. Under pressure to justify itself, the Special Counsel leaks a draft report that shows strong evidence of coordination between Russia and senior officials of the Trump campaign up to and including Mike Pence and members of the Trump family as well as previously undisclosed financial ties between Trump himself and Russian oligarchs closely linked to Putin. Congressional Democrats present a bill of impeachment in the House. Congressional Republicans ignore the leaked findings and blast the Special Counsel for bias. Paul Ryan never brings the bill of impeachment to a vote. Mueller resigns in disgust under a hail of propaganda attacks financed by Americans for Prosperity and other dark money groups, and the investigation is closed. Trump claims he has been vindicated.

2. “Helter Skelter.”  As the New Year begins, polls continue to show that a majority of Americans continue to believe that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. The press picks up indications that Mueller’s investigation is delving deeper into financial dealings by the Trump and Kushner organizations. The Washington Post publishes a story that Mueller is preparing an indictment of Jared Kushner.

The White House panics and decides a diversion is needed. Trump summons the Republican congressional leadership and demands that it create a Special Counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton for Uranium One and anything else it can find. Alarmed about prospects for a Democratic sweep in the 2018 midterm elections, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan agree. Eager to get back in Trump’s favor, Jeff Sessions appoints a Special Counsel. Trey Gowdy jumps into the fray, convening another probe using his position as Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and modeling the proceedings on the Benghazi hearings.

Democrats erupt in outrage, pointing out that this has been exhaustively investigated already and debunked, but they are powerless to prevent the appointment. Fox News, Breitbart, and the entire alt-right agitprop machine turns up the volume. Dark money TV ads start proliferating especially in smaller, conservative media markets. Mainstream news shows on NBC, CBS, and ABC give even-handed coverage to the controversy, creating an impression among the public that there may be substance to the allegations. Meanwhile, Republicans incessantly bombard the Mueller investigation with accusations of bias.

By the spring, polls show the American public is evenly divided on the Hillary Clinton investigation and that support for Mueller has slipped below 50 percent. Trump’s approval ratings stop falling and start to climb. He decides the time has come to fire Mueller.

3. “Doctor Strangelove“. The Mueller investigation develops conclusive evidence of collusion with Russia by senior members of the Trump campaign as well as use of Russian-supplied voter data analysis and opposition research by the Republican Party in down-ballot races. Indictments are prepared for Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr., and the New York Times reports that Mueller is considering charging Mike Pence with lying to the FBI. The Washington Post reports that sales of Trump properties have been used to launder money from Russian oligarchs.

Trump decides to fire Mueller and orders Rob Rosenstein to shut down the investigation. Rosenstein refuses, and is himself fired. A replay of Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” ensues, but eventually someone in the Justice Department agrees to do the deed.

The country explodes in outrage. Massive demonstrations appear in Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other major cities. The Congress is convulsed with Democrats demanding impeachment and Republicans defending Trump. Trump’s approval ratings slide into the 20 percent range.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un seizes this opportunity to fire ballistic missiles over Japan into the Pacific and claims he will explode a missile-carried small nuclear device in the air to demonstrate that North Korea has the capability to deliver nuclear weapons. In response, Trump orders the Navy to deploy carriers close to the Korean coast in the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea and to fly aircraft sorties just outside of North Korean airspace. He fires off a series of provocative tweets calling Kim “fake atomic man” and threatening to annihilate North Korea. A US fighter plane is shot down. Trump demands a resolution from Congress authorizing “all necessary measures to counter North Korean aggression.” The vote is 97-3 in the Senate, with Bernie Sanders., Corey Booker and Elizabeth Warren the only votes against.

The Mueller investigation instantly disappears from the news. Trump’s approval rating soars to 65 percent. Trump’s nominees for US attorneys throughout the country are confirmed with little opposition, assuring a compliant judiciary for another generation. The Kochtopus orchestrates a massive campaign accusing Democrats of weakness on national security. Trump embarks on series of enormous rallies.

Fade to Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. Smiling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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