It’s no secret at this point that William Barr read one thing in the Mueller report (obstruction) and then reported another (no obstruction) for the self-serving purpose of shielding Donald Trump. It’s also no secret that Mueller’s disinclination to conclude in his report that Trump had obstructed justice was instead a nod to the legislative branch that it was their job to take action on that matter, as elected officials, and not his as the special counsel. So why have Democrats not taken the lead and pursued impeachment? The knee jerk response is, “we don’t have the votes in the Senate.” That’s true enough, on its face, but Cheri Jacobus, writing in the Daily Beast, makes a compelling argument for why it might in fact be a terrific idea to take impeachment proceedings to the people, via television, just like in previous eras, and let them decide.
First of all, here’s a refresher course in Trump’s more blatant efforts at obstruction.
From dictating to then-White House Communications Director Hope Hicks a press release to lie about the Trump Tower meeting with Russians offering “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, that was accepted and attended by Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner; to twice ordering then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller; to telling Corey Lewandowski to force Attorney General Jeff Sessions to thwart the Mueller investigation; to asking NSA chief Admiral Mike Rogers to squelch the investigation by lying to the press and more, Trump, but for Bill Barr throwing himself on a live hand grenade, would likely be tendering his resignation by now—Nixon-style. These individuals, who each were trusted Trump allies and darlings of MAGA world to varying degrees, recounting under oath on live television how the president asked them to break the law, will be even more powerful than reading the Mueller report itself, and with viewership in the stratosphere. It would make Super Bowl ratings look like basic local cable by comparison.
This would indeed be Trump’s greatest nightmare — the television *resident being taken apart on television, nightly, in impeachment proceedings. Comparatively few Americans may have read the entire 400-page redacted Mueller report, but there’s no question that they’ll all make it a point to catch the TV version.
However, it is more than reasonable—a sure thing, in fact—that dozens of millions of Americans would be glued to their TV to watch live, unfiltered impeachment hearings. And, as happened in the Nixon hearings, that Trump’s approval numbers would plummet as his erstwhile supporters realized they’ve been duped and lied to.
Just after the Mueller report was issued, a Reuters poll showed Trump had lost six points (PDF). Just think what live, televised hearings would do to those numbers. There’s a reason why Rush Limbaugh and Fox News hosts are instructing the Trump cult not to read the redacted report: It clearly shows high crimes and misdemeanors on the part of the president.
Few voters watching Lewandowski, McGahn, Rex Tillerson, and other former Trump staff, Cabinet members, and associates testify under oath how Trump ordered them to lie and obstruct justice will call the investigation a “witch hunt” or claim “libtards” are just “butthurt” over Hillary Clinton’s loss, or that Barr’s fantastical version of the Mueller report was anything other than propaganda.
Why should Democrats spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2020 election cycle trying to educate voters on what the Mueller report says when they can educate them through live, televised, unfiltered impeachment hearings?
So far Trump has been effectively shielded by Barr, and Barr’s misrepresentation of what the Mueller report actually says. One thing, the only thing in fact, that would put Trump’s actions glaringly and unequivocally in the spotlight, would be impeachment hearings and the nightly reports on same. As the writer of this piece points out, oversight hearings get one level of scrutiny by the public, impeachment hearings quite another.
This is a good idea. Democrats should not shrink from this, because impeachment proceedings are the most direct route to getting rid of Trump, and putting Trump in the nation’s rear view mirror as swiftly as possible should be Americans’ primary consideration.