Lots of people—across the political spectrum—are seriously upset with President Donald Trump for the "embarrassing spectacle" and his "bizarre" performance in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, but will anything actually come of the president's latest display of buffoonery and his inexplicable deference to the Russian leader?
Calls for impeaching the president have intensified over the last twenty-four hours. Charges of "treason" are being shouted from rooftops. Many are saying that top White House officials like White House officials, including chief of staff John Kelly and Russian Ambassador John Huntsman, should resign in protest.
Today, the world watched Mr. Trump publicly collude with Vladimir Putin to conceal Russia’s attack on our democracy. For the sake of our country and its safety, now is the time to #ImpeachTrump. https://t.co/DAbulMZceW pic.twitter.com/0ZeCzQdgsn
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) July 16, 2018
Outraged, hundreds gathered outside the White House late Monday night where they chanted "Traitor! Traitor" outside the gates:
— Bria White (@BriaWhiteWUSA9) July 17, 2018
Even FOX News commentators and pundits called Trump's behavior in Helsinki and his comments during the press conference a mix of "disgusting," "lame," and "surreal."
The former CIA Director John Brennan—a confirmed member of the bipartisan national security establishment who presided over the agency's drone killing program and a consistent apologist for the torture of human beings—called it "treasonous" from his new perch at a MSNBC.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona—who has called out President Donald Trump in rhetoric while consistently voting in favor of his policies—called it "shameful." The terminally ill Sen. John McCain, also a Republican from Arizona and a reliable war hawk, lashed out and called it "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."
And while staunch Trump loyalist Sean Hannity told the president he "looked very strong," former California governor and action-film star Arnold Schwarzenegger disagreed and said Trump was nothing but a "little wet noodle" before the global press in Helsinki.
Meanwhile, however, neither Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate or Speaker of the House Paul Ryan went nearly as far as other critics of Trump's performance with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday. "I have said a number of times, I'll say it again: The Russians are not our friends. And I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community," McConnell told reporters. In his response, Ryan did not criticize Trump for his remarks directly, but only vaguely insinuated disagreement by stating, "the president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally."
The anxiety in Republican circles is palpable, but will anyone within the party's power structure actually do anything to subvert the president's power or actually put into action something that makes tangible their objections to his behavior?
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Writing for Axios on Tuesday morning, Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen predictded that the answer to that question is likely no. "It's highly unlikely any top White House officials will quit in protest; inconceivable congressional Republicans will do anything other than complain (mostly gently) in public; and unimaginable Trump will regret or rethink his pro-Putin approach," the pair wrote.
Pontificating for the Washington Post, veteran Republican operative Ed Rogers admitted that the GOP is now in "uncharted waters" when it comes to dealing with Trump's performance and how to respond:
Trump, until now, has skewed that truism by orchestrating a world in which one gaffe or calamity is so quickly overtaken by the next that none of them sink in and have much impact. But Helsinki might be different. Trump's credibility and judgment are shredded. But we won’t have a sense of whether this is a lasting disturbance in the Republican universe until several more days pass. Repeatedly I have thought, "Holy mackerel, Trump has really done it this time," only to be proved wrong. [...]
Democrats and their allies in the media want Republicans to quit and surrender. Some fantasize about a Republican-led impeachment. None of that is going to happen. Even if Democrats could take control of the House and pass a bill of impeachment, there’s no way it would get 67 votes in the Senate to convict.
But I don’t know what options Republicans have now. Will most Republican leaders just grin and bear it? Everyone will make statements, and a few will pile on. A few will claim that there is nothing to see here and that everyone should just move on.
Meanwhile, the left-leaning group Indivisible issued a call to arms Monday night, demanding that people intensify their mobilization against Trump—as well as the Republicans who have insulated him from accountability:
Nothing less than our democracy is at stake. Instead of tweeting their supposed concerns, why don’t congressional Republicans do something? Pass legislation, hold hearings, #ImpeachTrump, caucus with the Democrats to stop Trump’s agenda - literally anything.
— Indivisible Guide (@IndivisibleTeam) July 16, 2018
MoveOn.org also challenged GOP lawmakers for "normalizing" Trump and promoted taking action in response, including a series of rallies to take place nationwide on Wednesday that will target the corruption that sits at the heart of the Trump administration:
— MoveOn (@MoveOn) July 17, 2018
— #MarchForTruth (@MarchForTruth17) July 17, 2018