|DOUG MILLS / THE NEW YORK TIMES|
Are we there yet? No, we're not even close
Not even close to ridding America of that abomination in the White House as his scorched-earth strategy of defying Congress and the courts in the face of multiple investigations into his criminality rumbles on, leaving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with an unmistakeable deer-in-the-headlights look as she in turn defies the increasing numbers of her own leadership and backbenchers who have had quite enough, thank you, and are demanding that she greenlight impeachment proceedings.
For those of you who still have room on your scorecards, quite enough now includes -- three days into this week alone -- Trump's defiance of a lower court ruling that his accounting firm must turn over his financial records to the House Oversight Committee and ordering former White House counsel Donald McGahn, an eyewitness to criminal obstruction in the Russia scandal, to refuse to honor another subpoena and testify before the House Judiciary Committee.
Behind that curtain where nothing is going on, you know, "No Collusion, No Obstruction," Attorney General William Barr is frantically trying to reverse engineer the Constitution to provide cover for his master's lies, obstructions and executive overreach.
Barr's apparent agreement on Wednesday with the House Intelligence Committee to release some of the intelligence findings in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia scandal investigation would seem to be a positive development, but should not be taken at face value, and a few minutes later Trump abruptly blew up a scheduled meeting with Democratic congressional leaders, lashing out at Pelosi for accusing him of a cover-up and declaring that he could not work with them on a massive infrastructure bill until they stopped investigating him.
Barr had the temerity to say on Tuesday that he believed "the rules" had been changed to intentionally hurt Trump. But the Constitution is intact, Trump's demolition efforts notwithstanding, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia scandal probe was conducted with a by-the-book scrupulousness, and congressional Democrats also are hewing to well-established procedures in striving to fulfill their constitutionally-mandated oversight role in the face of attacks from a rogue president.
Meanwhile, the cracks in Pelosi's Coalition of the Unwilling are heartening, if overdue.
At least five members of Pelosi’s leadership team — four of whom also sit on the Judiciary Committee, including chairman Jerrold Nadler — joined backbenchers who have long advocated impeachment in unsuccessfully pressing Pelosi in closed-door meetings on Monday evening to allow the panel to start an impeachment inquiry, which they argued would help investigators obtain the documents and testimony that Trump has blocked.
"We should be having the conversation about . . . how this will help us break through the stonewalling of the administration," said Representative Ted Deutch, a Judiciary Committee member. "If the answer is, 'No, you can't talk to anyone, you can't have anything, we're simply not going to cooperate,' then at that point the only avenue that we have left is the constitutional means to enforce the separation of powers, which is a serious discussion of impeachment."
"Yes, we do need to start an [impeachment] inquiry," said Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, one of a number of Judiciary members who have sharpened their stance in the face of Trump's stonewalling. "I think we're at an inflection point. We're no longer dealing with a president who obstructed the Mueller inquiry. He's now obstructing Congress at every turn, including telling witnesses who no longer work for the government that they cannot speak about public documents."
There also is a growing fear among Democrats that Mueller will decline an invitation to testify before Congress because the special prosecutor and his aides would prefer to let his written report speak for itself rather than get pushed into a partisan firefight.
Make no mistake. Impeachment will only further harden Trump's resolve to defy, witness his leading deranged "Lock them Up!" chants at recent stadium rallies.
If the reason for not initiating impeachment proceedings in the Democratic-dominated House is that conviction after trial in the Republican-dominated Senate will never happen so long as Mitch McConnell is captain of that Ship of Fools, then Pelosi might as well go home.
Impeachment gives the Judiciary Committee additional powers, will compliment but not interfere with other House investigations, and most immediately and importantly it is the only possible brake on Trump's lawlessness.
This moment in Trump's presidency is his Reichstag fire.
I do not mean that in the sense that Trump is Hitler, although there are discomfiting similarities. But like Hitler in his successful quest for absolute power, Trump is creating false narratives, advocating violence and saying his opponents are guilty of "treason."
Taking this analogy further, congressional Republicans are Trump's Brownshirts and McConnell is his Albert Bormann.
A conspicuous exception is Ship of Fools deckhand Representative Justin Amash, a libertarian and longtime pop-off, who declared on Saturday that Trump has engaged in "impeachable conduct." Amash's apostasy was harshly criticized by Trump, who predictably called him a "loser," as well as other Republicans, whom Amash argued are "resting their argument on falsehoods."
The most welcome news that we've had in a long time -- as in since the Green Wave midterm election victories last November, which were because of Democratic promises to stop Trump in addition to kitchen table issues -- is that Pelosi's impeachment dam may be about to break. Whether Pelosi gets swept away in a power struggle is incidental.
Barr, McGahn and others will be held in contempt of Congress, threats will be made to arrest them for contempt and there will be welcome if passing lower court victories as Pelosi's more methodical approach plods on. But we've run out of "smoking guns," especially since Trump and Barr so effectively coopted the devastating-in-the-details Mueller report. As Dahlia Lithwick notes, Trump's infamous boast that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot a man without losing support "has spooked Democrats to the point of paralysis."
It is impeachment and not the 2020 election that is the last line of constitutional self-defense against a president who believes he is a king and acts like one, which of course was the Founding Fathers' greatest fear even if it has finally come to pass some 236 years on.
It is long past time to get a move on.
Click HERE for a summary of ongoing Trump-related investigations.
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.
and related developments.