At about 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, it seemed like a solitary flight of fancy when firebrand Democratic Representative Maxine Waters of Los Angeles told a conference of liberal activists in Washington, D.C., that “we don’t have to be afraid to use the word impeachment” when talking about President Trump.
At about 5 p.m., the ground trembled when The New York Times posted its story that fired FBI Director James Comey kept contemporaneous notes that allegedly documented pressure from the president to drop the bureau’s investigation into fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Suddenly, across Washington, Waters had markedly more company from other elected Democrats, commentators, and former office-holders from both parties—including John Dean and David Gergen, two veterans of Richard Nixon’s White House. “I think we’re in impeachment territory now for the first time,” Gergen said on CNN.
There are still more pundits than politicians using the “I” word. But the escalating speculation captured how rapidly the terrain is shifting for Trump amid a dizzying concatenation of controversies: ousted acting Attorney General Sally Yates’s explosive testimony about Flynn last Monday before the Senate Intelligence Committee; the Comey firing one day later; the president’s direct contradiction of his staff’s explanation for the dismissal in an interview with NBC; this Monday’s revelation that Trump disclosed extremely sensitive intelligence to Russian diplomats; and Tuesday’s report on the memos Comey wrote to himself after conversations with the president. Not since Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey envisioned a right-wing coup in their classic 1962 novel of political conspiracy has Washington experienced, give or take, Seven Days in May like that.