The Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative daily estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump leaves office before his term ends, whether by being impeached (and convicted) or by resigning under threat of same.
The Impeach-O-Meter got a little heady on Wednesday, raising the prospects of Trump leaving office early to a full 70 percent. This was entirely based on Steve Bannon’s personal opinion, rather than any particular set of facts. So let’s go back to the old approach of looking at actual data points and see where it gets us.
Current chief of staff John Kelly on Thursday spoke to the press and seemed to respond to that same Vanity Fair article which had described Bannon’s pessimism. In that article, Gabriel Sherman also wrote that two senior Republicans described Kelly as “miserable in his job and … remaining out of a sense of duty to keep Trump from making some sort of disastrous decision.”
Here's what Kelly said on Thursday:
Although I read it all the time pretty consistently, I’m not quitting today. I don’t think I’m being fired today, and I’m not so frustrated in this job that I’m thinking of leaving. This is the hardest job I ever had. This is in my view the most important job I ever had. … Unless things change, I’m not quitting, I’m not getting fired and I don’t think I’ll fire anyone tomorrow.
That sounds like he’s going to stay! And if he stays and continues to prevent Trump from “making some sort of disastrous decision” then that would certainly improve Trump’s odds of not being impeached.
At the same time, there’s always the chance Trump could just get rid of Kelly and his pesky desire to prevent international calamity. Which raises another portion of Sherman’s reporting. From Vanity Fair:
While Kelly can’t control Trump’s tweets, he is doing his best to physically sequester the president—much to Trump’s frustration. One major G.O.P. donor told me access to Trump has been cut off, and his outside calls to the White House switchboard aren’t put through to the Oval Office. Earlier this week, I reported on Kelly’s plans to prevent Trump from mingling with guests at Mar-a-Lago later this month. And, according to two sources, Keith Schiller quit last month after Kelly told Schiller he needed permission to speak to the president and wanted written reports of their conversations.
During his press conference, Kelly actually seemed to acknowledge this is what he was doing:
I restrict no one, by the way, from going into see [the president]. But when we go into see him now, rather than onesies and twosies, we go in and help him collectively understand what he needs to understand to make these vital decisions.
Again, this sounds like Kelly’s round-about way of acknowledging what Gabriel Sherman reported in Vanity Fair: That he is limiting access to the president. If Kelly is controlling the access of potentially harmful actors to Trump, that seems like an indication that he’s doing an effective job of preventing the White House and the United States of America from lurching towards an outright conflagration. At the same time, if Kelly’s physical sequestration is angering the president as much as has been reported, maybe Kelly won’t be in the job much longer. Kelly also seemed to have had a Freudian slip during the press conference that he quickly corrected, perhaps realizing it might hurt the president's ego if it was misinterpreted:
This is really hard work, running the United States of America… I don’t run it, but I am working for someone who is dedicate to serving the country in the way that he has talked about for a number of years.
“Serving the country in the way that he has talked about for a number of years!” That is one hell of a ringing endorsement.
While it's fun to speculate about one man saving us all from some horrifying global catastrophe by restricting access to an elderly boy-king he doesn't have any faith in, it doesn’t really provide insight into whether or not Kelly will eventually be replaced as chief of staff with Gary Busey or Omarosa Manigault.
This other data point might be more helpful: Quinnipiac released a poll on Wednesday saying that 55 percent of Americans view Donald Trump as “not fit to serve as president.” That sounds like a pretty good number on which to base impeachment odds! We wonder where Kelly stands on the question.