If Trump’s A Crook, He Can’t Be Let Off The Hook.
At the same time, we still think anybody expecting an impeachment out of this is delusional. Even if Democrats find stuff (and they probably will). Don’t get us wrong, we’re not advocating Democrats moderate their efforts, especially if they’re getting somewhere. Just that the outcome is still most likely to rest on voters in 2020.
So this effort needs to be led by someone with a very deft touch. And we think they’ve got that in the person of New York Representative Jerry Nadler, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. Any consideration to impeach would come through that committee. Nadler hasn’t shied from controversy before: he was outspoken in his opposition to the Iraq War and voted against the resolution authorizing it. (Trump might be interested in knowing Nadler was also against expanding and loosening the government’s FISA surveillance program). He’s been an unwavering advocate for a strong investigation of Trump and his cohorts, yet at the same time has defined a pretty narrow set of criteria for pursuing impeachment, which include, according to Politico: “the offenses in question must be so grave and the evidence so clear that even some supporters of the president concede that impeachment is necessary.” Otherwise, Nadler has previously argued:
“You don’t want half the country to say to the other half for the next 30 years, ‘We won the election. You stole it from us’”.
So, to mix metaphors: Nadler can take the shots while keeping his hands on the wheel and his eyes on the road.
Democrats’ first set of requests involve more than 80 letters delivered to Trump associates–both people and organizations–ranging from both Trump sons (but not his daughter Ivanka) to Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. Those letters asking for all communication regarding a whole bunch of Trump-centered controversies. Making it very clear they’re not just looking at Russia, they’re looking at everything. And if recipients don’t cooperate, Democrats say they’ll subpoena the information if need be. But they didn’t put a strict timetable on it. Presumably, at some point all this will lead to hearings.
Over at the House Intelligence Committee, the previous chair, Republican Devin Nunes, set a huge precedent by requesting boatloads of classified documents to comb through, and even threatened the Deputy Attorney General, and Director of the F.B.I. (with Trump’s blessing), when they didn’t produce hundreds of thousands of documents quickly enough for his liking. At the time, F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray pushed back that his agency turned over 880,000 pages and put 100 employees on it, working more than full time.
So the fact that Democrats are now proceeding in a similarly “thorough” way, shouldn’t really raise any eyebrows. Except it is. If Nadler and others follow in Nunes’ footsteps, they’ll be excoriated for it. Even Nunes himself has already appeared on Fox saying “all of these investigations are in search of a crime”. Like his “investigations of the investigators” weren’t? And of course, Trump Tweeted Nunes’ statement.
Republicans also spent a lot of the Obama years setting a lot of precedents in their multiple, simultaneous investigations of Hillary Clinton, across several Committees. (And she was only Secretary of State.) Screaming about her emails (and Benghazi, and uranium, and the Clinton Foundation). And while Democrats did gripe about it, mainly they regarded those efforts as:
- Mostly a waste of their, and the American peoples’ time.
- Something to which they didn’t want to draw even more attention.
We expect Republicans to behave very differently: they will make as much noise as possible from the start, and bring as much attention as possible to the Democrats’ investigative efforts. They will portray themselves and the President (and the President will too) as aggrieved parties being unfairly subject to a bogus inquisition by a bunch of lunatics. Or perhaps wanna-be Socialists. Since that seems to be the “in thing” for Republicans to call Democrats heading into the next election cycle.
And right now, there’s not much downside to that approach. Unless Democrats find what very literally might have to be a smoking gun (and maybe not even then). Because Republicans know support for Trump among Republican voters is so strong, no matter what ugliness surfaces (and it probably will), they just won’t believe it, or will choose to ignore it.
The upside for Democrats is much more limited: because most Democrats already oppose Trump and believe he’s incredibly shady. Proving that more will only prove that more.
We believe Nadler, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi understand this, and will make sure Democrats proceed with their investigations, and whatever else they may choose to do with any findings, in a forceful but careful way. Because they know even if they can prove Trump’s a criminal, a whole lot of people won’t care, and might get even more fired up about rallying behind him.
Impeachment? Look, Trump just invoked a national emergency so he could take the money and build his wall, even though it had been denied him by Congress (and not just by Democrats: as we’ve pointed out, Republicans had 2 years of control of the House, the Senate, and the Presidency, and still didn’t give it to him). That’s a direct assault by the President on the power of Congress and its role in government as defined by the Constitution. Yet in the House, only 13 out of 197 Republicans–just 6%– voted to defend the institution of which they are part. 94% of House Republicans were more than willing to cede their power to the President. (Since the House is now controlled by Democrats, the resolution to block Trump still carried.)
Think they’re going to do anything different in an impeachment vote? It still might pass, since it only requires a simple majority in the House. But then what are the chances of getting a conviction–which has to pass by a 2/3rds majority–in a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate? (There are fewer Trump die-hards in the Senate, that’s true, but their priority is seating Conservative judges on federal courts, and Trump’s delivering for them on that big time).
A lot has been made of the fact that many women and POC came to this Congress for the first time on a wave of Democratic votes that came partly in reaction to Trump. The other part of the story that’s less often told, is that Republicans in this Congress are much more fanatical in their support of the President than those who were there before. A total of 81 Republican Representatives who were part of the last Congress are gone from this one. About half of them lost, sometimes to Democrats, but sometimes to other Republicans who attacked them from the Right. Others just quit before that could happen to them. So think what you will about former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who sometimes clashed with Trump, especially on issues of propriety, and now think also about who his approximate successor is: faithful Trump servant, Kevin McCarthy. And think about the House Oversight Committee, headed by Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings, which did the Michael Cohen hearings last week. That used to be headed by Republican Trey Gowdy, who quit. While Gowdy was no shrinking violet himself, the ranking Republican now is the even more die-hard Trump defender and professional rabble-rouser, Jim Jordan.