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Impeach Now!

May 22, 2019

mueller report

Ten months ago on this blog, I argued that an impeachment campaign should start immediately. Two major things have happened since then: 1) the Democrats gained control of the the House and, with that, the power to issue subpoenas, and 2) the Mueller Report was released detailing not only compelling evidence of obstruction of justice, but also multiple instances of highly suspicious contacts between members of Trump’s campaign and Russians connected with Putin. And yet the Democratic Party leadership is still counseling against impeachment.

There are two aspects of the impeachment debate: One is moral/constitutional, and the other is practical/political. They are separate, but intimately related.

The moral/constitutional part is a slam dunk. Any other president who had committed half of Trump’s offenses would have been impeached by now. Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen is in prison for a crime which he said Trump instructed him to commit! Trump continues to obstruct justice before our eyes, and Trump’s White House is brazenly flouting multiple legitimate subpoenas issued by House committees. Trump has done literally nothing to protect the US electoral process against Russian manipulation (which was the reason for the Special Counsel investigation), and he continues to deny or obfuscate that it ever happened at all. I won’t waste space recounting all of the other issues of lying, or corruption, and/or abuse of power that could reasons for impeachment–which, it is worth repeating, can be anything that Congress deems a “high crime and misdemeanor”.

Failure to impeach means that Democrats acquiesce in Trump’s malfeasance. If a sitting President can’t be indicted (which is only a DOJ internal opinion, not law and certainly not in the Constitution), then the only remedy for holding a lawless president accountable is impeachment. If Congress won’t do that, then they are complicit in his crimes by omission. The impeachment clause of the Constitution is a dead letter, and we have a despot in charge of the country who can do anything he wants. 

The practical/political part is obviously trickier. If Republicans maintain their cult-like devotion to Trump, then there will not be 67 votes to convict him in the Senate. The math is simple. But I would argue that this is not set in stone. I think that a series of high-profile committee hearings in the House could swing public opinion and therefore potentially  votes in the Senate, where Republican incumbents face much more difficult prospects in 2020 than they did in 2018.

Relatively few Americans have actually read any of the Mueller Report. Public perceptions about it are shaped by the bumpersticker versions that they get from social and news media. When Trump goes on TV and says “no collusion, no obstruction”, people believe it. But public hearings as part of an impeachment inquiry can change all of that. There is shocking material in the Report which has barely penetrated the consciousness of average Americans, and the Mueller investigation did not even address Trump’s finances or their national security implications, which could come out as part of the impeachment inquiry. I vividly remember the Watergate hearings of summer 1973, which decisively shifted public opinion. What we are looking at now is far more serious.

Pelosi’s position that we forget about impeachment and focus on winning the 2020 election, may sound practical and shrewd, but it also sounds cynical and cowardly. Doing that preemptively concedes the moral ground to Trump and his acolytes. It says:  “There is nothing fundamental and existential at stake here for our democracy–it’s all just politics.” I think that’s wrong–both morally and strategically.

The argument against impeachment is that is will be “divisive” and turn Trump into a martyr, thereby increasing his chances for re-election. Divisive, really!? Could we be more divided that we already are? Trump has about one-third of the country in his pocket, and nothing is going to change that. Yes, they will believe the mean liberals are persecuting him, but for those who may be reachable a steady drumbeat of revelations from impeachment hearings could be the only way to shift opinions among the 10 or 15 percent of Americans who haven’t totally made up their minds about Trump. Maybe it’s naive, but I still think that most Americans want to believe in the fundamental integrity of our institutions and will be turned off when it is clearly shown that Trump is actively subverting them. Putting Trumpian malfeasance out there every day could also be effective tactically–after all that’s the whole theory of negative attack ads, and they work.

Then let’s consider the electoral implications of NOT impeaching. Most important, is that it implicitly validates Trump’s mantra of “no collusion, no obstruction.”  We can be sure that Trump will run with that. It will dismay and turn off the Democratic base, who want to see Trump go down hard, and reinforce the image of the Democrats as a party of gutless wusses. If they don’t care about what’s happening to American democracy, then really what’s the difference–they’re all just self-serving politicians after all.

Besides, is it really all that impossible to conduct an impeachment process AND run an issue-based campaign? Moreover, a cornered Trump is more likely to make some big over-reaching mistake that could be impossible to overlook.

I say impeach his lying ass!!



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