I tend to have an overwhelming dislike and distrust for any piece of news analysis built around a tweet, particularly an anonymously sourced tweet, but I might just make a limited exception to this one, at least partly because it's an excuse for some Friday videos but also because it dovetails nicely with an ongoing thread.
Here's the tweet:
prediction just in from top R strategist: Trump resigns "once Mueller closes in on him and the family," Pence makes Rubio VP, "GOP recovers"— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) August 19, 2017
One thing to get out of the way before we get to deeply in. This looks very much like a trial balloon directly or indirectly coming from an interested party, or as Dave Weigel of the Washington Post put it:
Was the source named "Darco Lubio" and was he wearing a fake mustache? https://t.co/hDfwzVlLVE— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) August 20, 2017
Of course, the presence of sources with ulterior motives does not rule out good reporting. You'd probably be hard pressed to find a major investigative story that didn't rely on such sources. In this case, the ulterior motives are perhaps the most interesting part of the story, but more on that in a moment.
If you have to get a story from an anonymous "top R strategist," someone like Harwood is a good place to turn. He's been working this beat since he became White House correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in the 1991. He's not above floating a trial balloon, but he is not likely to accept one from someone not in the know.
Does this mean that highly placed people in the GOP know that something big is about to go down with the Mueller investigation? That's possible, but I suspect it's more likely that this is a combination of planting some seeds and wishful thinking.
For well over a year now we have been discussing the central dilemma that the Republican Party faces with Trump. The man is dangerous, erratic, vindictive, and has no personal ties to the party. The leaders (both official and unofficial) mostly have wanted to have him disappear from the moment he went from useful rabble-rouser to actual candidate. The trouble is that there are very few ways to get rid of Trump without alienating a large enough segment of the base to devastate the party.
Impeachment or falling back on the 25th amendment would trigger an intraparty war if Trump decided to go down fighting (and that's how the smart money should bet). A resignation that left the GOP with reasonably clean hands is perhaps the only plausible resolution that leaves the party essentially intact.
That last phrase in the tweet is enormously telling. "GOP recovers" suggests that the party not recovering is not necessarily a given. Furthermore, there is at least an implication that resignation is a necessary condition for recovery.
How likely is the scenario laid out in the tweet? I wouldn't begin to speculate. Between the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns, committing to an estimate would be a fool's game, but what we can say with a little more confidence is that, based on this and other evidence, some of the top people in the Republican Party are pushing this scenario at least in part because they really want to believe it.
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