Dear Messrs. Ryan, McConnell, Pence, and Priebus,
It’s now pretty clear that President Trump, one way or another, will be removed from office. Events and James Comey’s testimony have established an open-and-shut case of obstruction of justice.
Trump tried to get Comey to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn; then when Comey refused, Trump fired him. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Not even in Watergate.
In addition, details of the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russians’ successful efforts to undermine the 2016 election have yet to come out from the special prosecutor’s investigation. When they do, they won’t be pretty; nor will the details of Trump’s repeated co-mingling of his business interests with his official business as president.
There is also the fact that Trump is plainly insane. We can argue about the diagnosis—serious people have proposed everything from dementia to neuro-syphyllis—but this is clearly not a man in his right mind. His competence at speech is steadily deteriorating, as shown by expert comparisons of his clear sentences two decades ago with his near-gibberish in recent weeks and months.
Trump is so damaged that he can’t even seriously act in his own self-interest because he can’t remember his lies from day to day. His impulsivity regularly undermines yesterday’s spin and last week’s alibi.
So I’d like to appeal to you both as patriots and as partisans.
The first appeal is simple. This man should not be president of the United States. The 25th Amendment, on grounds of serious impairment, is the most straightforward way to get him out. It is basically a coup by the cabinet, ratified by a 2/3rds majority of Congress.
This is something that happens in other democracies all the time, and is about to happen in Britain because of Prime Minister Teresa May’s political lapses. But Trump’s lapses are far more serious.
As the mess in Qatar indicates, Trump’s plain confusion and lack of serious attention to complex foreign policy issues could cause disastrous national security consequences. He could get us all blown up. I am not privy to your private conversations, of course, but I assume Trump’s madness does come up.
Weighing against that is Trump’s usefulness to you as Republican conservatives. With him in the White House, you can pass legislation that Trump will sign, get him to issue executive orders furthering your agenda, get conservatives appointed to courts—and as my colleague Paul Starr has observed, the more vulnerable Trump is, the more captive he is to your protection.
On the other hand, Trump is so thoroughly out of his mind that he may not grasp that. I assume that your partisanship, for now at least, outweighs your patriotism. That is a shame—history will judge you harshly, assuming that we are not all blown to bits.
So let me appeal next to your self-interest.
Trump will go sooner or later. Either his obstruction of justice, corruption, and plain treason will become so flagrant that some of your Republican colleagues will begin breaking ranks. Or if they don’t, you will be handing the Democrats a massive victory in 2018 and 2020, as you share responsibility and blame for the national catastrophe of the Trump presidency.
You would be much better off—and so would the country—if you got Trump out in the next few months, and then sought to regroup under President Pence.
I realize, of course, that I’m not a disinterested observer. As the co-editor of a leading progressive journal, I hope that you pay the full consequences of sticking with Trump. But as a political analyst, I think that with Pence you’d at least have a fighting change to hold on to power; and with Trump, you’d have no chance.
I may be a sometime partisan, but I’m enough of a patriot that I hope that you decide to oust Trump, if not on grounds of patriotism then on grounds of partisanship. And as fellow human beings, we should all be averse to getting blown up.