Sunday, April 21, 2019

BTRTN: The Real Reason to Impeach Donald Trump

They are calling it Mueller’s Genuine Draft, not the watered down stuff you get at the Barr. Now it is out, and Democrats are fretting, squirming, stalling, wringing their hands, second guessing, and debating whether it is politically unwise to move aggressively on impeachment. Steve sees the clear reason to move forward.

Hey, we get it.  

All the savvy strategists like Nancy Pelosi think that impeaching Donald Trump is a bad political move. 

Sure, they say, you could probably pass the motion to impeach Trump in the House, but all that does is trigger a trial in the Senate to determine whether Trump is removed from office. And there, the shrewd pols opine, you will never get seventeen Republicans to vote against Trump, because they are all terrified of being primaried if they do. Impeachment? The big strategic thinkers will tell you it is just a big waste of time and effort, and in the end it will boomerang and badly damage the Democrats. When the Senate fails to convict Trump, he will once again scream that he has been vindicated, exonerated, and that all along he has been victimized by savage Democratic partisans who won't let go of their "witch hunt."

Yes, they go on, impeachment will only serve to damage the chances for the Democrats to win the White House in 2020, as they will look like they are obsessively trying to take Trump down. Just as the impeachment of Bill Clinton ended up damaging the Republicans, so too the Democrats will be the only ones hurt by trying to impeach Trump. Right?

You bet, says Nancy Pelosi. "He’s not worth it."

It was very easy to follow her logic, particularly when she ended with the very reasonable conclusion that we should all wait and see what the Mueller report actually said. Fair enough, we thought. Let’s wait and see what it says. 

It’s here, Nancy. And it is far bigger, far more ugly, and far more revolting than the fairy tale version William Barr was twirling so hard to spin.

Let us begin with the single most delicious sentence in the full 400 pages.

"The president's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that was largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

You heard it right. This quote from the Mueller report actually includes the phrase “The President’s efforts to influence the investigation.” This sentence, in its very grammatical construction, is predicated on the assertion that the President intended, tried his best, and was somewhat successful in obstructing justice. The criminality of obstructing justice is not contingent on the extent it was executed successfully. Mueller is saying that the president tried his darndest to obstruct justice, and was "mostly unsuccessful" because nobody paid attention to him. But the grammar is clear: he tried to obstruct justice, and some of the time he was successful. There's not a lot of wiggle room there. Mueller is saying that Trump committed a crime that has been repeatedly used as grounds for the impeachment of the President.

Attorney General William Barr tried to convince us that Robert Mueller simply could not decide whether the evidence warranted a formal charge of obstruction of justice. This was a wildly inaccurate statement. But give Barr points for chutzpah: he managed to obstruct justice while trying to make the point Trump did not obstruct justice.

In fact, Mueller made clear in his report that he felt that Department of Justice policy specifically forbade him from indicting a sitting President. He therefore had a choice: to either clear the President completely, or to convey in the report that the evidence that Congress should weigh in considering whether to impeach the President. Here is the crucial quote:

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

Translated from the legalese: “I do not have the option to indict a sitting President, but if I thought he was innocent, I would tell you. And I cannot.” Boiled down further, it appears clear that Robert Mueller was taking a very specific position: that there is considerable evidence that Trump is guilty of obstruction, but that Mueller cannot bring charges against him. Only Congress can act on the information in this report, so he is providing Congress with everything it will need to make that judgment.

The Mueller report goes on to detail blatant efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation, most pointedly, Trump’s obvious efforts to have Mueller fired. Trump instructs White House Counsel Don McGann to have Mueller fired because of “conflicts of interest,” which is a, uh, Trumped up reasoned to mask the real rationale.  McGann refuses, saying that he would rather resign. When word leaks to the press that Trump has issued the order, Trump orders McGann to publicly deny that Trump said it. McGann refuses.

There’s Trump’s handling of the disclosure of the Trump Tower meeting, in which he personally changes a press release to allege an innocent purpose for his son’s meeting with Russians, and then denies that he was involved in drafting the press release.

There are Trump’s repeated efforts to send signals to witnesses Manafort and Cohen that loyalty to Trump would be rewarded.

There they are, folks. Those are the smoking guns you’ve been asking for. They are guns, and they are still smoking. Corroborated testimony from reliable witnesses that Donald Trump made repeated attempts with conscious intent to hinder, thwart, inhibit, and undermine the Mueller investigation, by trying to fire the Special Prosecutor himself, by witness tampering, and by urging subordinates to lie to the Special Counsel.

Donald Trump obstructed justice.

Last time we looked – when Bill Clinton was impeached, and when Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace – obstruction of justice was an impeachable offense. Whatever a “high crime or misdemeanor” is, obstruction of justice is definitely one of them. 

So, Nancy, what do we do now?

Sure, Nancy, we understand. We can’t just decide after 24 hours with a redacted report to embark on an impeachment. We have to act cautiously and carefully and get all those ducks in a pristine row. Sure, we have to get our hands on the unredacted report. Let’s call William Barr and Robert Mueller in for sworn Congressional testimony. Let’s do that with McGann, too… let’s get him to repeat his allegation on national television. Let’s do this correctly. And meanwhile, Nancy, sure… let’s focus on the real issue… beating Trump in 2020.

Is that really what the Democratic leaders want us to do? Or are the leaders of the Democratic Party just playing rope-a-dope, adding new boxes to be checked in order to avoid having to grapple with the “I” word?

Let's be real: the White House will never accede to any request for documents, any subpoena, any Congressional testimony. Both Republicans and Democrats seem to be agreeing to perpetual delays. Democrats can look like they are actually doing something without having to actually impeach Trump. Republicans are trying to avoid giving any more damaging information (redacted material, Trump's taxes), with the hope of running out the clock... getting to election day, 2020, without any further damaging disclosures.

Which brings us to the essential issue of the day: if Congressional Democrats are confronted with essentially irrefutable evidence that the President of the United States committed a “high crime or misdemeanor,” do they even have the option to ignore it?

Or does the Constitution of the United States require that Congress act on such findings?

Can Speaker Pelosi make the decision that she will not invoke the Constitutional process designed for this situation because she thinks it would be bad politically?

Think about the ethical abdication of this position. 

Acting purely on the basis of an amoral political calculation rather than Constitutional principle is what Trump people do. That’s what the world's ranking hypocrite, Mitch McConnell, would do: glorify the Constitution when it works in his favor and ignore it when the Constitution is inconvenient.
That is the reason Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are giving for hiding from impeachment: it’s a bad political strategy. Could cost us votes in the 2020 election. Can’t risk that.

It is ironic that Nancy Pelosi was quick to invoke ideals and principles when she famously refused to spend a dime on Trump's border wall because it was "immoral." The hard thing about acting on principle is that it can't be an act. People who invoke principles selectively are not really living by principles.

Democrats are supposed to act on principle, casting political considerations aside when a principle is at stake. The principle here is that a man who has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” should not be the President of the United States. Congress should not be waiting until the next election and outsourcing that responsibility to voters on the hope that they will do the job that Congress is afraid to do. 

Yes, it is a hard road. It will be tough. Some people will question your motive. But if you believe that Trump has committed impeachable offenses, the framers of the Constitution gave you a remedy for this exact circumstance. They expected we would use it.

Ok, Nancy, let’s play this game on your terms. Allow me to challenge your essential premise: is your approach really all that savvy politically? You seem convinced that if the Senate fails to convict Donald Trump, it will cause a backlash of shame and embarrassment for the Democrats just as the 2020 election nears.

Here’s a different take.

If the Democrats do not move to impeach Donald Trump, it will be interpreted that you are not contesting Trump’s view that the Mueller investigation was a witch hunt. It will appear that you have caved in and accepted William Barr’s interpretation of the Mueller report. By not fighting Trump on his mantra that there was “no collusion, no obstruction,” you are conceding that he was right all along.

So you think that is a savvy political strategy?

There is an entirely different way to look at the political reading of this situation. It is entirely possible that a Senate trial of a sitting president would be the most compelling and all-consuming reality TV show of all time, and would dominate the airwaves in the months prior to the 2020 election. In such a “must see tv” event, witness after witness could be called to testify to the criminal, deceitful, and borderline treasonous behavior of this President and his White House. Trump would be revealed, day after day, for the amoral, corrupt manipulator that he is.

And finally -- finally -- the people who only watch Fox News might actually hear the other side of the story.

An impeachment trial, played out day after day for weeks on end, would be extremely damaging to Trump. It is reasonable to argue that the drama of an impeachment trial would trigger far more public involvement than the slow drip of Congressional hearings.

As a final comment on our evaluation of this decision from a purely political perspective, let's challenge your  premise that Republicans were badly damaged after their effort to impeach Bill Clinton failed. Numerous pundits have made the point that it is by no means settled history that the Republicans were hurt more than Democrats by that impeachment trial.  We must remember that Al Gore intentionally sidelined Bill Clinton -- the best Democratic campaigner in a generation -- because he did not want to be tarred with that association. Could that have been one reason that Republicans won the Presidency in 2000? If the Republican impeachment of Clinton took him out of the 2000 Presidential campaign, the argument can be made that the Democrats were far more damaged by the impeachment than the Republicans.

Let me add one last reason why the Democrats have to face up to their duty to move toward impeachment.

Right now, only two presidents have ever been impeached… Andrew Johnson, and Bill Clinton. Neither were removed from office. In fact, the alleged “high crimes and misdemeanors” committed by these two presidents are literally a fraction of the misdeeds committed by Trump in his six months in office.

But both of those presidencies carry the scarlet letter "I" of shame... the only two presidents ever to have been impeached.

Donald Trump should have that scarlet letter, too. History must record that Donald Trump was the worst President in United States history. We must ensure that history preserves the record of his Presidency at the greatest assault on our constitution, our rule of law, and our democracy in the life of our nation.

And it should be public record that we all knew it. We knew it while it was happening. 

Yes, pass that resolution in the House, bring those charges to the Senate, televise those hours of sworn Congressional testimony, and then make those Republican Senators say “not guilty” out loud. 

Trump may indeed be acquitted. But I would rather see that happen through the proper Constitutional mechanism than see him claim exoneration by virtue of the white flag of surrender that Democrats seem intent on waving. 

Stop being afraid to take a moral stand because you are frightened of how it will play politically. 

Do the right thing. 

In my lifetime, I have been repeatedly reminded that doing the hard thing -- the right thing -- so often ends up being a vastly superior solution – by almost every measure -- than the cheap, easy, and expedient option.

The founding fathers invented impeachment for this level of duplicity, corruption, deceit, criminality, and disregard for the rule of law.

They didn't create it to be an optional exercise to be used only when politically advantageous.

Nancy Pelosi says Trump “isn’t worth it.” 

Let's concede that, Nancy. He isn’t.

But our country is.

The Constitution is.

The rule of law is.

And yes, winning the White House in 2020 is, too. 

In the end, the real reason that Democrats should move forward with impeachment is that it is the right thing to do for every reason: morally, constitutionally, politically, and historically.  

Stop pretending there are reasons to delay, Dems. Do your job. Do the right thing. 

And get to work now.

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