Impeachment: Will Democrats act on Mueller’s findings?
Until last week, Democratic House leaders were reluctant to even discuss the prospect of impeaching President Donald Trump, said Kyle Cheney in Politico.com, but “the tide may be shifting.” The game changer was the surprise public statement by special counsel Robert Mueller, who emphasized two key findings of his report: that if he could have cleared Trump of criminal behavior, he would have done so, and that, in Mueller’s words, “it requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.” To Democrats, those pointed remarks sure sounded like “a direct referral to Congress” to take up Mueller’s findings in impeachment hearings. Within days, “a wave of House Democrats” came out in favor of impeachment, with 59 publicly on board and many more leaning in that direction. The sticking point is Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said Kevin Kruse in USAToday.com. With polls finding that only about 40 percent of Americans currently support impeachment, Pelosi is worried that a backlash might cost Democrats both the House and the White House in 2020. But that’s precisely why the impeachment process begins with a series of high-profile, televised hearings: to help “convince the public of its necessity.”
“If I were Nancy Pelosi, I wouldn’t want to bet the House” on that strategy, said Ed Kilgore in NYMag.com. Back in 1974, it’s true, the Watergate hearings gripped the nation and swung public opinion decisively in favor of Richard Nixon’s removal. But this isn’t 1974. Nearly half of the nation now lives inside a conservative “media echo chamber” that would spin the hearings as just another vicious partisan attack on their president. Trump’s inevitable acquittal by the Republican-held Senate wouldn’t need much spinning, said Karl Rove in FoxNews.com. Trump will have won and Democrats will have lost, a fact that could cause “a significant number of discouraged Democrats to stay home on Election Day.”
“You can debate whether impeachment makes sense politically,” said Max Boot in The Washington Post, but what about “legally and morally?” It’s now clear that “Trump has committed more criminal and unconstitutional conduct than any previous president in U.S. history.” He gladly accepted and even publicly asked for Russia’s campaign help, broke campaign laws by paying off mistresses, corruptly pocketed millions of foreign dollars as president through his hotels and businesses, and obstructed justice at least 10 times, by Mueller’s count. Democrats seem to be hoping for a “smoking gun” that makes impeachment possible, said Matt Ford in NewRepublic.com. But Mueller just handed them a 448-page arsenal of smoking guns. What could once “be justified as caution is now indistinguishable from cowardice.”
Those clamoring for impeachment think it’s “the most aggressive, effective action” Democrats can possibly take against Trump, said Josh Marshall in TalkingPointsMemo.com. It isn’t. Far more damaging would be multiple investigations, methodically laying bare the sprawling totality of Trump’s corruption and criminality. Impeachment would necessarily focus on “one big question—remove or don’t,” said David Frum in TheAtlantic.com. That debate would draw attention away from the grisly details of Trump’s wrongdoing. A barrage of investigations, on the other hand, will leave him trying to “plug more holes in the dike than he has fingers,” and severely damage him going into 2020. The wisest response to the moral calamity of the Trump presidency is the one most likely to “lead to success.” ■