Are we witness the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency? Paul Krishnamurty updates some of the president's many problems and their impact on Betfair markets...
"Trump's signature policy is dead and 'dealmaker' brand in tatters. Critically, power has shifted in Washington."
Following the mid-terms, I predicted all hell would break loose in the Donald Trump saga, from Robert Mueller to various criminal investigations, to ruinous oversight by a Democrat-led House of Representatives.
All that has either materialised or is pending but I didn't foresee Trump making a ruinous mis-step by forcing the longest shutdown in American history, for naked political purposes. Last night that shutdown finally came to an end, drawing a rare consensus across the spectrum that the president has been humiliated by Nancy Pelosi - a longstanding hate figure to Republicans.
Pelosi forces humiliating climbdown on border wall
Trump has been forced to back down on his unrealistic demands for taxpayers to finance the border wall he'd promised Mexico would pay for. His signature policy is dead and 'dealmaker' brand in tatters. Critically, power has shifted in Washington.
In denying the president his state of the union speech until the government re-opened, Pelosi demonstrated the new order in Congress. Democrats now control the House and will do everything they can to obstruct, investigate and bring Trump down. 2019 will be a year of hell that may well remove him from office.
Mueller closing in with Stone indictment
Many believe the shutdown was initiated to divert attention from the constant stream of shocking revelations from Robert Mueller and over a dozen criminal investigations. That probably worked to some extent, as yesterday's indictment of long-term confidant and ally Roger Stone was shunted down the news order.
To get a scale of Stone's proximity to Trump, check out the words of Paul Manafort - recently convicted on multiple counts including conspiracy against the USA, alongside a former Russian military intelligence officer, and witness tampering. Trump's former campaign manager is looking at spending the rest of his life in prison unless receiving a pardon.
In Paul Manafort's own words:? Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) January 25, 2019
"Roger's relationship with Trump has been so interconnected that it's hard to define what's Roger and what's Donald." pic.twitter.com/w1C6aAXAbh
Naturally Trump is still calling the investigation a witch-hunt but the Russia investigation is evidently moving forward. As I've written for years, one angle towards proving Russian collusion will centre upon a 'fake news' plot involving Russian military intelligence, Stone, Wikileaks and data firm Cambridge Analytica.
Collusion is also clearly evident from the Trump Tower meeting. Even if Mueller is sacked or silenced, the details will eventually come out via various House investigations. Newly empowered as the first politician to stand up to Trump and win, Pelosi didn't pull any punches in interviews last night.
Wow. Pelosi said this out loud. Big step for her. "In the face of 37 indictments, the President's continued actions to undermine the Special Counsel investigation raise the questions: what does Putin have on the President, politically, personally or financially?"? Michael McAuliff (@mmcauliff) January 26, 2019
Trump historically weak on Betfair markets
It cannot be said, however, that what may have been Trump's worst week yet has seriously impacted Betfair markets. He remains friendless for the 2020 Election at odds of [3.4], which equates to a 29% likelihood - unimaginable about a sitting president less than two years out from re-election. There are still thousands queuing up to back that unlikely prospect though.
There is also plenty of resistance to betting on an early exit. Odds of [6.0] and [3.0] are respectively available about Trump leaving office in 2019 or before finishing a full-term. First-stage Impeachment has drifted to [2.34]. At [1.54], he is still rated 64% likely to be the 2020 Republican Nominee.
Perhaps punters have become immune to Trump drama - understandable given his ability to ride out one storm after another for the last three years. However that assumes politics involves a static process rather than a series of related events with inevitable consequences, that inevitably takes time to play out.
Is Trump's base turning at last?
Trump's presidency is in a critical condition. The shutdown was deeply unpopular, driving his ratings to new lows. One Republican pollster, speaking anonymously of course, reported some polls showing Trump's approval below 30%. Officially, his RCP average is an abysmal 41%, with CBS reporting as low as 36%. A clear majority consistently strongly disapprove or say they definitely won't support him in 2020.
Given such fervent opposition and no prospect of winning them over, Trump cannot afford to lose his solid 35-40% base. He particularly can't afford to alienate MAGA cheerleaders such as Ann Coulter and Mike Cernovich. Predictably, they did not react well to their man backing down.
Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.? Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) January 25, 2019
Trump looked weak and he'll be treated the way weak people are treated in DC.? Mike Cernovich (@Cernovich) January 26, 2019
Welcome to the real sharks, Mr. President. https://t.co/PXR49LzfuW
Therein lies Trump's core problem. As Mueller and the Democrats close in, he desperately needs back up. Instead social media provocateurs are gradually abandoning him and it may become increasingly hard to rely upon mainstream Republican support. Six GOP Senators broke ranks to support the Democrat plan to end the shutdown.
In another significant development, Charles Koch - a billionaire donor whose influence on Conservative politics cannot be overstated - is reportedly unwilling to fund Trump or any presidential candidates in 2020. Given that he will finance congressional candidates, that translates to meaning he believes the presidency is gone.
Remember, the Democrats have only controlled the House for three weeks and are yet to fire any of their big ammunition. The details all their criminal investigations will inevitably expose - the Deutsche Bank investigation is of particular interest - will strengthen demands for impeachment. Already more people support impeachment than approve of Trump.
The logic behind impeachment drifting in the market is probably based on an assessment that it won't suit the Democrats strategically to waste time on a process doomed to fail, given a GOP-controlled Senate. Better to just expose his crimes via investigations and defeat a fatally wounded opponent in 2020.
This again, however, assumes that nothing will change. Those GOP defections over the shutdown vote suggest he cannot entirely bank on surviving what would be an extraordinary Senate trial, were the House to vote for impeachment. On past form, Trump will soon be attacking their disloyalty - unwise in the current climate.
Republicans know Trump is an electoral suicide pact. Upwards of 40% of their voters already want Trump to face a primary challenger. I'm confident at least one will emerge this year. If nothing else, potential 2024 candidates would benefit from raising their profile.
My long-term prediction stands. The rest of Trump's presidency will be mired in corruption charges. At the end, I don't believe he'll have the stomach for a primary where all his crimes are on constant public display. Lay him to the max for Next President at [3.4] and, to a lesser extent, to be the Republican Nominee at [1.58].
Bet on the Trump Presidency here