|© RICHARD CODOR
It is clear than neither Donald Trump nor most congressional Republicans give a damn about the metastasizing effects of the government shutdown, even if the stench of overflowing waste from neglected national park bathrooms finally has reached Washington, let alone the suffering of 800,000 federal employees going without pay, 38 million low-income people going without food stamps and millions more going without tax refunds.
For them, it's about power, not pain, but after only a few short days it's the Democrats who have the power to shift the pain to where it belongs -- the president and his Republican sycophancy. Democrats will flush Mitch McConnell from his hidey-hole, government will reopen without Trump getting his precious border wall, and they can move on to an even more pressing matter -- impeachment.
We've become accustomed to Trump shooting from the lip without having a clue, let alone caring about, the consequences of his actions, but he has outdone his narcissistic self with the shutdown, the third since the clueless-about-governing Republicans took control of all three branches of government.
Trump's over-the-top embrace of ownership of the shutdown, his wild claims about the wall holding back hordes of criminals and the diseased, and the refusal of he and McConnell to allow the same legislation to fund the government that the Senate passed in a pre-holiday vote to be brought to the floor is backfiring badly as cracks appear in the GOP's razor-thin Senate majority amidst a public-relations debacle and it dawns on McConnell that his Come to Jesus moment is nigh.
Two Republican senators up for reelection in 2020, when the electoral map heavily favors the Democrats for a change, are threatening to bolt, and at least three more are going squishy. This has less to do with the hidden backstory of the shutdown -- that mostly small private contractors in all 50 states who provide everything from cafeteria services to IT services to the federal government also are hurting -- than their own political survival, but I'll take country over party no matter the reason.
It shocks but does not surprise that recent reports in The New York Times and elsewhere reveal that the wall, in fact, started out as a gimmick foisted on short-attention-span Trump by presidential campaign aides to help him remember to talk about getting tough on immigration, a kind of memory device for the candidate and voters unable or unwilling to grasp more complicated concepts.
Newly re-minted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds all the cards in this classic Washington showdown and she knows how to use them as she taunts Trump over his threats to keep the government shut down indefinitely, declaring a national emergency in order to build the wall, and his incessant redefinition of what constitutes a wall -- concrete, steel slates or some other kind of barrier. "Pretty soon it will be a beaded curtain," the most powerful woman in government jokes with impunity.
This brings us to impeachment.
Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders have spent two years trying to keep talk of impeachment to a dull roar in order to win back their majority, and despite Representative Rashida Tlaib's impolitic if accurate remarks the other day that Congress will "impeach the motherfucker," he will be impeached, just not as quickly as we might like.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, the new House Judiciary Committee chairman, telegraphed the Democratic strategy on Friday shortly after a federal judge extended the term of Robert Mueller's grand jury another six months, which means there still is Russia scandal evidence the special counsel wants to present to them, presumably before he issues a final report to senior Justice Department officials summarizing his findings.
Mueller's work product has been impressive -- three sentencings, one conviction at trial, seven guilty pleas and charges against 36 people and business entities with a total of 192 criminal counts. But Nadler, asked whether the evidence so far warrants his committee initiating impeachment proceedings, replied, "No, not yet. We have to see what the Mueller report says."
In the meantime, other Democratic-dominated House committees with subpoena powers will be initiating investigations into myriad aspects of the Trump corruption circus, including trying to pry loose his tax returns, while the Judiciary committee will question Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general who is now overseeing Mueller, about whether the special counsel's investigation will be free of political interference.
In any event, Nadler said, Mueller's report will be made public even if the White House tries to suppress it. And sooner or later, articles of impeachment will be voted out of Nadler's committee and approved by the full House.
The articles will then go to the Senate for trial, where a two-thirds vote is required to convict the president. With a two-seat majority and Vice President Pence as a potential tiebreaker, that would have seemed an impossibility, but with cracks appearing in the Republican wall over the border wall, Trump may be in very big trouble on other issues, including whether enough Republicans value their own survival over Trump's.
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.