If you were to ask most civically-engaged folks, they would surely tell you that recent Congressional hearings were very important. Former FBI Director James Comey testified under oath to Congress regarding questions surrounding the Trump campaign, Russia, and Comey’s recent firing by President Trump (though, remarkably, Hillary Clinton’s e-mails were brought up, as well).
Some have compared this hearing to the likes of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial and Justice Thomas’ sexual harassment hearings in terms of the public spectacle. Others have compared the Russia investigation as a whole to Watergate. While these comparisons may be slightly hyperbolic, there is certainly a general feeling amongst the populace that these Comey hearings and the larger investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign were and continue to be a big deal.
Many on the Left are optimistic that this investigation could lead to the impeachment, or at least an impeachment trial, of much-maligned President Trump. At the very least, there is hope that it will continue to harm President Trump’s standing with the public in opinion polls, and theoretically, there is reason for this.
If the investigation indicates collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia’s government to influence the 2016 Presidential election, that could lead to hearings on the question of impeachment. Meanwhile, President Trump’s firing of Comey coupled with his alleged request that Comey “drop” his investigation into Michael Flynn could constitute as obstruction of justice, another theoretically impeachable offense. However, as we have seen with the emoluments clause, the theoretical ability to impeach Trump does not translate to any political reality. With a Republican-controlled Congress, there is little reason to believe any scenario relating to Russia would play out any differently.
There are a myriad of reasons why Trump would likely never face impeachment, no matter what any investigation brings to light, but chief among them is Congressional Republicans’ nearly uniform political cowardice.
From the moment it became clear that Donald J. Trump would be their party’s nominee for President, Republican politicians have shown an unwillingness to stand up to their de facto face-of-the-party, with few exceptions (for example, John McCain). Even Senators like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who criticized Trump heavily on the campaign trail, calling him “beneath the office we are seeking” and a man who was “going to shatter and fracture the Republican party and the conservative movement,” are now falling in line behind him. At a recent donor dinner, Rubio even went to bat for Trump, complaining about his coverage in the media.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who called Trump’s rhetoric “not what this party stands for, and more importantly...not what this country stands for” and the “textbook definition” of racist, has shown near unflinching support for the President and his agenda, with no indication that this will change.
Despite demands from the Democrats and majority support from the public for an independent investigation into Russia, many Republican representatives still refuse to form an independent, outside commission. Whether because of fear or general lack of principle, GOP Congressmen are clearly not interested in the pursuit of truth or what is best for the American public, and are more enamored with protecting President Trump unflinchingly.
As for any possible decline in public support, this is likely a mere pipe dream, as well. President Trump’s public polling levels are already and consistently at historic lows for this early in a term, and there is little reason to believe they will rise. His approval rating, however, likely will not dip much further, and there is little reason to believe that what is left of his voter base will abandon him, no matter the results of any investigation into Russia.
Many of Trump’s remaining supporters take his word as Gospel and dismiss any dissenting accounts as “Fake News” and lies. In today’s political landscape, for many the truth no longer matters. Following the election, Public Policy Polling conducted a survey which found that 67% of Trump supporters thought unemployment increased under Obama (it decreased massively), 40% of Trump supporters insisted Trump won the popular vote (wrong, by about three million votes), 73% of Trump supporters thought George Soros was paying people to protest (which, he wasn’t), and 39% of Trump supporters indicated they thought the stock market went down under Obama (it went up).
When Kellyanne Conway infamously cited the Bowling Green massacre as a reason why we need to be tougher with security, many on the Left laughed at her unfathomable incompetence. But Trump supporters weren’t laughing, they were listening; The Hill reported that a majority of those who supported Trump’s proposed travel ban thought it was necessary because of the fictional attack.
With regards to the Comey hearings, polling suggests that only 28% of Trump supporters believe Russia even attempted to influence the election, despite widespread agreement among party leaders and the intelligence community. Coming from a political party whose supporters still say, as of August 2016, that President Obama was not born in the United States, these results, as frightening as they may be, shouldn’t be very surprising.
Even if the investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign yielded a smoking gun, there is no evidence that Republican Congressmen would not continue to support him. Meanwhile, many Trump supporters, oblivious to objective reality, would continue to support him and nothing could change that. These Comey hearings don’t matter because truth doesn’t really matter anymore.