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The Trump-Russia Scandal Will Not End In Liberal Triumph

This story is confusing. Let's focus on what's going on, and not on what we wish would happen.

Allegations of ties between the Russian government and the Trump administration are not new. But the scope and the size of this new investigation into former National Security Administration head Michael Flynn and the potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives is. The latest charges could potentially reveal an ongoing relationship between the Trump White House and a foreign power — meaning the Trump White House might be willing to do the Russian government's bidding.

But even then, that's no excuse for embracing liberal wish fulfillment (or super PACS) about impeachment or op-eds promoting the possibility of a new election. There’s no way the story of the Trump administration's dealings with the Russian government will end in liberal triumph.

These emerging reports of wiretaps, secret phone calls, and conversations with Russian operatives are, at best, worrying; at worst, they reveal a terrifying interplay between our government and that of a country we have every right to be concerned about. A foreign power, whose past is littered with the bodies of dissidents and nonconformists, may have influenced a presidential candidate, tampered with the Democratic National Committee, and might now be affecting the White House’s decisions. And the leaks revealing this information are coming from the Deep State — in America's case, our intelligence agencies. We know from unclassified records that in the past, the FBI, CIA, and NSA have wiretapped outspoken critics of the government (and everyday citizens); now they may have used those same techniques to listen to the phone calls of a foreign ambassador. Already, Democrats are starting to bet on impeachment (sometimes literally). But being afraid or angry — or hopeful — that this, finally, will be the straw that breaks the Trumpian camel's back is no excuse for being reckless.

Here’s the reality: We don't know what's going to happen, but impeachment is a highly unlikely option. A president can only be impeached when he or she is found guilty of "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." The nature of those crimes is determined by the House of Representatives — which is currently controlled by the GOP. Only two presidents have been impeached by the House — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton — and neither was removed from office by the Senate.

Even if Trump resigned from the Oval Office, it wouldn't trigger a new election. Instead, the vice-president would take the oath of office. Should the vice-president be removed or unable to do the job, a new election still would not occur: The order of succession is the speaker of the House (Paul Ryan), then the president pro tempore of the Senate (Utah's Orrin Hatch), then the secretary of state, and, finally, members of the Cabinet. Unless Hillary Clinton were to become speaker of the House (which is hypothetically possible!), neither she, nor any Democrat, would have a shot at the White House.

The Trump administration is enmeshed in a complex and confusing case of potential subterfuge. But right now, there's no direct path forward — not toward impeachment, and certainly not toward a retread of the 2016 election. This isn't The West Wing. We don't get what we want in politics, and we certainly won't get a searing rebuke of Trumpism. But we do know that the investigations into the Trump White House's relationships with Russian diplomats, businessmen, and others will be important. Not because they could replace Trump with a liberal, but because they could expose the truth of what the hell is going on.