Even by its own standards in the arena of justice, Thursday has the makings of such a lively day in Trumpland.
The networks may even have to split their screens if a key figure in the Russian collusion enquiry’s present leaves the White House for the last time, at the moment a potentially pivotal figure in its future arrives at the Capitol to fight for his right to party on the Supreme Court bench.
The first player is Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who has overseen Robert Mueller’s investigation since Jeff Sessions’ recusal. The second is Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation is going about as smoothly as any fan of Trump’s devotion to hiring the best people would expect. Both are clinging to their jobs, actual and putative, by the cuticles.
Rosenstein appeared to have gone yesterday over The New York Times report that he mused about Trump’s removal under the 25th Amendment. But after hours of utter confusion, his execution was stayed. He is now due to visit the Oval Office on Thursday, when Trump returns from giving the UN his latest masterclass in diplomacy.
On the same day, Kavanaugh will appear before the congressional committee examining his fitness to join America’s highest court. Also scheduled to testify then is Christine Blasey Ford, the college professor who claims that at an adolescent party – he was 17, she was 15; all charmingly Liesl and Rolf in The Sound of Music up to this point, but no further – she says he then pinned her to a bed and clamped a hand over her mouth to stop her screaming.
A second woman claims that young Brett exposed his penis and forced her to touch it. A third, according to Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti, waits in the wings.
Curiously, Trump views these two employment conundrums from different perspectives. In his eyes, Kavanaugh, who bafflingly claims in his defence that he was a virgin at the time, is the victim. He tweeted: “The Democrats are working hard to destroy a wonderful man … with an array of False Acquisitions the likes of which have never been seen before!”
Uncertainty about what a False Acquisition might be (buying land for hotel construction with freshly laundered roubles?) led one of his carers to amend it to False Accusations.
In fact, its likes have been seen before. A presidential candidate was once falsely acquired of asserting his inalienable human right to grab women by their genitals. Yet as the candidate later explained (albeit after apologising for harmless locker room banter), the voice on the tape wasn’t his.
So it’s natural that Trump empathises with Kavanaugh, and dismisses Ford as a Democrat sleeper exposing herself to the torment of public scrutiny (death threats and all) to damage the Republican brand before the 6 November midterm elections. Had the assault happened, Trump expertly points out, she’d have gone straight to the police. “There’s a chance,” he added, “that this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen for a candidate for anything,”
Hillary Clinton and her emails might dispute that, but in fairness Trump makes a fine point. If the priest and Harvey Weinstein allegations teach us anything, it’s that sexual assault victims never wait decades to report them. Why would they? It’s hardly as if they need fear that they, not the alleged abuser, will be doubted and demonised?
With Rosenstein, Trump seems less eager to accept his denial that, borrowing from the philosopher Glenn Hoddle, at this point in time he did not say them things. Fair enough. He probably did. Who in the same postcode as normality hasn’t talked about the 25th?
Whether Trump will fire him is another matter. With a majority of Americans supporting Mueller’s enquiry, removing him might be too dangerous a move even for him. Then again, his hatred of Rosenstein for protecting Mueller could overwhelm any residual political nous he has left.
As the duo await employment status clarification, Trump faces a double catch-22, or for advanced mathematicians a catch-44.
Women voters are already deserting Trump. If Kavanaugh is hurriedly confirmed by the 51 Republican senators, the messaging will be horrendous. If not, the Trump coalition of god-fearing, back-to-the-1950s fantasists, who see Kavanaugh as the swing vote to overturn Roe vs Wade, will feel more “betrayed” than usual, and less likely to vote.
If Rosenstein goes, it will look like a blatant Trump power grab against a Justice Department the mafioso-in-chief sees as a sewer full of rats. If he stays, Trump will be retaining someone who inexplicably appears to believe he is dangerously bananas. That’s not great messaging either.
Within hours, if not simultaneously, the fates of two men – one the protector of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with the Kremlin; the other selected by Trump to protect him from Mueller by judging, if it comes before the Supremes, that a sitting president is above the law – could be decided.
If that reads like too glib a synopsis for Jeffrey Archer to show his publisher, this is what passes for reality in the age of the reality president, and the implications are immense.
Already, the Democrats are strongly favoured to win back the House of Representatives. Whatever happens on Thursday, regaining the Senate might look less of a long shot on Friday.
With one or both operating as the check against a rogue president the framers of the constitution intended them to be, there would be little to worry about from Trump for the next two years. Apart from his inalienable right to grab the briefcase by the handle, of course, and whimsically fire nuclear warheads at whomever he chooses.