The year 2020 will most likely mark the end of President Trump's impeachment saga, but it won't stop the flow of scandals from this White House. It probably won't even bring real resolution to the Ukraine scandal that set the impeachment in motion.
We might be stuck with the refuse of this presidency forever, condemned to an endless stream of revelations long after Trump himself has left the scene.
To understand why, one only has to look at this weekend's report from The New York Times offering new revelations about the Ukraine scandal — including news that Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and then-National Security Adviser John Bolton fruitlessly joined forces to oppose the freezing of military aid. Trump, the Times reported, refused their entreaties.
Some observers suggested the new revelations should increase the pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to allow new witnesses at the impeachment trial, whenever it presumably takes place.
"Many of these officials who were directly involved with Trump's freezing of aid are the same ones Trump blocked from appearing before the House impeachment inquiry," wrote Greg Sargent at The Washington Post. "This should make it inescapable that McConnell wants a trial with no testimony from these people ... precisely because he, too, wants to prevent us from ever gaining a full accounting."
It is, of course, impossible to shame McConnell into doing anything he doesn't want to do. But that doesn't mean he can prevent a full accounting. Instead, the Times report — coming after impeachment itself was already completed in the House — suggests our understanding of the scandal will evolve for years to come, as documents emerge and administration officials decide to put their memories on the record.
We know this for a couple of reasons.
First, there is no shortage of source material. Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of the Trump campaign's connections with Russia may be over, but it wasn't complete: The president obstructed the investigation, and Mueller himself left open the question of whether Trump colluded with foreign agents to influence the election. "If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so," the prosecutor said at a press appearance in May. Between the loose ends of that investigation and the untapped testimony of the Ukraine matter, there is still a lot of information out there yet to be revealed. We may not find out all of Trump's secrets anytime soon, but we'll probably learn a lot of them, and the revelations will not be pretty. What we do know is already ugly enough to warrant the rare act of impeachment.
We also know that big scandals tend to endure, and to give up their secrets over the years and decades. That is true even when we have, as a society, achieved some level of closure. Former President Richard Nixon resigned after the Watergate scandal led him to the precipice of impeachment, but the slow release of tapes and documents, as well as congressional efforts to prevent another administration from repeating Nixon's sins, kept the story alive in the headlines for years. It took three decades for "Deep Throat" to be outed as former FBI official Mark Felt in 2005, and that was still one of the biggest stories of the year.
The Trump administration will be making new — possibly shocking — headlines for many years to come. Yesterday it was Russia. Today it's Ukraine. Tomorrow it might be something else entirely. This is a never-ending scandal.
This Senate almost certainly will not oust Trump. So the best we can hope for is that history buries him under piles of ignominy and shame. That is small consolation — we live in the here and now, when we would benefit more from this president leaving office than we will from the judgment of history. But Trump's eternal loss of face in tomorrow's textbooks may have to do as consolation. The impeachment process is nearly complete, but our collective reckoning with Trump's behavior has just begun.
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