|JABIN BOTSFORD / THE WASHINGTON POST|
The long, tragicomic slog toward impeaching Donald Trump finally is picking up speed -- which is not to be confused with gaining momentum because the political clock is fast running down -- as the House returns from its summer recess this week and the Judiciary Committee ponders what the parameters of its long-incubating investigation should be.
Not a day too soon.
Trump's high crimes and misdemeanors make Richard Nixon's ill deeds of 45 years ago seem almost quaint by comparison, a paranoid piker who tried to cover up a third-rate burglary compared to a narcissist whose malignancy visits destruction on everything he touches, in this case a quaint institution known as American democracy.
By any reasonable measure, Trump already should have been ridden out of the Oval Office on a rail for his massive corruption, but these are not reasonable times. And while 21 members of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's own party have bolted in allegiance to Queen and Country over his amateurish attempts to emulate his counterpart in Washington as he strangles on the Gordian knot of Brexit, it is unimaginable that 21 Senate Republicans would do the same over Trump's relentless attack on the values we once held dear.
God knows Judiciary Chairman Jerrod Nadler and committee Democrats have plenty to choose from as they sketch out a projected four months of hearings to gather evidence to prove Trump is corrupt against a backdrop of lukewarm public support for impeachment.
While the president's repeated and copiously documented attempts to obstruct justice in trying to shut down the Russia scandal, which revealed hundreds of contacts between Russians and Trump campaign associates, is likely to remain the committee's primary focus, there are the hush money payments Trump directed his then personal lawyer and fixer and now imprisoned Michael Cohen to make in the weeks before the 2016 election to women with whom he had extramarital affairs, and dangling pardons to officials willing to break the law to implement his inhumane immigration policies.
As well as violations of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause.
The merging of Trump's official duties and commercial interests is now so frequent that it has become as routine as his tweetstorms, witness the underwhelming response to the latest outrages -- that Vice President Pence stayed at Trump's Doonbeg resort hours away from his meetings in Dublin with Irish officials earlier this month and Air National Guard personnel stayed at the Trump Turnberry golf resort in Scotland in March when an Air Force plane stopped at a nearby airport to refuel at considerable expense on the way to Kuwait from the U.S. rather than at one of the military bases where it typically would lay over and taxpayer-funded fuel was cheaper.
The New York Times further reports that since Trump became president, there have been thousands of visits to his properties, not only by Trump himself, but by foreign leaders, lobbyists, Republican candidates, members of Congress, cabinet members and others with ties to the president. At least 90 members of Congress, 250 Trump administration officials and more than 110 foreign officials have been spotted at Trump properties since 2017, according to social media posts and counts by various watchdog groups.
Meanwhile, five other congressional committees have been chipping away at other potentially impeachable acts, including getting Trump's tax returns, financial records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One, and his bizarrely secret interactions with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who of course had much to do with him being president in the first place.
In early August, with more than half of the 235 House Democrats on record as favoring impeachment, Nadler publicly declared that his committee had already launched impeachment proceedings although the full House has not voted to do so and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, fearful of a backlash from the sheep grazing in their home district pastures, has stopped short of endorsing impeachment because it would be disruptive. As opposed to Trump being disruptive. Or something
Nadler's claim sparked confusion, even if it was made to convince judges presiding over the deluge of litigation filed by the White House in defiance of congressional summonses of the urgency of providing Democrats with the substantial evidence they have been seeking but on-the-run Trump has tried to block at every turn.
There are precedents for launching impeachment proceedings without a formal vote.
In 1973, the Democrat-led Judiciary Committee did just that, putting in place staff to prepare for the possibility of impeachment following the "Saturday Night Massacre" when Nixon axed several Justice Department officials for refusing to fire the special counsel investigating his administration in the wake of the Watergate burglary and cover-up. In 1998, the Republican-led Judiciary Committee did much the same in its perjury and obstruction of justice inquiry involving Bill Clinton stemming from the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Jones.
As I have written, Trump is one truly sick dude, and his deterioration has been accelerating, witness Sharpiegate, which is outlasting the hurricane that prompted his latest buffoonish effort to cover his big ass.
It can be argued that the proverbial banana peel that will bring Trump down is lurking around the next corner. Or perhaps the corner after that. And it also can be argued that Trump has never stood on his own, suckling on his father's fortune as a young businessman, then relying on dirty tactics, laundered money from Russian oligarchs and mobsters and carpet bombs of lies to survive. Indeed, he may already have gone down, but is being propped up by the likes of Mick Mulvaney, Mitch "Moscow Mitch" McConnell, the NRA and Fox News.
What is especially disturbing about all this is that Trump keeps finding new ways to weaponize his psychoses while Nadler, Pelosi and the still-large field of Democratic presidential wannabes chase their tails instead of Trump's.
Yes, Trump is likely to lose in 2020, but impeachment just may be the banana peel we've been hoping and praying for.