The level of support for Trump is something that absorbs a lot of interest. His approval numbers, both nationally and in the so-called battleground states, are underwater (i.e., more disapprove than approve) and he also trails Joe Biden. But people are still shell-shocked by his 2016 victory that defied the polls and so are reluctant to place too much stock in them, thinking that he might well pull off another upset win.
But there is another indicator and that is South Carolina Republican senator Lindsey Graham. The warmongering neoconservative Graham is one of the most shamelessly hypocritical and opportunistic members of his party and that is saying a lot. He and his Republican colleagues in Congress have been the enablers of Trump’s many excesses. But he is also a self-serving weathervane. When Trump initially announced his candidacy in 2015 and was written off as a joke, Graham was one of his most vicious critics, savaging him mercilessly as utterly unfit for the office. But as Trump’s fortunes rose and he won the nomination and the presidency, Graham became one of his most unctuous supporters and enablers, slobbering all over him and doing whatever he wanted, and more.
But recently he seems to be trying to distance himself from his Trump idolatry and his stance on the firing of US Attorney Geoffrey Berman is a case in point. Berman forced attorney general William Barr to appoint the highly regarded career prosecutor and deputy US Attorney Audrey Strauss as the interim attorney instead of Craig Carpenito, the person Barr been planning to put temporarily in that office prior to the permanent nomination of Jay Clayton. As Lloyd Green writes:
For Trump and his attorney general, replacing Berman with Strauss is like jumping from frying pan to fire. If the dynamic duo had a difficult time taming Berman, a Trump contributor and a former partner of Rudy Giuliani, reining in Strauss will prove even tougher.
Already, Lindsey Graham is heaping praise on Strauss, calling her “highly competent, highly capable” and lauding her for possessing “the knowledge and experience to hit the ground running”. That is not good news for the White House. Graham chairs the Senate judiciary committee.
As a younger lawyer, Strauss bested the real Roy Cohn in a mob prosecution. Back in the day, Cohn was Trump’s personal lawyer. Like Cohn, Barr attended Horace Mann for high school and Columbia for college.
Clayton’s shot at the SDNY appears to be evaporating. From the looks of things, Chuck Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand, New York’s Democratic senators, will be given the right to spike his nomination. They have already vowed to nix his bid, if Graham is to be believed. Clayton is a savvy corporate lawyer, not a litigator. Being a federal prosecutor calls for hands-on courtroom experience.
The real test will come if and when Graham takes a stand that risks annoying Trump and Trump unleashes his attack tweets on him. If Graham is willing to risk that, it will not mean that Graham has finally acquired some integrity. Graham shredded that a long time ago. What it does mean that Trump’s support within the party leadership is definitely eroding and that Graham is getting ready to join the other rats who are leaving the Trump ship.