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Donald Trump will survive as president – for now

US leader’s alarming behaviour has yet to provoke a meaningful Republican backlash

This week was holiday time in the US, a moment when Americans traditionally pause, come together and celebrate the annual Fourth of July festivities that mark the birth of the American nation.

But this year’s celebrations took place under the shadow of an increasingly hostile and anarchic political climate.

As Trump departed this week for the second foreign trip of his presidency and focus turned to North Korea, he left a country that is reeling from the tirade of uncensored aggression that has emanated from the White House.

Trump's personal attacks on the hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe programme, including his description of Mika Brzezinski "bleeding badly from a facelift", was an assault not just on women but on all reasonable standards of personal and political discourse.


The escalation of the attacks means that the president's mental state is now being openly questioned

His crazed tweet in which he posted a clip of him wrestling at a WWE match with the head of his opponent replaced by a CNN logo, prompted accusations of incitement to violence.

The previous evening Trump used a Celebrate Freedom rally in Washington, DC, as an opportunity to rant against the media, telling the cheering crowds: “The fake media is trying to silence us, but we will not let them … I’m president and they’re not.”

The escalation of the attacks means that the president’s mental state is now being openly questioned.

"The president is not well," was the conclusion of TV hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski as they calmly responded to the president's vitriol.

Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin is proposing a Bill to establish an "oversight commission on presidential capacity".

There is talk of the 25th Amendment of the constitution which allows for the vice-president to take office if a majority of the cabinet or “such other body as Congress” finds that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of office”.

So does this finally spell the end for Donald Trump?

Global disbelief

Not any time soon. Despite global disbelief at the deportment of a raging president who appears increasingly detached from reality, Donald Trump appears safe for now.

His immediate entourage, including his wife Melania and daughter Ivanka, continue to support him. Melania, who chose a campaign against cyberbullying as one of her priorities as first lady, defended her husband’s MSNBC tweet.

“As the first lady has stated publicly...when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder,” her communications director said. Ivanka, a presidential unpaid adviser, has so far stayed silent.

Republicans are also continuing to back their man. Last week's series of vicious tweets did prompt some Republican criticism. "Please just stop. This isn't normal and it's beneath the dignity of your office," Republican senator Ben Sasse tweeted.

Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the few Republicans who has criticised Trump since his inauguration said on twitter: “Mr President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.”

But crucially the Republican leadership remains broadly supportive of the president.

House speaker Paul Ryan (a proud Irish-American) limited his response to a one-line answer.

“Obviously I don’t see that as an appropriate comment,” he said, when asked about the Morning Joe tweets.

Endorses violence

Similarly, few Republicans have commented on Trump’s CNN tweet despite claims that it endorses violence.

Ultimately, Trump's future survival is bound up with the Republican party. With Congress holding the power to initiate impeachment proceedings, and Republicans commanding a majority, they have the power and prerogative to bring him down.

How far the party can keep ignoring the increasingly alarming behaviour of their president is unclear

So far they have chosen to tacitly support him – a boost helped by the recent special election in Georgia that saw the party hold a middle-class seat in Atlanta, despite a tough challenge from Democrats.

Republican members of congress, conscious of their own election prospects in the mid-term elections in 18 months’ time, breathed a sigh of relief as it became apparent that the “Trump effect” did not seem to bother Republican voters at the ballot box.

Similarly, senior figures such as Paul Ryan and senate majority leader Mitch McConnell justify their support for the president by arguing that they just want to get on with prioritising the Republican agenda such as healthcare and tax reform. After eight years under a Democrat president, they are eager to have their moment in the sun.

But how far the party can keep ignoring the increasingly alarming behaviour of their president is unclear. Republicans, after all, were as baffled as everyone else by Trump’s ascent. Many senior Republicans were the target of Trump’s ire during the bitter Republican primary campaign to select the presidential candidate.

“Lyin’ Ted” Cruz and Marco Rubio appear to have put the bad blood behind them. Both have dined in person with Trump at the White House in recent months. Rubio was instrumental in devising the administration’s revision of Barack Obama’s Cuba policy last month.

A plan afoot

Whether Republicans continue to put short-term political objectives over principles of decency and tolerance remains to be seen. Some wonder if privately there is a plan afoot to move against the president, though it is unclear what level of behaviour would prompt such an action.

In the meantime, as the soap opera of the Trump presidency continues and he holds a key meeting with Vladimir Putin, in Washington special counsel Robert Mueller has been quietly assembling his team of investigators as he probes Russian interference in the presidential election and possible obstruction of justice by the president.

Ultimately, just as the media will keep holding Trump to account, the president will soon come up against the powers of another pillar of society – the law.

Watergate, the scandal that brought Richard Nixon down, was years in the making after all. It may take some time, but the Trump soap opera has still many episodes to run.