Legal wrangling around United States President Donald Trump is intensifying, as his previous campaign chief Paul Manafort is indicted of tax evasion and other related crime. Though it has nothing to do with the president, it’s strengthening the hand of Special Counsel Robert Mueller who is investigating the Russian meddling in presidential elections of 2016 and the alleged collusion of Trump.
Just at the same time, Trump’s private lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty of two crimes: Involvement in impacting the course of a federal election and colluding with a candidate for federal office (then his client, now president) in this and not declaring campaign money. Again, though Cohen’s integrity is in question and might be lying, his guilty plea included that he paid hush money to sex-workers to silence them before the election in coordination and direct orders from Trump. Media headlines were quick to conclude ‘President implicated’, but that doesn’t even guarantee Mueller interviewing him let alone his impeachment.
Of course that Russia collusion and hush money inquiry would hurt the president, but not necessarily topple him down. What may be really challenging for the president is the result of November midterm elections for the Congress, if the Democrats manage to offset the Republican majority of the legislative bodies. Yet, the president won’t be the first then to rule with a Congress against him and in fact some of his Republican Party legislators side with the opposing party on some issues against his policies. Again, it doesn’t look like the end of Trump presidency even if it’s problematic and embarrassing. As I wrote early in 2016 that Trump fits the presidency better than Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, I still think that the president will complete his first term and even more likely to win a re-election in 2020 for a second term.
Many, in America and all over the world, still can’t swallow that celebrity-loving entrepreneur who never assumed public office is the leader of the most powerful country in the world. His first year in the White House witnessed a lot of changes reflecting inexperience with state bureaucracy. But it seems that his second year, coming close to an end now was a stabilising year as Trump settled on the staff to work with him and the way to run a country.
Meanwhile, the man didn’t drop much of his way of doing things; he still tweets what he thinks and takes quick decisions in a way some describe as “impulsive”. Now, the president is ruling his own way while staff and mandarins learnt how to get along with that new ‘way’. But that was rightly expected, as the difference between running a group of companies and running a country is huge.
Trump still has a solid base of supporters among American people, and it seems he’s connecting well with that base. Voters don’t judge their president the way pundits and politicians so. Voters judge him in terms of whether he is keeping his campaign promises or not and whether or not he is being a strong leader. Most important for them is what matters to their daily lives, which is the main achievement of Trump so far. He may have angered many around the world by actions such as his stand on immigration to the US, withdrawal from global climate change agreements and the Iran nuclear deal, imposing trade tariffs on American imports from trade partners, but his supporters among the American public see all this as part of “making America great again”. Whether we agree or not, call it ‘populism’ or what, it’s a fact that we’ve to deal with as we can’t change — I don’t vote in US.
Since Trump came to power, American economy is getting stronger by the day, adding more jobs and pushing wages slightly up. His biggest move was the tax cuts that impacted every working American in a way not seen for years before. Farmers may have suffered a bit from retaliatory measures by America’s trade partner who imposed tariffs on their produce, but they still believe the end result will be in their favour — as Trump thinks and says. Regardless of what opinion poll results are, if you run a presidential election in US now, Donald Trump will win again! And unless the Democrats get an extraordinary candidate in 2020, Trump will stay four more years in the White House.
For those who don’t like the man and his way of ruling the only superpower in today’s world, it’s better to focus on how they can cope with six more years of Trump’s America.
Dr Ahmad Mustafa is an Abu Dhabi-based journalist.