Does Trump *want* to be impeached?
September 28, 2019 7:15 AM   Subscribe

I keep feeling that Trump is making it way too easy to impeach him, because impeachment will ultimately help him and the Republicans.

I think he (and his people) are handing things over on a silver platter. Maybe with just enough resistance to make his resistance to impeachment plausible. This is so unlike how all other impeachable actions have been handled.
It seems that impeachment will fire up his base at least and humiliate the Dems when, as is likely, nothing much comes of impeachment.
I want to know what others think about this. I'm really not a conspiracy theorist in general, not at all in fact, but I'm also not above being suspicious when people who've conspired before act suspicious.
Point me to smart discussion addressing this, or dismiss my suspicion please?
posted by nantucket to Law & Government (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I never thought about it that way. It seems to me that Trump's ego is too large for him to "sacrifice" himself for the Party.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 7:21 AM on September 28, 2019

I agree he would never sacrifice himself. But doesn't it prove his status as the greatest victim ever in a Horrible Witch Hunt? Ok over and out!
posted by nantucket at 7:25 AM on September 28, 2019

[Mod note: AskMe isn't a place for discussions, especially about politics, and normally we'd delete a question that is mainly a discussion prompt about politics. But it's ok to ask for pointers to other discussions, resources, articles etc about an idea -- so please stick to that in your answers. If you want a multi-way discussion, that would happen over on the blue. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:26 AM on September 28, 2019 [5 favorites]

Sarah Kendzior argues that Trump likes to be caught and not punished for things.
posted by k8t at 7:32 AM on September 28, 2019 [14 favorites]

There's been a lot of ink spilled on this very topic. I know searching the Washington Post archives will find several articles relating directly to this over the years.

There's two schools of thought, as far as I can tell.

One is that Trump is in fact a political Mastermind and is carefully orchestrating all these moves, weighing out all the costs and benefits in a rational adult, but conniving manner.

The other school of thought is that Trump is incompetent, and more or less stumbled into the presidency by tapping into the exact mix of corruption, anger, attacking The Other, and just... Railing against a new world that some people feel increasingly isolated from and even under attack by.

The truth is probably somewhere closer to incompetent... He seems genuinely puzzled by the investigations against him, and that the fact simply releasing transcripts of his calls don't exonerate him. Trump's behavior is frequently compared to that of a mob boss, and he seems to think that's a perfectly acceptable way to be.

It also seems to be notably easy to steer Trump into the direction people with access to him want. It's been reported that he has a short attention span, is heavily influenced by television, and is not prone to much reading.

So Trump himself most likely benefited from certain blind spots and lacks of actual, concrete guardrails in American democracy.. but there's very good odds that those around him are in fact calculating the impact of actions they want performed in his name. (McConnell, Russia, conservatives, certain religious groups... A very long list indeed)
posted by Jacen at 7:40 AM on September 28, 2019 [9 favorites]

I tend to believe Trump's Razor, a term coined by Metafilter's own John Scalzi. It goes something like "When it comes to Trump, it's always the stupidest possible scenario that can be reconciled with the facts." (The term is a spoof of Hanlon's Razor, itself a spoof of Occam's Razor.) We keep twisting ourselves up trying to understand why Trump would do something, thinking he couldn't possibly be that dumb. But the answer is he really is that dumb. Ie: he really is trading American foreign aid for re-visiting the 2016 email server questions once again. It's the dumbest possible thing, but it fits the facts. Trump has uncanny skill with manipulating public opinion through media, particularly TV and Twitter. But he's not a master strategist.

You're absolutely right that an impeachment might backfire and hurt the Democrats. It's why Pelosi has been so resistant for so long. And it's common wisdom that's what happened in the 98 midterm elections and the Clinton impeachment, that the Republicans lost ~30 House seats because of it. The mistake is assuming Trump is some mastermind that's orchestrating all this for advantage. Instead look to him to do the dumbest possible thing, like floating a fake tax cut right before the election or using the army during the election to reinforce his immigration message.
posted by Nelson at 8:17 AM on September 28, 2019 [19 favorites]

I’ve gone back to this Atlantic piece from June 2016 a lot—written by Dan McAdams, a psychiatrist who analyzed Trump’s past public life to draw a portrait of him:
More than even Ronald Reagan, Trump seems supremely cognizant of the fact that he is always acting. He moves through life like a man who knows he is always being observed. If all human beings are, by their very nature, social actors, then Donald Trump seems to be more so—superhuman, in this one primal sense. . . .

Narcissistic people like Trump may seek glorification over and over . . . . they simply cannot get enough. . . . On the positive side, grandiose narcissism is associated with initiating legislation, public persuasiveness, agenda setting, and historians’ ratings of “greatness.” On the negative side, it is also associated with unethical behavior and congressional impeachment resolutions. . . .

the first chapter in Donald Trump’s story, as he tells it today, expresses nothing like Bush’s gentle nostalgia or Obama’s curiosity. Instead, it is saturated with a sense of danger and a need for toughness: The world cannot be trusted. . . . In Trump’s own words from a 1981 People interview, the fundamental backdrop for his life narrative is this: “Man is the most vicious of all animals, and life is a series of battles ending in victory or defeat.” The protagonist of this story is akin to what the great 20th-century scholar and psychoanalyst Carl Jung identified in myth and folklore as the archetypal warrior. . . . The greatest risk for the warrior is that he incites gratuitous violence in others, and brings it upon himself. . . .

Who, really, is Donald Trump? What’s behind the actor’s mask? I can discern little more than narcissistic motivations and a complementary personal narrative about winning at any cost. It is as if Trump has invested so much of himself in developing and refining his socially dominant role that he has nothing left over to create a meaningful story for his life, or for the nation. It is always Donald Trump playing Donald Trump, fighting to win, but never knowing why.
I would hesitate to say it about any other human, but Trump does not have any concrete goal or coherent internal plan, like wanting to be impeached: he is too busy playing the character of himself as a way to get attention, praise, fear, love, and to win, without any larger purpose. He seems to lack almost any internal reflection, and chases excitement to run away from it. He does not trust or believe in anyone or anything other than himself.
posted by sallybrown at 10:23 AM on September 28, 2019 [13 favorites]

Trump’s road from wishing for impeachment to dreading it (Politico)
The president’s optimistic, even nonchalant attitude melted away this week in a series of sudden developments as he crisscrossed meetings at the United Nations in New York. Trump and a coterie of aides were stunned by a swift progression of events that upended their longtime thinking about how an impeachment scenario would proceed. By the time they returned to the White House Thursday, they had tested and retested strategies on the fly as they began to recognize the perilous road ahead that would likely look far different from anything this president or any of his predecessors faced.
posted by katra at 11:04 AM on September 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've been following events pretty obsessively on Twitter for the last week or so. This theory ("he wanted it -- it's a trap") has been mentioned occasionally, but I haven't seen anyone support it in a sustained and reasoned way.

Bottom line, from all of my sources among the Twitterati, the theory that Trump wanted to be impeached doesn't hold any water and isn't worth considering. The events are almost universally viewed as being driven by narcissism, hubris, and enablement by terrified acolytes.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 11:53 AM on September 28, 2019 [5 favorites]

Trump Can’t Take a Punch (Jamelle Bouie, NYT Opinion)
There are observers, including critics of President Trump, who are skeptical of the push for impeachment. Not because he hasn’t earned the contempt and sanction of Congress, but because the politics are too risky. Will the public support an impeachment investigation in an election year, or will it turn away in disgust over “dysfunction” in Washington? Does Trump, who thrives on attention and chaos, want impeachment? Does he want his opponents to devote their time and energy to something that can only divide and polarize the public? [...]

The idea that Trump thrives in chaos — that controversy is an asset to his presidency — just isn’t true. Despite his constant bluster, the president can’t take a punch. As soon as it was clear that the House would go after Trump for his actions regarding Ukraine, he panicked — even trying to implicate his vice president in the scandal. “I think you should ask for Vice President Pence’s conversation, because he had a couple of conversations also,” Trump said at a news conference during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York on Wednesday.
posted by katra at 1:55 PM on September 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

Staring down impeachment, Trump sees himself as a victim of historic proportions (WaPo)
Victimization always has been core to Trump’s identity, both as a politician and as a real estate promoter and reality-television star. It is the emotional glue that yokes Trump to the grievance politics of the right. Many of Trump’s grass roots followers have said they feel protective of the president in part because they, too, feel oppressed and ostracized by elites. [...]

“He’s been forecasting that the ‘deep state’ is out to get him and there’s a way in which the narrative of the whistleblower can come to confirm all of that for his followers,” said historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an expert on authoritarianism at New York University.

This shared sense of persecution is one reason so many Republican officeholders and conservative media personalities are defending the president — at least for now — against allegations that he abused the power of his office for personal political gain.

“At a Trump rally, central to the show is the idea of shared victimization,” said Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, a Trump critic. “Donald Trump revels in it, has consistently portrayed himself as a victim of the media and of his political opponents, and this will all be framed as an unfair effort to overturn a legitimate election. That argument will have enormous currency across right-wing media. It will be believed.” [...]

Ben-Ghiat drew parallels between Trump’s strategy and the tactics of leaders with authoritarian tendencies past and present around the world. She said Trump’s branding of investigations against him as “witch hunts” mirrors the language used by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to condemn probes into their conduct.

“Their cult of victimization is part of their persona,” Ben-Ghiat said. “It’s how they get support for people. It’s how they justify lashing out. A lot of their repressive agenda is against the press, the intelligence communities, anybody with investigatory capabilities.”
posted by katra at 2:57 PM on September 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

Graham prepares Trump defence as impeachment fury intensifies (Guardian)
David Brock, a political activist and founder of the progressive watchdog Media Matters for America, told the Guardian: “Their playbook is very predictable. It’s one we’ve seen before. We’re seeing it play out now. But I do think that they’re dealing with a weaker hand this time and at least so far they’re struggling to find a counter-narrative they would like to tell.

“I don’t think they have it yet and so it feels like they’re throwing a lot at the wall to see what sticks but there’s not as much of a coordinated counter-offensive as there has been in the past.

“And that’s because they’re overwhelmed with the reality of what this complaint says and it’s very hard to spin your way out of it. They’re certainly trying but I wonder about the effectiveness of it.”
posted by katra at 4:10 PM on September 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

[Several deleted; to join a discussion and share your personal thoughts on the impeachment effort, please go here. As LobsterMitten indicated earlier, to help answer this question, it's better link to resources and analyses. Thank you!]
posted by taz (staff) at 11:34 PM on September 28, 2019

Pelosi turns to Schiff to lead House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry of Trump (WaPo)
In Texas on Saturday, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was asked whether impeachment would galvanize Republican voters. She held up copies of the whistleblower complaint and the memo of the president’s call with Ukraine’s president.

“These are his words, for God’s sake, and you’ve got Republicans who are silent,” Bustos said at the Texas Tribune Festival.
posted by katra at 5:54 AM on September 29, 2019

Trump cranks up grievance machine (Politico)
Trump’s campaign has turned impeachment into an organizing tool for supporters primed to back a president they see as under siege.
Donald Trump’s campaign aides expected months ago that Democrats would try to impeach the president — and he needed a way to exploit it.

So this summer, Trump 2020 officials spliced news clips of Democrats discussing impeachment into a 90-second video montage, punctuated by the president imploring supporters to help him “stop this nonsense.” Aides quietly filed the spot away until last week, when it was released as part of an online counteroffensive to the impeachment push that brought in 50,000-plus new donors and raked in $8.5 million in two days — the campaign’s biggest digital haul since its June launch.

The push demonstrates how Trump, in less than three years in office, has perfected a grievance machine that converts deep-seated outrage on the right into fundraising dollars and new support. As Trump confronts the gravest threat to his presidency yet, his campaign is stoking — and monetizing — the anger of a Republican base that has long seen the president as under siege.
posted by katra at 7:09 AM on October 1, 2019

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