The Republican Party was already heading into a no-win situation when it comes to the midterm congressional elections in November. Donald Trump is historically unpopular, his scandals are getting uglier by the day, names of certain Republican Congressman are now showing up in Trump-Russia indictments, and a whole lot of Republicans in Congress have already announced they won’t even bother to run for reelection. Now Paul Manafort of all people has just made things even uglier for the GOP.
Manafort has been charged with dozens of felonies, and his longtime sidekick Rick Gates has agreed to testify against him, but – for the moment at least – Manafort is still planning to stubbornly take his chances at trial. Today the judge in the case announced that Manafort’s trial will begin in September of this year. That means the trial will be unfolding just as the congressional races are reaching their peak. Now we know that the trial will include Trump’s deputy campaign chairman Gates testifying about crimes that were committed by Trump campaign officials before, during and after the campaign.
That’s not remotely tenable for the GOP. It can’t go into the 2018 election cycle, which is already a referendum on Trump’s corruption and unpopularity, with a Trump-Russia criminal trial dominating the news every day. But what other option do they have? Even if the GOP could somehow convince Manafort to cut a plea deal instead of going to trial, that would just mean that Manafort would have to turn over evidence of Trump’s guilt, which would make things even uglier heading into the midterms.
There is only one way out of this for the Republican Party, and that would involve preemptively forcing Donald Trump out of office ahead of the midterms. Then the GOP could try to take credit for having virtuously removed a corrupt president, and the Paul Manafort trial might not matter politically. But that would just cause Trump’s remaining base to turn against the GOP in the midterm elections. There’s just no way out of this nightmare for the Republican Party. No wonder so many of them aren’t running for reelection.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report