Senator Elizabeth Warren early on expressed the moral clarity that is needed at this hour of constitutional crisis: ‘there’s no political-convenience exception to the US constitution’ when it comes to impeaching Trump. “[T]he tool that we are given for that accountability is the impeachment process. This is not about politics, this is about principle. This is about what kind of a democracy we have.”
Last night, presidential historian Michael Beschloss sounded the same high moral principles on the Rachel Maddow Show. Congress’ fear to impeach is unprecedented:
“And the other thing … those members of the House, they all took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution,” added Beschloss. “And if they do not do anything about these possible crimes that Robert Mueller has described very vividly in this report, they’re essentially saying we’re not going to — we don’t care about the rule of law. And obstructing justice, if that’s what Donald Trump has done, that will become the new normal. And later presidents will feel very free to do it too because they’ll just say the House will not do it if they think it will get them into political trouble.”
“What should always prevail is a feeling by members of the House that they’re going to protect the Constitution,” Beschloss concluded. “And if they do not do that, we’re going to be in a lawless society, and we will lose our democracy.”
And yet, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears to be making a political calculation, rather than standing on high moral principles to defend the rule of law, and to defend the Constitution against an amoral and lawless president.
Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei explain at Axios, Pelosi swats away impeachment — again:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, brushing off new comments by Robert Mueller and 2020 Democratic hopefuls, feels as strongly as ever that impeaching President Trump would be a “fool’s errand,” a top ally told Axios.
By the numbers: Politico says the whip count in favor of impeachment is 41 House members (42 if you include Amash), representing “fewer than 20% of House Democrats, and less than 10% of the House.”
And Reuters reports, Pelosi says need compelling case for House to pursue Trump’s impeachment:
“Nothing is off the table,” U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at an event in San Francisco. “What we do want to make is such a compelling case, such an iron-clad case, that even the Republican Senate, which at the time seems to be not an objective jury, will be convinced of the path that we have to take as a country.”
Two quick points. First, no president has been successfully impeached and removed from office by the Senate. Is success in the Senate the standard by which Congress determines to begin an impeachment inquiry? This suggests that a successful outcome must be predetermined, before the evidence and witness testimony is gathered in an impeachment inquiry in the House, and before a trial in the Senate.
If this was the standard, Congress would never begin an impeachment inquiry, rendering the only constitutional remedy afforded to Congress ineffectual and a nullity.
Second, Nancy Pelosi’s statement cedes to Republicans in the Senate — an amoral and lawless political party defending its amoral and lawless president and whom we should not expect to ever be “an objective jury,” Senate GOP vows to quickly quash any impeachment charges — the decision to begin an impeachment inquiry.
While Nancy Pelosi resists opening an impeachment inquiry, the Republicans are going full steam ahead with their “investigate the investigators” Trump TV “deep state” conspiracy theory to investigate and prosecute federal law enforcement officials who investigated the Trump campaign for “spying” and “treason.”
There are two inspector general reports on the origins of the FBI counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign coming due in the next month (hint: all of this was already detailed in the Mueller Report), and Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr has said he is conducting his own personal inquiry into the origins of the FBI counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.
Senator Lindsey “Stonewall” Graham says he will use the Senate Judiciary Committee he chairs to “investigate the investigators” in pursuit of the Trump TV “deep state” conspiracy theory.
In both instances, the outcome is already predetermined: they will support Trump’s conspiracy theories.
We are headed for the Stalinist “show trials” that Michael Tomasky warned us about at The Daily Beast, You Think It’s Bad Now? Wait for Next Year’s Show Trials (subscription required)(excerpt):
The plan here is to wait for the report from the Justice Department inspector general (that’s Horowitz) to hit next month, pry whatever passages they can out of that report to go on Pravda TV, and stitch together the appearance of a vast, deep state conspiracy to take Trump down.
Then wait again, this time for Attorney General Bill Barr to do his part. Trump’s announcement Thursday that Barr would be in charge of releasing the intel on the Trump campaign probe is a staggering development, something we’ve never seen the likes of. Barr, who already demonstrated he’ll cherry pick evidence on Trump’s behalf, can pluck out whatever evidence he wants and leave buried whatever evidence he wants to leave buried.
* * *
And then, next spring (what a coincidence, election year!), Barr’s Justice Department can bring indictments against James Comey, Andy McCabe, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page for—well, they’ll come up with something. And maybe John Brennan and James Clapper too.
Welcome, folks, to the first Stalinist show trials in the history of our country.
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What we have not seen in America, not even during the McCarthy era, is an orchestrated effort of this sort with the goal, if Corey Lewandowski is to be believed, and I don’t see why he shouldn’t be, of sending political opponents to jail.
* * *
So yes, next year’s campaign will be a nightmare beyond the imagination of any novelist who has yet tried to capture and describe totalitarian, hall-of-mirrors horror, from Koestler to Orwell to Kundera or anyone else. They were all describing how a regime gets away with it in a totalitarian state. But these people will be getting away with it in a democracy.
Nancy Pelosi is effectively ceding to an amoral and lawless president and the amoral and lawless political party that is protecting him — as well as the mighty Wurlitzer of the conservative media entertainment complex — this authoritarian political/propaganda narrative they intend to pursue. This simply cannot be allowed to happen. The best way to counter this authoritarian Republican narrative is to begin an impeachment inquiry — now.
I share the frustration of Charles Blow in his column today. Democrats, Do Your Damned Duty!
What the hell is it going to take, Democrats?!
What evidence and impetus would compel you to do the job the Constitution, patriotism and morality dictate?
What is it going to take to make you initiate an impeachment inquiry?
Your slow walking of this issue and your specious arguments about political calculations are pushing you dangerously close to a tragic, historic dereliction of duty, one that could do irreparable damage to the country and the Congress.
Robert Mueller on Wednesday finally made a public statement about his damning report of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the Trump’s campaign’s connection to it, and President Trump’s own attempts to obstruct the investigation.
In addition to underscoring the point that Russians interfering in the election “deserves the attention of every American,” efforts that continued unabated and have never been sufficiently addressed by Trump, he made clear again:
“And as set forth in the report after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
He made clear, contrary to Attorney General Bill Barr’s assessment, that he was prevented from making that determination based on the Justice Department’s policy against indicting a sitting president. As Mueller puts it, “the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”
Congress, that means you. Specifically, Democrats in control of the House, that means you!
There is no right time to wait to do what you know is right. There is only now.
This ridiculous windup of processing through subpoenas and court fights, scheduling testimony and hearings, are patrician formalities in the middle of a blood battle.
Stop telling the American people what Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Rolling Stone in February: “It’s a very disruptive process to put the country through, and it’s an opportunity cost in terms of time and resources. You don’t want to go down that path unless it is unavoidable.”
What the hell does that mean? Opportunity cost is an economics term referring to value of something that will be missed due to the making of another choice. It’s all calculation for the leadership, conscience be damned.
The country is already suffering through an unimaginable horror, and watching as a lawless president and a corrupt administration are being allowed to operate carte blanche due to Democrats’ squeamishness about their political prospects and compromised conservatives’ concerns about their own.
Politicians point to Trump’s stratospheric approval among Republicans and the middling approval for impeachment among the broader populations, without acknowledging that they aren’t simply laboring under those realities but helping to create them.
The fact that almost no prominent Republican politician will stand up against Trump and for right and rule of law means that in that universe, Trump’s narrative is the only narrative. Their silence is — or at least gives the appearance of — acquiescence and tacit approval.
The same goes for impeachment. The Democratic leadership in Congress simply won’t forcefully make a case for why it must begin now, for the health of the country. They want instead to have it appear that they have exhausted all options and were forced into the decision, if they ever arrive at that decision.
That is a coward’s way out. Democratic leadership, you are lying to the American people too. You are terribly disappointing all of the many people who organized and registered to vote and came out in droves in the midterms.
Republicans have their fangs bared and you have your tails tucked. You are an embarrassment. There is no polite way to fight. Fighting is nasty, instinctual and vicious. Good people don’t relish it, but goodness dies and ruin is left in its wake when good people don’t fight when fighting is required.
Or to put it another way, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
I am at my wits’ end with the fear. I live by a different creed: Never be afraid to do what’s right. And, I don’t believe that opening an impeachment inquiry helps Trump in 2020 and hurts Democrats.
To the contrary, I trust truth. I believe in the eternal power of truth to transform and to withstand the crucible.
Democrats need to stop worrying about how best to weaken Trump’s support among his base. It seems to me that the Democratic leadership is worrying more about Trump’s base than their own.
I want to be able to believe in equitable justice in this country. I want to believe that no person is above the law. I want to believe that wealth and power will not insulate those who possess them from a justice that would be enacted upon the poor and powerless with ruthless efficiency.
But, every time I want to believe that, America — its history and its present — asserts in booming clarity that that is not the case, that is not how or why the system was built.
Democrats have a chance, but more important, an obligation to assert in opposition that on occasion American justice can be blind. I would argue that there is an even more profound opportunity cost to not pursuing impeachment.
As Michael Beschloss concluded, “And if they do not do that, we’re going to be in a lawless society, and we will lose our democracy.”