A version of this story first appeared in CNN’s Impeachment Watch newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
Any other president than Donald Trump might just have had the best week of his career – a pre-Christmas sleigh ride that included getting a major trade deal through Congress, getting the federal government funded (with money for his controversial border wall!) and getting the official green light for a whole new awesome-sounding branch of the military, the Space Force.
To cap it off, more good economic news kept the already bubbly markets frothing ever higher. CNN Business’ Anneken Tappe reports: “US stocks once again finished at all-time high closing levels on Friday. Throughout the week, the Dow and S&P 500 hit records four times, while the Nasdaq Composite logged seven consecutive days on all-time highs.”
But Trump also got impeached, becoming only the third US president to face the prospect of removal from office.
Fuming in Florida
Forced to wait for his acquittal in the Senate, Trump is thrashing in a stew of his own aggression as he heads to his private Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to celebrate the holidays and wait to see when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will allow a trial to move ahead.
As CNN’s White House team put it: “Trump’s sojourns to his oceanfront resort – filled with hours of unstructured time on his palm-lined patio, random chats in the buffet line on prime rib night and interactions with wealthy friends that often serve to reinforce his most volatile instincts – can sometimes be anxiety-inducing for members of his staff and congressional GOP leaders.”
He might use the time to think about his reelection. Trump’s case in 2020 is built on the economy, not impeachment, and it got a big boost this week with help from the same Democrats who voted against him over his Ukraine meddling.
Thank you, Debbie Dingell
Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan played a crucial role in getting Democrats behind Trump’s trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, which will replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement – a frequent punching bag for Trump in 2016 and since. The USMCA is his most important economic policy achievement this year and will solidify the perception he’s personally helped keep the unemployment rate at 50-year lows and the stock market surging.
But Trump attacked Dingell, implying that her late husband, legendary Congressman John Dingell, might be in hell. The insult came during Trump’s red-faced rally in Michigan on Wednesday night, which occurred at exactly the moment of his impeachment. This picture might have been one reason why:
- Christian opposition to Trump – An evangelical publication founded by Billy Graham calls for Trump’s removal. Christianity Today’s editor in chief, Mark Galli, wrote in the op-ed: “That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.”
- Trial prep continues – House Democrats and White House officials are engaged in preparations for the high-stakes Senate trial, the latest indication that it will still occur despite the bitter standoff that has left the proceedings in limbo. CNN’s Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb have the latest.
- Trump accepts Pelosi’s invitation for State of the Union address – Mark your calendar for the State of the Union address February 4, the day after the Iowa caucuses. Trump will have to stand up there with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, his impeacher. (And we don’t know yet whether his Senate trial will have taken place by then.)
- “I’m never afraid and I’m rarely surprised,” Pelosi said in an interview with Politico.
- Trump’s source could be Putin – Russian President Vladimir Putin himself may have planted or reinforced Trump’s disproven conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 US presidential election, according to a Washington Post report.
- FISA fallout – The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approved the wiretap of 2016 Trump campaign aide Carter Page, now wants to know more about all applications it’s seen from an FBI attorney who allegedly changed a detail in the Page application – a rare step toward accountability for the nation’s most secretive court.
A sense of economic invincibility
Ten straight years of economic growth has helped create a sense of invincibility that fuels Trump’s case even as the opposition party in government tries to use the gravest weapon given to it by the Founding Fathers to declare him unfit for office.
A CNN poll conducted by SSRS and released Friday shows the strongest faith in the US economy in nearly 20 years, since before 9/11 and as the dot-com bubble was bursting.
Overall, 76%, including a majority of Democrats, rate economic conditions in the US today as very or somewhat good, significantly more than those who said so at this time last year (67%). This is the highest share to say the economy is good since February 2001.
What can Democrats do?
As Trump seethes, Democrats who want to run against him next year tried to articulate exactly why voters should ask for more from their government.
It’s not good enough and it’s not helping everyone, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said at Thursday’s Democratic debate, jointly hosted by PBS and Politico.
“America’s middle class is being hollowed out and the working families and poor people are being left behind,” Warren said. “What we need to talk about, though, is why that has happened. And the answer is we’ve got a government that works great for those with money and doesn’t work for much of anyone else.”
Businessman Andrew Yang admonished the party to get past impeachment and deal with helping people left behind.
“What we have to do is we have to stop being obsessed over impeachment … and start actually digging in and solving the problems that got Donald Trump elected in the first place,” Yang said. (Side note: Yang says those problems include a vast drop in manufacturing employment, but those jobs started recovering during President Barack Obama’s second term. Read CNN’s fact check.)
Anyway, Trump can argue, factually this time, that he did just that with USMCA, which even labor unions like the AFL-CIO supported. Read AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka’s endorsement.
On the podcast
Impeachment has become a waiting game, as both parties maneuver to shape the Senate trial. Meanwhile, candidates at the Democratic presidential debate tried to move past the effort to remove Trump from office. But will their early advocacy for impeachment help or hurt them at the polls? I talked with CNN reporter and producer Marshall Cohen and CNN political analyst Seung Min Kim.
What are we doing here?
The President has invited foreign powers to interfere in the US presidential election. Democrats have impeached him for it. Next up is a trial in the Senate to decide whether to remove him from office. It is a crossroads for the American system of government as the President tries to change what’s acceptable for US politicians. This newsletter will focus on this consequential moment in US history.