U.S. President Donald Trump hosts an event for military mothers on National Military Spouse Appreciation Day with is wife, first  lady Melania Trump, in the East Room of the White Hosue May 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. 
Chip Somodevilla

Scandals prompt discussion about the future of Trump’s presidency

There was a great moment on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, with a sketch in which “Donald Trump” was being interviewed by “Lester Holt” – both portrayed by actors, of course – and the subject turned to the president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Trump, in the sketch, said he fired Comey because of the investigation into the Russia scandal, which led to this exchange:
HOLT: But that’s obstruction of justice.

TRUMP: Sure, OK.

HOLT: Wait, so, did I get him? Is this all over? [Finger to earpiece, as if talking to a producer] Oh, no, I didn’t? Nothing matters? Absolutely nothing matters anymore?
The truth at the core of the sketch is hard to overlook. There are some important complexities to the Russia scandal, but last week’s revelations were straightforward: the president of the United States, furious about an intensifying investigation into his political operation, fired the FBI director in order to help end the investigation. This followed revelations that the president also personally pressed Comey to be loyal to Team Trump – during Comey’s counter-espionage investigation into Team Trump.

As Vox’s Dylan Matthews added yesterday, “[W]ithout any more information than we already have, we already know Trump’s conduct is almost as outrageous as what [Richard] Nixon acknowledged in the smoking gun tape.”

Last week, to this extent, was a turning point: we saw a confused president who doesn’t know enough about his office or its constraints to lie effectively about his own misconduct. Trump effectively told the world, “My obstructions of justice are tremendous. They’re huge. Some people say I’m obstructing justice better than anyone ever.”

The cliche about smoke and fire has little value in a case like this. We’ve already arrived at the flame, watching a president stand over it, match in hand, eager to boast that no one could’ve set a more impressive blaze.

And just in case this weren’t quite enough to send voters to Google, looking for information on how a president can be removed from office, Trump also appears to have shared highly classified secrets with Russia for reasons no one has yet explained.

Which, naturally, has sparked another round of conversation about whether Trump’s presidency will reach January 20, 2021.

Lawfare published a six-bylined piece yesterday arguing, in reference to Trump’s leak to Russia, “There’s … no reason why Congress couldn’t consider a grotesque violation of the President’s oath as a standalone basis for impeachment – a high crime and misdemeanor in and of itself.” New York’s Jon Chait added, “The system is designed so that the only remedy for a president who cannot faithfully act in the public interest is impeachment.”

In case anyone needs a refresher, impeachment would not remove a president from office: it’s more of an indictment than a punishment. It’d be up to the House to vote on articles of impeachment, which could pass by majority rule. The matter would then go to the Senate, where members effectively serve as a jury, voting whether to convict the accused. If two-thirds of the Senate vote against a president, he or she would be removed from office.

This has never happened – though with Andrew Johnson, Congress came close – and there’s no reason to believe a pliant GOP majority would even consider such a remedy during Trump’s presidency, regardless of merit or public attitudes.

That said, let’s not forget that Article 4 of the 25th Amendment is another possible avenue.