Unless and until Robert Mueller’s investigators uncover evidence that crimes were committed by Trump associates—and that Trump knew about them or committed some himself—the only scandal here is Trump’s disregard for Washington’s myths and norms. Yet Trump was elected precisely because he showed no respect for Washington’s way of thinking or talking about itself. If the norms of subtle politics are failing, and the myth of an executive branch both political and strictly professional is coming unraveled, don’t blame Trump. Blame the American people—for they have lost their faith in intelligence agencies and selfless bureaucrats and the unimpeachable morality of newspaper columnists. When Nixon resigned, there was still enough popular faith in America’s institutions that the president could not survive if those institutions turned against him. Today none of the institutions of government or media, except the military, still commands that level of popular support. This, even more than the lack of a crime that would justify impeachment, makes the prospect of Trump’s resigning or being removed mere wishful thinking on the part of his enemies.
Daniel McCarthy is editor at large of The American Conservative.