Donald Trump is a criminal, a pathological liar, a coward, and a proto-fascist. He is also lazy, stupid, racist, misogynist, and a textbook narcissist of the most extreme sort. The laziness, stupidity, and narcissism guarantee that he will continue to be terrible at his job, without even taking into account the noxiousness of the ethno-nationalist agenda he is promoting (That he is terrible at his job, and therefore relatively ineffective, is literally the only positive thing I can think of to say about him).
He is also extraordinarily popular among Republicans. Various recent polls put his current approval rating among self-identified Republicans at between 88% and 9o%, which is about as high as it has ever been, and higher than the comparable figure for any other Republican president, with the exception of the second President Bush immediately after 9/11.
Several things follow from this:
(1) Trump is not going to be removed from office prior to January of 2021 by any political process. It’s possible that he could quit, because he’s an erratic personality, and it’s difficult to predict exactly what his pathological narcissism will lead him to do. (ETA: I posted this before seeing Scott’s post below on re-election as a prison-avoidance strategy. I can see Trump quitting in exchange for a pardon from Pence. Or maybe he’ll just pardon himself, in the true caudillo style). But he’s not going to be forced out, because Republican voters love Donald Trump, and Republican politicians realize that opposing Trump is at this point professional suicide.
(2) The Mueller investigation, no matter what it concludes, is not going to have any effect on point (1). It’s potential significance to Trump’s presidency is that it may peel away a few more marginal “independent” voters, but there is nothing that Mueller could conclude that would have any effect on the overwhelming majority of Trump supporters. The evidence that Trump is a criminal is already overwhelming, as is the evidence that at a minimum many of his closest advisers colluded with the Russian government and its proxies to help get Trump elected. These facts obviously make absolutely no difference to Trump’s supporters, so it’s extremely difficult to see how further confirmation of them via legal procedures would have any effect on that support, except, again, among a few marginal voters (which could be critical, given the dysfunctional structure of the American presidential electoral system).
(3) The notion that getting rid of Trump via the 2020 election is going to have any effect whatsoever on the fact that 40%, more or less, of the population is made up of people who support what the Trump political phenomenon represents (white ethno-nationalism with strong authoritarian overtones) is wishful thinking. Trump is much more a symptom than a cause. He will have many heirs in the Republican party, some of whom will be far more competent politicians and/or less dysfunctional human beings.
(4) That said, most people don’t follow politics very closely. We can hope that a lot of Trump’s support is made up of what could be called “soft” ethno-nationalist authoritarians, who are not particularly zealous about pursing the proto-fascist herrenvolk democracy that is the political ideal for Trump’s core support. One great question of the moment is what exactly the proportion is between Republicans in the former and latter categories.
(5) Current prediction markets are putting the odds of Trump being re-elected around 40%. This seems a bit high to me — I’d ballpark it at more like 30% — but it’s fair to say that his odds of getting re-elected are far higher than what his odds were of getting elected at almost any point in 2016 (Thanks Jim Comey. You’re a real hero, and we won’t forget it).