"Let's start at the end of this story," George Mason University law professor J.W. Verret wrote in The Atlantic on Tuesday. "This weekend, I read Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report twice, and realized that enough was enough." Verret explains that he has "worked on every Republican presidential transition team for the past 10 years," including President Trump's, briefly. He was never a big Trump fan and turned down opportunities to work in his administration, he said, but he was never a Never Trump Republican.
Still, "if you think calling for the impeachment of a sitting Republican president would constitute career suicide for someone like me, you may end up being right," Verret writes. "But I did exactly that this weekend." And he explained why:
I wanted to share my experience transitioning from Trump team member to pragmatist about Trump to advocate for his impeachment, because I think many other Republicans are starting a similar transition. Politics is a team sport, and if you actively work within a political party, there is some expectation that you will follow orders and rally behind the leader, even when you disagree. There is a point, though, at which that expectation turns from a mix of loyalty and pragmatism into something more sinister, a blind devotion that serves to enable criminal conduct. The Mueller report was that tipping point for me, and it should be for Republican and independent voters, and for Republicans in Congress. [Verret, The Atlantic]
On MSNBC Tuesday evening, Verret told a skeptical Chris Matthews that "as the hearings proceed forward, as the American people read the Mueller report from Amazon — it's very popular right now — I think the tide's going to turn ... in favor of impeachment."
"We have seen the top lines debated, we have not seen the nitty-gritty," Verret said. "This is nitty-gritty, soap opera–style details. Give the people time to process. I trust they'll do the right thing." Peter Weber
A growing handful of Democratic lawmakers have been suggesting it may be time to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump, especially after he appears to have at least tiptoed up to obstructing justice by allegedly ordering FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, a day after he fired Flynn as national security adviser. Lawyers don't agree if Trump's purported comments to Comey amount to obstruction of justice, the main charge in both the Nixon and Clinton impeachment cases. But they do agree that impeachment is the only punishment Trump would face.
David Gergen, a veteran presidential adviser, went a step further. "I was in the Nixon administration, as you know," he said on CNN, "and I thought after watching the Clinton impeachment, I thought I'd never see another one. But I think we're in impeachment territory now for the first time."
Sen. Angus King (Maine), an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, told Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday that if the Comey memos are "true and confirmed I think you're getting very close to the legal definition of obstruction of justice." When Blitzer asked if we're "getting closer to the possibility of yet another impeachment process," King said, "reluctantly, Wolf, I have to say yes, simply because obstruction of justice is such a serious offense."
King was clear that impeachment would have to be for "high crimes and misdemeanors," because "we don't want to get into the situation where we're charging our president based on any kind of political considerations." And Republicans have to turn on Trump for him to be in any real danger. But as a senior official in the Trump administration and campaign said to The Daily Beast, after the last week, "I don't see how Trump isn't completely f—ed." Peter Weber
Congressional Republicans have taken some criticism for expressing their "concerns" about President Trump's behavior, as a series of scandals involving Russia and the FBI investigation into his campaign unfold, and leaving it at that. But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) played the Nixon card on Tuesday night, while accepting a Freedom Award from the International Republican Institute. "I think we've seen this movie before; I think it appears at a point where it's of Watergate size and scale," McCain told veteran TV journalist Bob Scheiffer, according to reporters at the dinner. "The shoes continue to drop, and every couple days there's a new aspect."
McCain, who's had a strained relationship with Trump, said his advice to Trump would be "the same thing that you advised Richard Nixon, which he didn't do ... get it all out," The Daily Beast's Tim Mak reports. "It's not going to be over until every aspect of it is thoroughly examined and the American people make a judgment," McCain added. "And the longer you delay, the longer it's going to last."
McCain also criticized Trump for hosting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office last week — when Trump apparently revealed highly classified intelligence to Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. "I've known this guy Lavrov for 30 years, he's an old KGB apparatchik stooge, and Putin is a murderer and a thug," McCain said. "And to have Lavrov in the Oval Office and be friendly with the guy whose boss ... sent aircraft with precision weapons to attack hospitals in Aleppo, I just think it's unacceptable."
Talk of impeachment and "obstruction of justice" is reportedly starting to percolate on Capitol Hill, after The New York Times reported Tuesday afternoon that fired FBI Director James Comey kept contemporaneous notes indicating that Trump asked him to drop the FBI's investigation of just-fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. That has set off yet another frenzy of media speculation, but you can watch a calm analysis of what that might mean from The Associated Press' Catherine Lucey below. Peter Weber