By Stump Connolly

       The ratings for the House impeachment debate Wednesday must have really chafed Donald Trump’s butt. Twelve million viewers, not as many as Celebrity Apprentice on a bad day. They’re going to cancel his presidency next week, and no one is going to see his swan song.

         I mean, he read a statement written out for him by lawyers, about how he abhors violence and wants to heal the nation’s wounds, crap like that. If he still had his Twitter account, he could have done it better. But they’re taking a lot of things away from him these days, just like they took away his election.

         The President is not having a good week. He’s walking around the White House in a forest of cardboard boxes. People are packing their things, saying goodbye, moving on. In the press office, they had to unpack the teleprompter gizmos just to get the video message out. Kellyanne Conway is gone. Kayleigh McEnany. Mick Mulvaney. Hope Hicks bugged out. Rudy Giuliani is in the doghouse for all the post-election work he botched. Mr. Trump, can you talk to Mr. Giuliani about his legal fees? “Tell him I’ll call him back, when hell freezes over.”

         The President drifted in and out of the Oval Office, monitoring the impeachment proceedings on TV. He told aides he wanted to go over and give Congress a piece of his mind, but they said that’s not the way it works. The only presidential act he performed was to give an arts medal to country singer Toby Keith. No press cameras allowed.

         Jim Acosta, the White House reporter for CNN, says the usual bustle of advisors is down to a handful. Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, Dan Savino, his personal twitterer (who has a lot of time on his hands), speechwriter Stephen Miller, and Robert O’Brien, his National Security Advisor. Lindsey Graham calls regularly to check on him. They’ll always have golf.

          Other friends are concerned the President is “clueless” about how bad this looks, Acosta says. “He essentially has no clue how much this has damaged his standing in the history books, and how much this has damaged the standing of the United States on the world stage.”

         Trump could have spent his last days in office organizing the vaccine response, finding out the extent of the Russian cyberattack, preparing an impeachment defense, damping down the latest threats from North Korea, or, God forbid, helping President-elect Biden get ready for the challenges ahead.

         Instead, Acosta reports, he’s consumed by worries about what all this is doing to his brand. “He is fearful that when he leaves office, his businesses are going to be in serious trouble because of all this. The President faces the real prospect of going broke after his accumulation of debts, because of the stain on the Trump brand, and so on.”

         Acosta gave his report on CNN Wednesday afternoon right after the House impeachment vote. He had just spoken with a senior White House advisor, who had just spoken with Trump yesterday. Costa read from notes to make sure he was quoting him accurately:

         “In the end, it all came crashing down because Donald Trump could never tell the truth. He will be the cautionary tale that parents tell their kids. Don’t end up like Trump because of your lies.”

         “I think that’s an extraordinary statement,” Acosta added. “Even his own people know he’s a scoundrel, they know he’s a liar, know he’s somebody that incites violence (who can’t admit) that he lost the 2020 election. It was a lie that became so cancerous it brought on his downfall.”

A Patriot Jamboree

         Word is Trump wants a big send-off before he leaves the White House. A last hurrah. We just don’t know what it will be, or when it will happen. Maybe this weekend.

         FBI reports say as many as 100,000 armed protestors have been called to Washington for a “Save the 2nd Amendment Rally.” That, at least, is how it was described last week on the dark web. Now, it’s an expression of free speech, so let’s call them armed free-speech advocates.

         National guard troops are sleeping in the Capitol waiting for them. Protective measures are being taken to safeguard D.C. bridges and government buildings. The National Mall will be closed. Airbnb has cancelled all reservations. The TSA will be screening all incoming flights to root out suspicious passengers. All eyes will be on Washington to see if America is capable of functioning as a free and democratic nation.

         What are the chances Donald Trump won’t try to put himself in the middle of it? If he wants to come across as a figurehead of freedom, he can hold that military parade he always wanted. Like Emmanuel Macron marching troops down the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, he can parade the National Guard in dress camo down Pennsylvania with surveillance drones flying in formation overhead.

         He’ll give a speech,  a peaceful speech, a beautiful speech, thanking all the patriots who stood by him through these difficult times. The Beach Boys will sing. He’ll gather his family on stage behind him to wave goodbye and a helicopter will whisk them off to Mar-a-Lago with a military band playing Hail to the Chief.

         Except, he won’t leave. The helicopter will circle back to the White House for one last gathering of MAGA nation. They’ll light a bonfire on the South Lawn. No one will have to wear masks. People can talk about all the money their IRAs made in the heyday of his term. He’ll give out free vaccines and have fireworks over the Washington Monument. If some in the crowd pop a few rounds of AR-15 gunfire into the air, well that’s just Proud Boys being Proud Boys. Everything will be just as he imagined it would be – if he won.

         It’ll be great theater.

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