|MARK WILSON / GETTY IMAGES|
The perils for Democrats in initiating impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump -- and for good measure, Attorney General William Barr -- are formidable and daunting. Impeachment will further polarize and distract Americans already figuratively and sometimes literally at each other's throats. It will threaten the constitutional order, such as it is. And as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledges, impeachment actually would be the easy way out for complicitous Republicans "because they know it will end at the Senate’s edge."
This leaves Pelosi and the Democratic House leadership with two stark choices:
Forget about impeachment.
Continue to investigate Trump, his family and businesses to a fare the well, dithering for the next 18 months as the president further consolidates his grip on power, continues to dominate the debate over the Russia report, resists numerous subpoenas and engages in endless legal battles, and in the end quite possibly is reelected.Move on impeachment.
This will send a clear message that the republic cannot tolerate a criminal president who has repeatedly violated his oath of office, declares himself above the law, and has transformed the very facets of government -- notably the Justice Department and many federal appeals courts -- that should be counters to him into handmaidens.Pelosi has been a capable opposition leader at a time when Democrats and Republicans can agree on little beyond the menace of robocalls, forget the menace of a rogue president who happens to be a voracious grifter and reliably embraces America's greatest foe and its ruthlessly autocratically leader. She is a brilliant parliamentarian and has deftly fended off challenges from wet-behind-the-ears freshman legislators like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who, while representing the future of their party, are not quite ready to lead it.
As yet another deeply depressing week slouched to an end after Barr outted himself as a toady and Trump again cozied up to Vladimir Putin in a phone chat over the "Russian hoax" while vowing anew to destroy Obamacare and endorsed the far-right hate mongers banned by Facebook, both president and AG actually strengthened the Democrats' hand, but only if you believe that upholding the Constitution is paramount to the viability of American democracy.
First, precisely because Special Counsel Robert Mueller adhered to Justice Department policy and did not recommend indicting a sitting president, the question of what to do about Russian electoral interference and Trump's repeated efforts to obstruct Mueller's investigation has passed out of the hands of the Justice Department and into the hands of Congress.
Second, Barr's refusal to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and release to Congress an unredacted copy of Mueller's report are illegal obstacles to its broad legal authority to investigate and legislate on matters like the integrity of elections, relations with foreign powers, and the honest conduct of the executive branch.
Third, Barr's legal "reasoning" is crackpot and legally unsustainable. His premise is that it is unfair to accuse Trump of a crime if you are not going to charge him and it's the responsibility of the Justice Department to determine if Trump committed a crime. So since Trump cannot be charged and cannot be accused, he must be cleared.
That is why I continue to believe that Trump (and Barr) will ultimately fail in the Supreme Court when the lower court challenges to House Democrats play out, which certainly will not be anytime soon. And it should be noted that the Constitution confers the power to impeach exclusively on Congress, and that power cannot be challenged by any court.
Pelosi, meanwhile, finally is sending signals that enough is enough.
Prior to a news conference at which she accused Barr of lying to Congress, she was even more explicit in meeting behind closed doors with the House caucus, calling Barr an "enabler" and saying Trump had engaged in the very kind of behavior that prompted Richard Nixon's impeachment in 1974.
"Ignoring subpoenas of Congress, not honoring subpoenas of Congress — that was Article 3 of the Nixon impeachment," she said. "This person has not only ignored subpoenas, he has said he's not going to honor any subpoenas. What more do we want?"
Indeed. But Pelosi still stopped short of calling for impeachment although she has effectively run out of options.
I would recommend that she commit to memory the fiery call to arms of a young firebrand in the mold of AOC who in a bygone era declared on the floor of the House:
When a president gets out of bounds and doesn't do what he or she should do, constitutionally -- and I would argue that every president and every citizen has a constitutional duty not to cheat another citizen . . . and they get out of bounds it is up to us to put them back in bounds or declare it illegal. And how do we do that? How do we regulate presidential misconduct when it's done in a presidential fashion? Through the laws and powers of impeachment . . . I don’t want my country to be a country of equivocators and compartmentalizers for the next century and that’s what this case is about -- equivocation and compartmentalizing.The year was 1998, the firebrand was then-Representative Lindsey Graham and the target of his animus was Bill Clinton, who had lied about his sexual liaisons with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Graham, of course, has become Trump's poodle. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he will lead the charge against convicting this president at an impeachment trial as he led the charge against that other president, who although impeached was acquitted in the Senate, which could not even muster a simple majority let alone the two-thirds majority necessary to convict a president guilty of nothing more than lousy judgment.
Clinton's "crimes" pale in comparison to Donald Trump's, of course, and it should be noted that even Nixon's conviction in the Senate was not assured when the articles of impeachment were brought before the House Judiciary Committee in 1974.
But two things are certain as Pelosi ponders which of those stark choices to make -- impeach or surrender.
Impeachment will not move Trump's "base," which doesn't just tolerate lies, greed, corruption and cruelty, but votes for them. The same goes for his Republican congressional sycophancy.
And in the wake of the Russia scandal report, a deeply damning "exoneration" if ever there was one, Donald Trump is more dangerous than ever and his attacks on the Constitution and the Rule of Law will only get worse.
Click HERE for a searchable version of the Mueller report.
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.
and related developments.