The final impeachment vote within the House will be formal and stirring, but it is also preordained and the end of the House process. Donald Trump will be the third president in our history to be impeached. That will leave a mark.
They had to impeach Trump, of course they did. At issue was whether it is, or ever was, okay for a president to use his office to extort foreign interference in our elections. The answer should obviously be “no,” at no point should a president use his office to unfairly gain an advantage in an election. Ask Nixon.
The Democrats made the decision, went through the necessary procedures and got it done. For that, Nancy Pelosi and her caucus deserve credit. It was not a given that they would ever bring impeachment proceedings. But I cannot forgive the Democrats for leaving so much on the table, including much of the truth, which could have made the Democrat’s case far more forceful. I give them a C plus, just a hair above average, and I mean a hair.
The Democrats get above average marks primarily out of the early investigation. Adam Schiff made a brilliant decision in originally deposing the witnesses in secret. We are here today, on the precipice of the most historic vote in our political age, in large part because of Schiff’s courage in doing so. The effectiveness could be seen in the enraged eyes of Republicans. They knew damned well that without any ability to coordinate the story, the process would yield something akin to the truth and Trump Republicans are not used to having to worry about the truth.
The Schiff committee’s open questioning of witnesses was adequate. No more. To the extent that the open hearings produced any courage or emotional force, it came from the witnesses themselves, especially the women, Fiona Hill and Ambassador Yovanovitch, whose composure and bravery shook the country.
I was terribly disappointed with the Nadler committee. The process itself felt entirely railroaded. I suppose that was inevitable given a timetable that I still don’t understand. Republicans, time and again, scored points by noting that they didn’t get enough of a voice in the matter. I am not sure what purpose the law professors served, but whatever it was, it backfired.
The Republicans called for Jonathon Turley to testify, and Turley gave the Democrats huge ammunition in the proceedings, noting time and again that the only problem was the evidence and “thin” file. The Democrats failed repeatedly to pound on the fact that the file itself would be much thicker had Trump not hidden in a corner. Moreover, Democrats failed to highlight over and over that if proven the extortion of a foreign leader was an impeachable offense, something Turley admitted.
Republicans spent the entire time in the Nadler committee complaining that the process was unfair to them.
Do I think that Republicans deserve to “get what they wanted?” Of course not. But as a strategic matter, Republicans tend to hang themselves whenever given enough rope. Which witnesses were they going to call that would have helped them? Schiff? Good friggin’ luck. He would tear them apart. Hunter? Entirely meaningless, the public would see it as a total distraction, they’d never call him. If the Republicans wanted a day for “minority witnesses,” I don’t see how that could possibly have hurt the Democrats, or helped the Republicans. The Democrats could sit in the hearing room throughout the day and note that they allowed minority witnesses, while Trump never allowed any of his people to be there. Not one.
It would have been a stunning contrast between sides.
Ultimately, though, the Democrats’ biggest failure in my mind is that at this late point in the Trump administration, and the mid-way point in the 2018 House, we still have not made Trump hand over anything that sheds light on the inner sanctum. Democrats are so caught-up in their “go fast and finish before primaries” mantra, they never attempted to get court orders against Trump that could have put real pressure on the administration. Once again, like he always does, Trump skates by hiding what we know to be devastating evidence. Trump continues to learn the same lesson. If he doesn’t want people to know the truth, he can simply refuse. He will pay no penalty.
Yes, we are on the precipice of getting Trump’s financial documents from Deutsche Bank and Mazars accounting. We should have been on the edge of getting rulings on the executive privilege claim. The dam could have broken had the Democrats tabled the findings made so far, and awaited those rulings. There is no “time limit” to impeachment proceedings. Pelosi and company worried that impeachment would “get in the way” of the primaries and the election coverage.
Tabling the entire matter until those court cases wind their way through the process would have been the perfect answer. It gives the public a break, takes the focus off impeachment for a while, puts the focus back on what the Democrats are doing legislatively, and what our candidates are saying on the trail. If it took three months, four months, more, to get those rulings, then Democrats would get the best of both worlds. They would have the pressure on Trump, knowing he’s already all but impeached, while he would also be terrified that the courts are going to rule against him – at least to some extent – and the public will see more of the truth. The perfect scenario.
Instead, we are shooting this over to the Senate for an inevitable defeat on evidence largely dictated by Donald Trump. The Democrats even conceded the underlying charge. They had sufficient facts to prove bribery. They had facts to prove a clear violation of federal election law. Instead, they impeach on “abuse of power,” which sounds infinitely weaker in the mind of the average voter. Moreover, we get the treat of hearing Republicans say “they couldn’t even prove a crime.” Well, Republicans were going to acquit Trump anyway, why not bring the bribery crime? It will end-up in the same graveyard as the abuse of power claim, so why weaken it?
“Contempt of Congress?” My lord, come on, be serious. The only thing polling lower than Donald Trump is the congress, both sides. The Democrats had a far stronger case for obstruction of justice from the Mueller report. Moreover, not having gone to court once in the impeachment matter means that “Contempt of Congress” means next to nothing in the eyes of the public. It sounds like Congress asked for something, Trump said no, and the Democrats impeached him for it.
The House is voting on impeachment Wednesday, and Nancy Pelosi isn’t even whipping votes. There will be a few Democrats voting against impeachment, and of course there will not be a single Republican that crosses the line. We will hear about those Democrats until the end of time as proof that the Democrats had no case. There is still time to withhold the actual impeachment vote until evidence emerges from Trump’s tax cases or the claims to privilege.
But no, they are sending it over to the Senate where McConnell will have Trump acquitted before breakfast is served. True, there is some danger in McConnell looking too aggressive, too in the tank for Trump, but that’s on the Republicans. True, the House managers may do a spectacular job in presenting the evidence. I suspect Adam Schiff will be one of the chief prosecutors. Perhaps Chief Justice Roberts will grant subpoenas for witnesses (though I submit that is the longest of long shots. I suspect Roberts will sit there and do near nothing, as this is a Senate-driven matter.)
In the end, there is no conceivable way that Trump will be driven from office. That’s okay, that was never realistic. But given that it was never realistic, I will never understand why the need to rush it over and acquit Trump. The Democrats will get one shot and one shot only at impeaching Trump, and this is the shot they’re taking?
All I can say is that they better damn well win the election, something that is nowhere near a given in this matter. Additionally, the way the impeachment has gone might well have made it more likely that Trump is re-elected.
Trump is walking away from this feeling absolutely bulletproof, because he is. I don’t think for a second that the public will stand for another impeachment proceeding of Trump. Unless the evidence is so unequivocal that Republicans lead the calls to step down. The moment Trump is acquitted in the senate, he is free.
Trump will be furious while also feeling emboldened. He will punish those who dared to do this to him. We will see a dictatorial regime that is the stuff of nightmares. The 2020 election will be rigged beyond anything contemplated, nations lining up to “assist” Trump in defeating the Democrat. Trump might even contest the election results if he loses. Why not?
But if he wins – and he’s an incumbent running on a decent economy, which has always been near impossible to run against – if he wins, then we will see what a crumbling democracy really looks like. Bill Barr likely will start rounding up Democrats, judges on the Supreme Court will likely have to give up in the face of overwhelming pressure. Trump might even ignore a Supreme Court order he doesn’t like.
If he wins …
That is what was always at stake with this impeachment. The impeachment process was our biggest and best opportunity to hold Trump accountable, finally, for his actions. I ask, do you feel like the Democrats have held Trump accountable through this procedure? Do you think this process will make a difference in the end?
I am interested to know. I say the answer is mostly “no,” and that’s why they get a C+. I think that is charitable. I would love to hear that I am wrong.
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