Regardless of whether or not Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Team Trump’s involvement with Russia is winding down, only three outcomes are possible. First, despite the indictment of former campaign manager Paul Manafort and the guilty plea of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Mr Mueller could find no evidence of wrongdoing or culpability on the part of President Donald Trump and his family. This would clearly exonerate the president and give him a political leg up on his critics which he would exploit to the hilt. Second, the Special Counsel could find that while the appearance of wrongdoing was present — -and this could include indictments of family members. Without sufficient evidence to move forward, the investigation was concluded. Such an outcome would simply exacerbate the partisan divide over the president and spark even more vituperative and vitriolic politics especially with the 2018 and 2020 elections looming. Third, the Special Counsel could find culpability and thus grounds for charging obstruction of justice, money laundering or other potential violations of the law. The most likely recourse would be referring action to the House of Representatives and consideration of articles of impeachment for ‘high crimes and misdemeanours’. Such referral would touch off a political crisis of the first order probably making a broken government even more broken. The president of course would mount a stiff and aggressive defence, ‘fighting back’ in his words. All means fair and foul would be deployed to impugn the investigation. Similarly, Democrats would be responding in kind. The results of this political fight to the death would not be good for the nation. Only two presidents have been impeached. None was convicted. Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House for violating the Tenure of Office Act in 1868, later to be found unconstitutional, for firing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury, lying over an affair with a White House intern. Richard Nixon resigned in the face of certain impeachment and conviction by the Senate over the Watergate cover-up. Tragically, in today’s supercharged age of destructive politics, a tiny nick can be septic. Ironically, however, a far greater wound that might trigger impeachment could prove far less fatal. The president could benefit from this inversion What would a Republican House of Representatives do? As Evangelicals have forgiven Donald Trump over allegations of an affair with a movie porn star — and, of course, would never forgive Bill Clinton for his dalliances — it is very likely Republicans would reject the findings of the special counsel and conjure up reasons and excuses for protecting the president. Inexperience, absence of mal-intent and other explanations would be offered to prevent impeachment. But Democrats, the media and a good portion of the public would be enraged. Even if the House did move to impeach, the chances of a Senate conviction are probably very low even if evidence of wrongdoing were overwhelming. A panoply of smoking guns would be needed. However, the saga would grow worse. Suppose the House went to the Democrats in 2018. Then, the chances of impeachment would be virtually certain even without overwhelming evidence of guilt. Should Democrats win control of the Senate, obtaining the necessary 2/3 majority to convict would be slim. After all, who is the Howard Baker of today who would ask “what did the president know, and when did he know it.” That impasse could be destructive in the extreme. The president’s credibility would be demolished. Calls for his resignation would be deafening. Government would simply stop. The reasons for a governmental collapse rest in a profound difference between today and Nixon’s 1974 resignation and Clinton’s impeachment nearly twenty years ago. In 1974, America had just been evicted from Vietnam losing its first major war. The mood was sour. Yet partisanship was far less. The government continued. The same was true with Clinton. Today, Washington is shrouded in the most bitter partisanship arguably since the Civil War. The furore over temporary funding of government and immigration is a precursor. It is highly unlikely any lasting solutions will be found. Come next November, the government could still be struggling under a continuing resolution. Tragically, in today’s supercharged age of destructive politics, a tiny nick can be septic. Ironically, however, a far greater wound that might trigger impeachment could prove far less fatal. The president could benefit from this inversion. No matter how the Mueller investigation ends, a political crisis of some sort will almost certainly follow. The crucial questions are how serious will a crisis be and does the nation have the capacity to tolerate what could be the worst case? One thing is certain. We will soon find out answers to both. And these answers may not be happy ones. The writer is UPI’s Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist and served as Senior Advisor for Supreme Allied Commander Europe for twelve years and currently at the Atlantic Council and at Business Executives for National Security (BENS) and chairs two private companies. His latest book is Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War It Starts and he can be reached @harlankullman Published in Daily Times, February 1st 2018.