Would Starting Impeachment Proceedings Compel Trump To Cooperate?

The President likes to portray himself as both hard-as-nails, and one of history’s greatest victims, and Wednesday he had the chance to do both. But to what effect?

First the President throws a fit in reaction to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying he’s “engaged in a coverup”. She’s referencing the White House’s refusal to allow pretty much anyone to testify before Congress about anything that came out in the Mueller report, and also the President’s blockade on his income tax returns, despite laws saying Congress can ask for them as part of its oversight role, and they have to be turned over.

Trump stormed out of a scheduled meeting with Democratic leaders where they were supposed to discuss infrastructure. (Or more precisely, a meeting where Trump was supposed to present ideas or suggestions for Congress on how to pay for it). According to the New York Times, the President walked into the room, yelled for about 3 minutes nonstop, and walked out.

We were surprised when Trump seemed eager to talk with Dems about an infrastructure package about 3 weeks ago, after he’d emphasized earlier in his State of the Union Address: “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation”. He returned to that theme on Wednesday.

Now, it’s easy to chalk it all up to Trump once again being a petulant baby. But some things about the President’s rage as it unfurled smacked of premeditation. The most definitive evidence being just moments after his “impetuous” blow-up at the sit-down with Pelosi, Trump appeared in the Rose Garden for an “impromptu” news conference at which his podium was festooned with placards touting his most significant accomplishments as President. The most important—if we go by size—apparently being “No Collusion” and “No Obstruction”.

When the White House press pool shot the news conference, they zoomed in so those signs weren’t visible. So here’s a photo and related story from the Associated Press (click on it for their story):

“Placard Man”

The President’s behavior Wednesday seemed to involve acting like he’s being impeached, even though he’s not. (Which seems to prove Pelosi right in her insistence that Democrats not pursue impeachment right now.)

Here’s a little more explanation from Trump (click on the photo to watch):

I don’t do cover-ups” the President asserted. To which many have since noted you only have to look as far as his payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels to know that ain’t true.

We heard many pundits in the past few days wonder aloud why impeachment proceedings aren’t already underway. And this may be a see bit of a stretch, but we think Trump might’ve been wondering the same thing himself. He might’ve even been counting on Democrats to get overzealous (which they often are), and then it would backfire. Just like Republicans lost big after they impeached President Clinton. Was Trump figuring on that to help provide momentum to his 2020 campaign, which is already well underway? Who knows? But we really don’t think it’s that far-fetched, and could absolutely explain why the White House almost seems to be goading or challenging Democrats to do it.

Trump and the White House growing ever more obstinate has led to an increasingly loud chorus of Democrats who want to initiate impeachment hearings. But Pelosi’s been steadfast in opposition to that.

Pelosi later took the opportunity to rub salt in the wound, listing great infrastructure initiatives by great Presidents and then coming to Trump:

For some reason, and maybe it was lack of confidence on his part…he really couldn’t match the greatness of the challenge that we have.”

Which in our opinion is precisely the right approach. Here’s an extended clip:

We’ve had one question over the past couple of days, which didn’t seem to be adequately answered, and that’s whether starting impeachment proceedings would compel the President to provide Congress with access to the folks he’s blocking access to now. Because quite a few pro-impeachment folks have been speaking of impeachment as a panacea that would forcibly reverse Trump’s mulishness. So we looked into it and found that’s not really the case at all. As Pelosi put it (according to the Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis):

I’m not sure we get more information if we do an impeachment inquiry. But if so, that’s a judgment we have to make.”

Lawfareblog looked further into the question of whether impeachment would force access. We can sum up their lengthy analysis with one word: “no”.

Meanwhile, New York State passed a law that would authorize the release of Trump’s state tax records, which should contain a lot of the same information as federal. Trump’s lawyers probably have a leg to stand on when they challenge this. Because you can’t tailor a law to be aimed at one particular individual.