At an election-night party hosted by a leading light in the Clinton White House, the hostess wore blue, anticipating the ‘blue wave’ that Democrats hope is about to sweep away the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. As I write, the Democrats are up 14 seats. They need to gain 23 to win the House. Opinion polls going into Tuesday gave them a good shot at that – and a smaller chance of winning the Senate. But then again, opinion polls predicted Donald Trump would lose and that Brexit wouldn’t happen. And some Democrats talked about how they would need a huge margin in the popular vote, as much as 10 points, to overcome how Republican states have redrawn the boundaries of Congressional seats.
Whatever the outcome, this has been a referendum on President Trump. If people are telling the truth to pollsters, about a quarter of them are voting for Trump in their local races, about a third against, with the rest not taking a position either way. Suburban moms, in particular, seem to be deserting the President. The ‘horseface’ crack about Stormy Daniels cost votes. So it was a kinder, gentler Trump who flew back to the White House after barnstorming around three states, seemingly chastened by criticism of his ‘tone’ during the final days of campaigning. ‘I would like to have a much softer tone. I feel, to a certain extent, I have no choice. But maybe I do. And maybe I could’ve been softer from that standpoint.’ Reports in the American press say the President is braced for bad news.
At 10.07pm, Fox News came out and predicted that it would be a Democratic House – though they said it was too early in the night to talk about what the majority would be. They based this prediction in part on what happened in the 6th district of Kentucky, one of the most interesting races, where the Democratic candidate was Amy McGrath, a veteran who just happens to be the first woman to fly F18s in combat. She lost, but ran a very close race. The Fox News analyst said: ‘This is a place the Democrats had no business to win.’ The Lexington Herald Leader said: ‘In an election widely seen as a referendum on the president, Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District told the country they still support Donald Trump.’ But not by as much as before.
If as now seems certain, the Democrats do get control of the House, they will be in the majority on committees with subpoena power. The Trump administration can expect a war of attrition, including televised hearings with a procession of ‘co-operating witnesses’, before the inevitable: articles of impeachment accusing the president of ‘colluding’ with Russia. Even if there is no two-thirds majority for a conviction in the Senate, the Presidency – and the country – will be paralyzed. Some believe that Trump will move quickly to replace Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein and then get rid of Mueller.
This would probably mean firing Rosenstein, but not necessarily. One Washington insider told me they thought a deal had been done for Rosenstein to resign. This would allow the President to replace him with any political appointee previously confirmed by the Senate. If he’s fired, there has to be a new confirmation hearing for his successor. Either way, the solicitor general, Noel Francisco, a Trump loyalist, would take charge of Mueller. So it’s important that on Friday, news came out that the White House has cleared the way for Francisco to do just this.
Washington is a febrile place at the moment. A member of what in Britain would be called ‘the establishment’ sends me the findings of the 1973 Special Senate Committee on the Termination of the National Emergency, under Sen. Frank Church. Church found there were then 470 emergency statutes that were ‘a potential source of virtually unlimited power for a president should he choose to activate them.’ Many of those laws are still on the books, along with some new ones. Presidential powers included the right to seize property, call-up 2.5 million reserve forces, seize and control all means of transportation, restrict travel, and regulate all private enterprise. A president can declare martial law and it would be 30 days — under the terms of the 25th Amendment — before anyone could do anything about it. No-one had better tell the President.
This article originally appeared on Spectator USA