Early Returns

Comey Scandal Threatens to Derail an Agenda

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

I've seen several comments suggesting that if Congress does investigate the Trump/Russia scandal more seriously, it could derail the Republican legislative agenda. That agenda has plenty of problems, to be sure. But I'm not sure anything will change if the scandal grows, Congress gets more involved, and Donald Trump gets even less popular than he is now. (Of course, this is all hypothetical; it's also possible a serious investigation could totally clear Trump of wrongdoing and make him more popular, and we don't know at this point whether there will be any larger investigation anyway.)

What we can say more or less for sure is that if Trump grows less popular and this or any other scandal becomes more serious, then Trump's influence, in Congress and elsewhere, will be diminished.

But the agenda that has a reasonable chance of passing in Congress isn't Trump's agenda anyway; it's the policy preferences of congressional Republicans. As far as I can tell, Congress hasn't done a single substantive thing so far that it wouldn't have done with a trained monkey in the Oval Office -- at least, a Republican one who was willing to sign anything Congress passed. 

So it's just a question of whether Congress can do two things at the same time -- it can, if it wants to -- and whether the Republican agenda would change with a very unpopular Republican president in office. I don't really see why it would. While I'm skeptical that the rest of this Congress will be particularly productive, I don't think the Trump scandal is responsible. 

1. Andrew Rudalevige at the Monkey Cage on the James Comey firing

2. Good primer from Rosalind S. Helderman at the Washington Post on the options for investigating Trump/Russia

3. My Bloomberg View colleague Timothy L. O'Brien on the Comey firing.

4. Also from View: Megan McArdle on the Comey firing

5. And Julian Sanchez on the Comey firing. Too many on one topic? I don't think so at all. Even in the most benign interpretations I can imagine, this was a very big deal, and the most benign interpretations are unlikely to be accurate. 

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    Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

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