Unless Mueller finds an enormous, incontrovertible smoking gun in his investigation, enough Republican voters will NEVER believe that Trump has done anything wrong. Which means that even Democrats take the house in 2018 and impeach him, he will not be removed from the Presidency by the Senate. Which means that Trump will be running for reelection in 2020. This is my prediction of what will happen as a result of that.
The Russians will dramatically scale back their interference in the 2018 elections from what they did in 2016. They may still do some interfering, but they’ll know that they can’t do enough to affect which party ends up controlling the House. Their ideal scenario is to do just enough to keep Republicans in control of the Senate (which is likely anyway) without interfering so much that Republicans are forced to acknowledge it and do something about it.
In 2020 though, they will ramp back up even more than they interfered in 2016, except this time it will explicitly be in favor the Democratic candidate. They won’t make the mistake of approaching the Democratic campaign which risks the campaign reporting to the FBI immediately. Instead, they will leak disinformation to our Intelligence community that they are colluding with the Democratic campaign. Putin isn’t looking for a friendly American president, he is looking to destabilize the government and use our infighting to prove that American democracy is a sham.
Once the IC reports this to Trump, he will begin screaming about Russian interference, and collusion, and treason incessantly. Fox News will run with it and report 24/7 that Democrats are colluding with Russia and that they always were colluding with Russia, that it was Clinton who colluded with Russia in 2016 and that this new information proves it. They will demand investigations into Clinton and the 2020 Democratic candidate, which will be followed by Trump publicly demanding that the DoJ investigate his political opponent. The mainstream media will play right into this, bored with talking about Trump’s endless stupid remarks, and will report on the developing Russia story constantly.
At this point, Trump will do one of two things. If the polls show that he is losing badly, he will try to delay (cancel) the election until “we can figure out what the hell is going on.” If he thinks he might be able to win, he will wait until the election and upon losing declare the election illegitimate. He’ll take IC reports of Russian propaganda and turn it into a story of Russians hacking into voting machines and directly manipulating the results.
The only question is what happens next. Everyone on Fox News screams about a “deep state coup” after finding a single text message that shows one FBI agent thinks Trump is a moron, so I am confidant in predicting that they will support Donald Trump’s autocratic grab for power. And Republican politicians? I wouldn’t bet on them finally, finally putting their foots down and standing up to Trump if the alternative is Democratic control of the House, Senate, and White House. Especially if their voting base will see standing up for democracy as a betrayal of Trump. No matter what, the best case scenario is a third of the country walking away from the election utterly convinced that the election was stolen and that we no longer live in anything even remotely resembling a democracy.
I really, really hope I’m wrong (and that if I am, anyone who reads this has forgotten about my prediction by 2020). If I’m not, I’ll be able to link back to this post to show how good I am predicting things, which hopefully provides me with some tiny comfort as America goes through the worst constitutional crisis since the Civil War.