A month or so ago when Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives were going to beginning an impeachment process against President Donald Trump, it seemed like the substance of the impeachment was relatively clear. The Democrats, citing a whistleblower complaint and partial transcript of a phone call, were going to argue that Donald Trump by conditioning support for our ally Ukraine to the President of that country agreeing to help Trump investigate a domestic political rival, had abused his power and betrayed the oath of his office. Today, the simplicity of that claim seems quaint. Over the last few weeks through their effort to substantiate the whistleblower claims and determine the details of that phone call, the Democrats have uncovered a corruption scandal of startling proportions.

The scandal now includes Donald Trump’s personal lawyer-who never actually practices law-Rudy Giuliani working with indicted co-conspirators who violated campaign finance law and allegedly were involved with Trump’s efforts to get dirt on the Biden family through Ukrainian contacts. Trump has defended himself by promoting a story about Joe Biden’s activities in Ukraine that is not just false, but happens to dovetail entirely with the interests of, you guessed it, Vladimir Putin; and for good measure Trump’s energy secretary Rick Perry has been revealed to be involved in a more garden variety brand of corruption and cronyism in Ukraine.

Over the last few weeks through their effort to substantiate the whistleblower claims and determine the details of that phone call, the Democrats have uncovered a corruption scandal of startling proportions

What was once a question of whether or not the President sought to withhold military assistance for an ally unless they agreed to investigate Joe Biden, is now a scandal about corruption within the Trump administration that is so widespread that impeachment seems like only the beginning of a long judicial process. It is a scandal that ties together the avarice and greed of Trump and his cronies with their disturbing willingness to pursue policies that support Russia’s interests while simultaneously revealing their continued contempt for America election law, mores and processes.

Therefore, although there is still speculation about whether Trump will be removed from office by the Senate after impeachment by the House, now it is almost equally intriguing to speculate about which Trump administration officials, donors or hangers on will face criminal prosecution over this scandal. Rudy Giuliani, once a racist law and order mayor of New York City, for example, is now under investigation by the same US Attorney’s office in Manhattan that he once led.

The question facing the Republican Party is no longer should they let ethics and morality get in the way for running interference for a dishonest and criminal president, but rather, if that happens, where do the indictments, resignations and impeachments stop

All of this has substantially raised the stakes for the Republican Party and therefore for the entire country. As this scandal grows with Mike Pompeo now under scrutiny for his role in dismissing Marie Yovanovich and questions remaining about how much Mike Pence was involved in all of this, it is becoming increasingly apparent that there is no way to bring down Donald Trump without bringing down most of the Republican Party with him. This is not an accident, but has long been a strategic goal of Donald Trump. His tactic of making everybody who works with him a co-conspirator has led to a Republican Party that will protect him not because they like or even approve of him but because his guilt is no longer distinct from their own. One way to see this is that with so many people close to the President involved, in one way or another in the snowballing Ukraine scandal, it is simply implausible that powerful US Senators, other senior government officials and White House staff were not aware of it, particularly as we know that this administration has always been prone to leaks. The silence of the GOP in the face of this knowledge not only makes them complicit, but could do lasting and devastating political damage to the party.

The question facing the Republican Party is no longer should they let ethics and morality get in the way for running interference for a dishonest and criminal president, but rather, if that happens, where do the indictments, resignations and impeachments stop. There is no longer a scenario where Trump is removed from office and then the Republican Party moves on. As soon as Trump leaves office, whether through impeachment, losing an election or something else, the rest of the Republican Party will face a reckoning that could include Pompeo, Giuliani, Perry, Lindsay Graham and many more. Given this, it is increasingly likely Trump will do anything to stay in office and that, for their own survival, the Republican Party will support him. This makes it even more likely that if Trump loses in 2020, he will claim that the election was stolen from him and the GOP leadership will quickly close ranks behind him.

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