I’ve talked myself off the “Trump must be impeached now!” ledge by acknowledging two obvious facts: impeachment is a political instrument, and there aren’t enough House Democrats in favor of it right now to proceed. It was inexcusably naive of me to think of it any other way, of course.
As a political instrument, impeachment can’t realistically have a “moral imperative” attached to it since political acts either result in good or bad outcomes for the party committing them, and that is the measure of their success or failure.
If we’re serious about upholding the rule of law in the executive branch in a post-Trump era, we’ll have to figure out another enforcement avenue. The constitutional remedy has been rendered garbage by partisan extremists in the Republican Party who’ve made it clear where their allegiance lies.
Liz Warren and others who point out that Congress has a constitutional duty to act are correct, and I’m glad they’re saying so. But reality is what it is, and that’s what Nancy Pelosi is dealing with right now.
The political risk Pelosi is trying to avoid is galvanizing Trump’s base through an impeachment process that will inevitably end in “exoneration” in the Senate, no matter what the investigation uncovers. That the Senate Republicans will “exonerate” Trump regardless is a near-universally acknowledged truth.
The argument is whether that should be a factor in a decision to impeach or not. I can see both sides of that argument, but if the ultimate goal is to get rid of Trump as soon as possible, the reality is we have to get people on board for impeachment through investigations, if only to clear the “impeached in the House” hurdle, and that work isn’t complete.
The case for impeachment on obstruction grounds is clearly laid out in the Mueller Report, which turfed the decision to Congress, only to have a corrupt AG inappropriately take that decision for himself. Many public actions taken by Trump establish obstruction of justice beyond a reasonable doubt, IMO, but that doesn’t matter politically. Everyone already knows he obstructed the investigation at every turn since he did so in public and even on camera, but Republicans don’t care.
Maybe the thing to do is to take a step back and refocus the investigation. Stipulate (publicly!) that Trump obstructed justice but is effectively above the law because the AG and Congressional Republicans are okay with obstruction of justice committed by fellow Republicans, even though many of those self-same Republicans impeached Bill Clinton on that same charge related to a much more trivial matter (clips of 90s-era Lindsey Graham making floor speeches would be helpful in making this case).
Instead of focusing on bad acts committed by Trump in Part II of the Mueller Report, which is what an impeachment for obstruction of justice would be, perhaps the House Democrats could focus instead on the more consequential heart of the investigation in Part I, which concerned a hostile foreign power’s interference in our election.
That national security threat is ongoing, even according to Trump-appointed intel people, who can be brought before Congress to attest to the urgency. After all, the Mueller Report’s official title is “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.” We deserve a public airing of the answers contained in that report and an examination of what has been done to address the ongoing threat, which is pretty much nothing because it hurts Trump’s feelings.
So, make the investigation about Russian interference, with Trump and the compromised and convicted felons associated with his 2016 campaign a sidebar to a larger issue. Trump and his corrupt AG are weaponizing intel to punish political enemies under the rubric of conspiring to interfere with an election, absurdly claiming that Democrats conspired with Russia, even though the Mueller Report makes it clear that Russian efforts were laser-focused on electing Trump.
Okay, then. Call their goddamned bluff and hold public hearings on the origins of the Russia investigation and what it uncovered, which wasn’t at all exculpatory for Trump and his minions, as everyone who’s actually read the report (maybe 5% of Americans, if that) knows.
Trump will whine about “do overs” and “no obstruction” and “no collusion” because he’s successfully made it all about himself. His argument is easier to make to low-info voters if the investigation is focused on Trump’s obstruction of justice.
But the Mueller Report is not and it never was all about Trump, and to manage the risks associated with an impeachment inquiry, perhaps we need to flip that script. When Trump objects to the House investigating Russia’s role in electing Trump and its ongoing actions, ask why he’s opposed to securing our elections against future foreign interference. Frame it as a dire national security threat — which has the advantage of being true — and dare Trump to publicly get in the way of addressing it.
Maybe that’s the path forward.