A veteran Republican strategist has claimed Donald Trump is closer to impeachment than most people think.
Alex Castellanos, a consultant for seven Republican Presidential bids – including the George W Bush and Mitt Romney campaigns – discussed the latest developments in the Russia probe on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
The consultant started by expressing scepticism that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation alone could bring Mr Trump down. Mr Mueller is investigating possible Trump team collusion with Russia, and possible obstruction of justice by the President himself.
“All we have seen is charges for tax evasion and lying to the FBI,” Mr Castellanos said of the probe thus far. “You know, only in Washington is it an industry that people go to jail for covering up crimes they don’t commit as a standard procedure.”
Mr Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has been charged with tax fraud and various other financial crimes. Two of his former campaign members – George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn – have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about their contact with Russian sources.
Mr Trump, however, told reporters he was “very happy” about Mr Flynn’s plea, claiming it did not prove collusion. He even tweeted in defence of his former national security adviser, writing: "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies.”
“It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful,” he added. “There was nothing to hide!"
But Mr Castellanos warned that the Russia probe may become more problematic for the President if Senate candidate Roy Moore wins in a seat Alabama. The candidate has been accused of sexually abusing minors, and is unpopular even among fellow Republicans in Washington. If Mr Moore wins the election, Mr Castellanos said, he could hurt Republican candidates in the 2018 midterm elections.
"Roy Moore [is] coming to the Senate possibly in a week,” he said. “And he becomes the face of the Republican Party for the next year, when we’re already in danger of losing the House. It’s likely we’ll do that without him, lose the House. Trump gets impeached."
He added: "We’re closer to impeachment now than we think.”
Impeachment requires a majority vote in the House, and a two-thirds vote in the Senate. Democrats would have to win 24 more seats in the House and three more in the Senate to win back the majority in both chambers.
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