This Maria Butina arrest is uh-mazing. It’s probably the first time in three years I’ve felt a smidgen of hope that the country might come out of this somehow. Just a smidgen, mind, but something!
The roadblock we’ve had for holding Trump accountable has been the fact that virtually every Republican in Congress is rubber stamping everything he does, and since they have a stranglehold on control of both houses, we’re basically kind of screwed. There can be no impeachment without their cooperation, and they’re simply not going to cooperate. Even the ones like Flake and McCain who have voiced concerns never back those up with any actual action.
Question is: Why? Why have they been so reluctant to do something about this clear danger to our country? The simplest answer is that most of them feel the same way: They want a white Christian nation in which gobs of money will land in their laps, and are perfectly willing to cheat and destroy lives to make it happen. That’s nothing new; the vast majority of the GOP has been like this for longer than I’ve been alive. The more complex answer: They’re in this whole Russia mess just as deep as Trump is. Not just obvious ones like Devin Nunes and the gang who went to Moscow a couple weeks back, but the whole damned party, or at least a significant portion of it.
The first indication that something like this was going on was the FBI raid last May on the Maryland offices of Strategic Campaign Group, a GOP campaign consulting biz with ties to Manafort and Stone. While the raid itself was targeted to irregularities with a specific campaign, it’s entirely likely that the evidence found there had breadcrumbs for a whole bunch of other trails, and the agency has been following those ever since.
The main focus of the Mueller investigation has been the Trump campaign, but it’s been clear from the start that those folks aren’t the only ones who have been playing dirty with Moscow. Trump, after all, would never have been able to push through Putin-friendly policies if he didn’t have cooperation from the rest of the GOP, and Putin wouldn’t have gone to so much trouble to install him if he wasn’t sure that cooperation would be there. So there has to be more going on than just interference with the presidential election.
Now that we know Russia was pushing buttons at the NRA, this picture becomes a lot clearer: They weren’t just trying to elect Trump, they were also buying influence with GOP pols via NRA campaign donations. Anyone who got those donations, along with a little nudge to pass Russia-friendly legislation, knew very well where the money originated. Which means a *shitload* of GOP Congressfolk are probably sweating buckets right now.
Now comes the tricky part, but it’s also the only thing that might save us. I have no idea if this is how things are going to go down, but under the current circumstances, it at least seems plausible: Rather than starting at the top, trying to take down Trump and probably Pence only to have the rest of the fetid ooze seep into the resulting gap, the indictments are theoretically going to start at the bottom. We’re probably about to see Republicans getting picked off, one by one, as evidence that they knew about the Russian money comes out. If they resign after getting arrested, they may be instantly replaced by GOP governors, which puts us back at square one on those seats, but a fair number of those seats may remain vacant at least until the election. Even if they don’t resign, if those seats are up for grabs in November, the chances of indicted candidates holding onto their jobs are next to nothing.
And here’s the delicious thing: Because so many places have already had primaries, it’s entirely possible that the GOP has absolutely no way to replace many of these candidates with someone else before November. They might try to spark up write-in campaigns for a pinch hitter, but that’s the most they’ll be able to do. They’ll be stuck with the only R name on the ballot being someone who’s in jail. Of course, plenty of voters will still tick that box rather than vote for a Democrat (look at the people who voted for that asshat in Montana even after he was arrested for punching a reporter), but only in the most heavily gerrymandered districts is that going to pay off. Plus, even if the Senator or rep does hang on to the seat, they’re not exactly going to be able to put in their yays or nays from a cell. A technical GOP majority in the House isn’t going to mean all that much of ten percent of the Republicans in those seats can’t cast a vote.
Moreover, if these indictments start coming down, it’s going to be a bloodbath. It won’t be just the actual elected officials getting nabbed, but party desk jockeys, too. Anyone who was involved in coordinating those NRA donations is going to be on the list. Gonna be a little bit hard to run a winning campaign if half of the RNC winds up in cuffs. The overall hit to both image and power the party could take from this would be catastrophic.
This scenario isn’t guaranteed, of course. Any number of things could happen before then to derail this, and there’s a very narrow tightrope to walk to make sure those indictments get in before Trump can start preemptively pardoning everyone. There’s also the fact that a certain contingent of swing voters are likely to be swayed by the inevitable spin that this whole thing is an attempt at a partisan coup, and the destruction of the GOP by us dastardly Democrats. But if this is done well–and I think Mueller can do it–we’ll at least have enough control over the Senate to prevent confirmation of Trump’s SCOTUS pick, and by the time the next session of Congress starts in January, we might have the House majority we need.
And then all that’s left is the impeachment.