Mark it on your calendars. This was the week the meteoric political career of Donald Trump did what meteors often do and collided with planet Earth, leaving a large, ugly mark on the landscape.
The fact that Trump may soon announce his candidacy for the presidency in the days ahead is itself more of a sign of his political collapse than it is of any strength he may have. The first time he ran for president, he did it because he thought it would boost his brand. This time he is likely to do it because he thinks it may make him more difficult to prosecute. And because he can use it to mount one last big attempt to fleece his supporters.
Everywhere you looked this week there were stories that were the debris thrown into the air when Trump re-entered the atmosphere and, like all other space junk, turned into a bright orange fireball heading for oblivion. There were the revelations of White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson to the Jan. 6 committee and the reactions to her shocking, credible stories of a demented president who actively wanted to lead an armed insurrection against the U.S. governments. There were the actions of the Trump Supreme Court, which may itself be seen over the next few decades as the place the cratering president left his ugliest, most lasting mark. There was also the sight of Trump’s successor in Europe undoing the damage the 45th president sought to inflict on NATO and redoubling the Western alliance’s commitment to containing the threat posed by Trump’s benefactor, Vladimir Putin. There was even a reminder left hanging in the air of the sleazoid past of America’s worst president with the sentencing of Ghislaine Maxwell for her participation in sex trafficking on behalf of the late Trump pal and party buddy Jeffrey Epstein.
You could not turn on a cable news show without seeing footage of the swirling remnants of Trump’s disastrous presidency, twisted character, and warped values.
The testimony of Hutchinson, poised and courageous as she was, was damning for both Trump and for his former White House colleagues. It revealed with new clarity and shattering details their involvement in a seditious conspiracy against a government they had been entrusted to lead. It also showed their cowardice in not publicly standing up to Trump or revealing what they knew to the Congress, as the former aide to Mark Meadows was doing.
Her testimony hit Washington and the U.S. political scene, also as large meteors can do, with the force of several atomic bombs. Even dyed-in-the-wool members of Team Trump began to abandon ship. They called it “damning,” “difficult to dismiss,” and “insane shit.” The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed saying Trump should not run in 2024. The right-leaning Washington Examiner ran an editorial headlined “Trump proven unfit for power again.” Trump’s former attorney Ty Cobb said, “If this isn’t an insurrection I don’t know what is.” Former Trump Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney wrote, “Things could get very dark for the former president” after Hutchinson’s testimony.
Speaking at one of the sacred sites of the Republican right, the Ronald Reagan Library in California, Jan. 6 committee vice chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) got enthusiastic support from the crowd during a searing speech following this week’s hearing when she said, “It’s undeniable—the Republican Party cannot be both loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution.”
Even before the blockbuster testimony of Hutchinson, Trump was starting to suffer politically. One New Hampshire poll showed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a dead heat with Trump among GOP voters. National polls also show Trump’s lead over DeSantis shrinking. Not that Sunshine Fascist DeSantis represents a big improvement, as the implementation of his signature “Don’t Say Gay” legislation is demonstrating. In one Florida school district, it is reported, teachers were warned “not to wear rainbow articles of clothing, to remove pictures of their same-sex spouses from their desks and to remove LGBTQ safe space stickers from classroom doors.”)
Further, the impact of the decisions of the Supreme Court majority that was engineered by Trump with the aid of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a large false testimony about Roe v. Wade from the justices Trump added as well as the Jan. 6 committee also had considerable political ramifications. Democrats showed substantial recent gains in generic ballots. So thanks to both the former president and his handiwork on the high court, Republicans look more vulnerable, and to the degree to which he is seen as no longer having the magic touch of helping the party, that could be the final nail in the coffin for Trump.
While some on the right sought to challenge Hutchinson’s testimony, they did not do so on the record and they did not challenge any of her core assertions—including that Trump knew the crowd on Jan. 6 was armed and that he wanted to lead the crowd in its assault on Capitol Hill. She stood by her assertions. Further, many in the legal community saw the testimony as a turning point in making the criminal case against Trump. In so doing, they raise the specter of future prosecution and even conviction of Trump and those around him, which suggests that as bad as his political position looks today, it is only likely to get worse.
That is precisely why Trump may announce his campaign soon. That, and of course, the ability to raise more money from supporters. The fact that he has a track record of not actually using the money he raises for the purposes he claims and that nonetheless his donors keep on giving seem like reason enough to do so given the irresistible allure scams hold for Trump. That these scams also might place him in legal jeopardy have not deterred him in the past… but may, again, contribute in the future to his lasting political demise.
With more hearings on tap in July from the extremely effective Jan. 6 committee, a major case against Trump seemingly gaining steam in Fulton County, Georgia, the Justice Department taking the phones of a top lawyer and going after the Department of Justice patsy Trump sought to install as acting attorney general to help advance his coup scheme, it is fair to conclude that as bad as this week was for Trump, when the dust settles, he and we will find matters have only gotten worse for him, that, as of this week, he has once and for all plummeted to Earth and that finally and forever more, all the former president’s Fox friends and all of his men will not be able to put the brief shimmering political career of Donald Trump back together again.