At the beginning of the year, I thought the kind of breach we are seeing between Trump and congressional Republicans was quite possible if things didn’t go well. And, indeed, they haven’t gone well. But once the Russia story got bigger, I presumed that Trump’s need for scandal defense on Capitol Hill would keep him from moving toward a divorce from the party’s congressional wing. This appears to be wrong.
Trump may realize that no one in the base will mind if he dumps on the congressional leadership, but if he thinks he’s helping prod Congress to get things done, he’s mistaken. The more his own congressional party distrusts and loathes him, the less leverage he has. For example, John McCain’s (ill-considered) vote against the health-care bill was clearly in part a way for the Arizona senator to undermine and antagonize Trump. There’s more where that came from, and the stakes may be much, much higher for Trump in 2019.
If he — and this is highly speculative — gets impeached by a Democratic House, the survival of his presidency will depend on the support of people within his own party who have come to hate his guts. A couple of days ago, an old political hand I was talking to pushed back against the notion that McConnell has an emotionally fraught relationship with Trump by arguing that McConnell . . . doesn’t have emotions. Perhaps. But if McConnell at some point wants revenge, you can assume that it will be served very cold.