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Reich: Trump is on the road to irrelevance

We have endured Donald Trump for seven months. In that brief time he has almost single-handedly destroyed the moral authority of the presidency of the United States at home and abroad, brought us to the brink of a nuclear war without consulting anyone, and sown division and hatred across the land.

How can this nation endure another 41 months of this man?

We can't wait for special counsel Robert Mueller's evidence of Russian collusion. Even if Mr. Mueller finds that some of Trump's aides colluded, he might well find that Mr. Trump had "plausible deniability." Top guns often arrange wrongdoing so they can plausibly deny they knew it was occurring. That's the art of the deal.

So how can Mr. Trump be removed?

There's already enough evidence to impeach him on grounds of abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. There is already enough evidence of mental impairment to invoke the 25th Amendment.

But with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, neither of these outcomes is likely.

Yet there's another way Mr. Trump can be effectively removed: He can be made irrelevant.

It's already starting to happen. The howling man-child who occupies the Oval Office is being cut off and contained.

Mr. Trump no longer has a working majority in the Senate because several Senate Republicans have decided the hell with him. Three Republican senators voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act, dooming his effort. Almost all voted to restrict his authority over Russian sanctions.

They're also pushing forward with their own inquiry into Mr. Trump's Russian connections. Republican Sens. Thom Tillis and Lindsey Graham have even joined Democrats in introducing legislation to protect Mueller from being fired.

Republicans in the House won't fund his wall. Many refuse to increase the national debt in order to pay for his promised tax cuts. After Charlottesville, many more are willing to criticize him publicly.

Last week, Tennessee's Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, even questioned Mr. Trump's "stability" and "competence," saying Mr. Trump hasn't shown he understands "the character of this nation" and that without that understanding, "our nation is going to go through great peril."

The Washington Post's Dan Balz reports that GOP leaders are "personally wrestling with the trade-offs of making a cleaner separation with the president."

It helps that Republican patrons in big business are deserting Trump in droves. A number of CEOs have bolted his advisory councils. Many have issued sharp rebukes of Mr. Trump.

These are the people who raise big bucks for the GOP. Their dumping of Mr. Trump makes it easier for elected Republicans to do so, too.

Even James Murdoch, the 21st Century Fox CEO whose media outlets include Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and The New York Post — among the loudest mouthpieces for Mr. Trump — is ditching him.

Last Thursday, Mr. Murdoch wrote in a widely circulated email that "what we watched ... in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the president of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people," and pledged $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League.

This doesn't mean Fox News or the Wall Street Journal will call for Mr. Trump's ouster. It does mean their commentators and editorial writers now have clear license to criticize him.

America as a whole is abandoning him. Mr. Trump's approval rating hit an all-time low of 34 percent last week. Even parts of his base are dropping him. New NBC News/Marist polls show that Trump's approval ratings have fallen below 40 percent in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — three states that were key to his election, which he won by a whisker.

Inside the administration, there are moves to contain and isolate the man-child.

On foreign policy, the Axis of Adults — Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — is asserting tighter control, especially after Mr. Trump's tweetstorm over North Korea.

Reportedly, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are stepping up attempts to constrain him as well.

"You have no idea how much crazy stuff we kill," another White House aide told Mike Allen of Axios.

Plus, Stephen Bannon is gone.

All of this means that although Mr. Trump will still hold the title of president, he's on the way to being effectively removed from the presidency. Neutered. Defanged.

We're not out of danger. Mr. Trump will continue to rant and fume. He'll insult. He'll stoke racial tensions. He could still start a nuclear war.

But hopefully he won't be able to exercise much presidential power from here on. He's being ostracized like an obnoxious adolescent who's been grounded.

When the media stop reporting his tweets, his isolation and irrelevance will be complete.

Robert Reich, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few," now available in paperback. His new film, "Inequality for All," is now out on Amazon, DVD and On Demand. His daily blog is at www.facebook.com/RBReich/.

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