I favor immediately starting a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald J. Trump.
I think the vast majority of Democrats would agree that Trump has done things that are impeachable, that he should resign, and in a perfect world where Republicans didn’t side with law breakers who collude/coordinate/conspire or nod and wink at hostile foreign powers, impeachment would be warranted. I think most Dems would also agree that it’s important to protect the Constitution and the separation of powers. However, Dems get stymied by the notion that impeachment would not likely result in removal. The politics of it confuses the Dems, places them in a conundrum and generally causes many to be reluctant to move forward.
I’ve been making the argument that impeachment is good politics for the Dems, regardless of whether it results in Trump leaving office before the expiration of his term or not. In short, impeachment provides the Dems with the best opportunity to put the GOP/Trump on the defensive, to win the Presidency and to win the US Senate.
I think Dems are too focused on outcome, and not focused enough on the value of process and using their power to put the GOP on the defensive and the political value that brings. I have not seen a compelling argument that not impeaching is good politics. In fact, people in the MSM are now trepidatiously suggesting that not impeaching could be worse or, as I’ve often stated, ‘not cost free’. If we don’t impeach Trump, he can more effectively claim he was ‘exonerated’ b/c Mueller didn’t indict and Congress didn’t impeach. He will seek revenge all of his enemies. He will run a revanchist and racist campaign and backed by a good economy, he’ll convince Indies he’s not that bad and will win. This is because we won’t have a good enough counterargument and that when we had a chance to hold him accountable, we didn’t. Dems will be living in the type of moral, political and intellectual muddle that caused them to lose the 2004 election as they couldn’t be fully against the Iraq War (and to a lesser extent fully for marriage equality or civil unions).
Here is the path to impeachment as I see it with w/potential opportunities for the GOP/Trump blinking. These opportunities are not available if we don’t impeach:
- Pelosi commences a formal impeachment inquiry b/c Trump won’t cooperate under standard oversight.
Potential Opportunity: Pelosi goes to WH and says 'I have 218 votes in my pocket to impeach you. Mitch says he has to hold a trial if I impeach you. Do you really trust Mitch not to make you resign under duress with 22 GOP Senators up for re-election? Pelosi then offers Trump a deal: Let him negotiate a resignation w/Barr/DOJ in exchange for no prosecution. Pelosi will pledge not to make criminal referrals on obstruction or other matters if he does so, provided that he cooperates w/oversight. He might take that deal. He might not. No matter. You’ve put pressure on him and given him stuff to think about. Dems on offense, GOP on defense.
2. Impeachment hearings are focused on the findings of the Mueller Report, on both obstruction and the nat sec components of Vol 1.
The value of using the Mueller Report is that it makes it a lot harder for the GOP to persuasively argue that this is a partisan matter. Mueller’s report is independent. It is detailed. It is backed by loads of evidence and testimony. It addresses federal crimes but also a whole lot about the Russian attack on the US and the implied continuing threat to the country. I would not add the other stuff that the committees are investigating b/c that has an easier chance of being derided as partisan. Stick to the Mueller Report for impeachment purposes.
Do the hearings in about 6-8 weeks. Do a read out of the Mueller Report into the public record. Compel witnesses to testify on live tv. Put folks in jail if you have to (hint: no one is going to jail for Trump). Describe the obstruction of justice. Describe, as HRC says, the on-going Russian threat that Trump refuses to do anything about. A good move for Dems would be to bring the OSC lawyers like Weissman, and people like McCabe, Comey, and others named in the Mueller Report who are not likely to bow to Trump pressure. That will flush Trump out and force him to allow participation of others.
Potential Opportunity: Democratic candidates for President say that based on the public hearings, they will not allow any pardon of Trump or associates (Warren has already said this but can reiterate) and that they will aggressively prosecute Trump and associates for obstruction and all of the other stuff that Cohen outlined in his hearings and our committees have been investigating. That may or may not cause Trump to think about cutting a deal, but it gives him something to think about. Again, Dems on offense, GOP on defense.
3.Democrats affirm the Mueller Report findings.
Dems declare that Trump has committed high crimes and misdemeanors in not defending the country from the Russia attack, obstructing the inquiry which was necessary to protect America from Russian aggression, and also with respect to obstructing the inquiry to protect himself.
Dems confirm that based on Mueller’s findings, there are solid grounds to state that Trump should face charges for obstruction of justice.
Dems vote out an article of impeachment that recommends that Trump be removed from office in order to stand trial for obstruction. A POTUS cannot continue in his role while this cloud of criminality hangs over him.
Potential Opportunity: Having essentially made their case to the public and gaining support and commitment from the base, Dem candidates continue to go on the offensive. Pelosi also steps up and demands that the POTUS resign. Mitch McConnell now has a big problem on his hands: walk the plank for Trump or tell him he should resign? Either way, Dems win. Dems on offense, GOP on defense. The various deals I mentioned earlier might happen in earnest, or they might not. Either way, a battered Trump will not be able to defeat any Democratic nominee now that the Congress will have done the leg work to declare him unfit to serve.*
Incidentally, if a Senate trial moved forward, how fun would it be to watch Collins, McSally, Gardner, and Thillis squirm? We’d have a couple of no votes like Manchin and possibly Jones (though I think he’d vote yes to convict. It’s not as hard a vote as voting no on Kavanaugh). Again, put the GOP on defense. Make them own their Trump problem. It’s also possible (though not probable) that GOPers might think it’s too hot in the Kitchen and look for Trump to resign. In any of these scenarios (acquittal, conviction, resignation) I think the benefits for Dems are much better than doing nothing.
Additionally, if Trump is bogged down with impeachment and his aides are under a spotlight glare, they will not commit crimes for him. That is plainly evident from reading the Mueller Report. So that is another value of going through the process. It could mean that lives at the border are saved. It could mean that they actually act in good faith to reunite families. It could help keep the US from aiding Russia to break up NATO.
A Trump weakened by impeachment is an easier candidate to beat in 2020. A Trump buoyed by getting away with it will be more difficult to defeat.
I would also recommend that people take a close read of Hillary Clinton’s op ed on the path forward. She’s telling Dems to view the Mueller Report as first and foremost a detailed account of an attack by the Russians against the US. She’s telling Dems: forget about the politics. Do what is needed to protect the country because if we don’t it will happen again. However the key paragraph is the following:
We have to get this right. The Mueller report isn’t just a reckoning about our recent history; it’s also a warning about the future. Unless checked, the Russians will interfere again in 2020, and possibly other adversaries, such as China or North Korea, will as well. This is an urgent threat. Nobody but Americans should be able to decide America’s future. And, unless he’s held accountable, the president may show even more disregard for the laws of the land and the obligations of his office. He will likely redouble his efforts to advance Putin’s agenda, including rolling back sanctions, weakening NATO and undermining the European Union.
What HRC is saying here is that if you want to protect the country, the Mueller Report tells us that we have to hold Trump accountable. That means impeachment must be on the table. Given that Trump will not allow Dems to do a nice, genteel quasi impeachment based on standard hearings and following the traditions, customs and norms granted to Congressional oversight, impeachment is really the only remedy if Dems are serious.
Good politics is about taking calculated risks. Obama was the best example of it in the Democratic Party’s history when he was clear in his opposition to the Iraq War and support for withdrawal. That’s why he beat Hillary Clinton. I urge Dems to be aggressive. Know your power. Use your power. Put the GOP on the defensive.