House pushes forward on impeachment question
The House Judiciary Committee told a federal court last week that it is investigating “whether to recommend articles of impeachment,” a major turning point in Democrats’ efforts to remove President Trump. The committee is suing to access grand jury testimony redacted from Robert Mueller’s report, and believes that an official impeachment probe will strengthen its case in court battles to obtain Trump’s tax returns, testimony from his aides, and other information the White House has refused to provide. At least 19 members of Congress came out in favor of an impeachment probe after the Mueller hearings, bringing the total to 114—nearly half of the House Democratic caucus.
Polls suggest only a minority of Americans support impeachment. Though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has opposed it, she insisted she’s “not trying to run out the clock,” and reportedly signed off on the Judiciary Committee’s lawsuit. Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler balked at calling the move part of an “impeachment inquiry.” But Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, argued that it doesn’t take a full, formal House vote to begin the impeachment process. While “the Constitution does not delineate” what an official inquiry looks like, said Raskin, “that’s obviously what we’re doing.”
What the columnists said
“At no point in Trump’s wretched rule has impeachment appeared more probable,” said Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times.Fence-sitting House Democrats can no longer say they’re still waiting for Mueller’s testimony, which successfully highlighted Trump’s “lawlessness and disloyalty to the country.” Pelosi and Nadler devised a shrewd plan to go forward, allowing Nadler’s committee to gather evidence through “high-profile hearings” while Democrats from conservative districts can avoid a perilous vote.
If that impeachment vote ever does occur, said Jim Geraghty in NationalReview.com, there’s a “very good chance” it will cost Democrats control of the House. Their caucus includes “31 Democrats from districts Trump carried in 2016,” and none of them supports impeachment. Pelosi realizes a vote would be terrible for those “vulnerable incumbents,” sure to anger either progressives or the Trumpists they’ve tenuously won over. They won them by focusing on policy issues like health care, said Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times. Yet Democrats like Nadler from “very blue districts” won’t stop “flirting with impeachment” in order to pander to their base. Keep it up and they’ll give Trump a second term and a Republican Congress.
“Democratic dithering” could be even worse, said Quinta Jurecic in TheAtlantic.com. Pelosi and Nadler are terrified of the “I” word, but are hedging their bets. By reducing the process to “political horse trading,” they erase “the sense of moral crisis that House Democrats worked so hard over the course of Mueller’s testimony to build up.” Impeachment requires “moral clarity,” yet Democratic leaders exude only “confusion.”