By Ron Lambert.
In early March, Speaker Nancy Pelosi took impeachment proceedings against President Trump off the table. She said that impeachment was “just not worth it” unless there was overwhelming support because “it divides the country.” Most of her Democrat colleagues supported her wait-and-see approach.
Since then, Robert Mueller has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. For almost two years, Mueller has been cast as Trump’s adversary. Many had anticipated that the Mueller report would trigger a public showdown with Trump. But now that the report is in the hands of Attorney General William Barr, it is uncertain whether the public will be allowed to see the results.
Given what we now know, is it time for the House to begin formal impeachment hearings?
On March 11, the Daily KOS posted a diary by murfster35 entitled “Nancy Pelosi is right. And SO much smarter than you think.” According to murfster35:
“Nancy Pelosi is right, the numbers don’t support impeachment. Not only in the Senate, but also in almost every national poll so far taken…The number of Americans who want to see [Trump] impeached is still 12-16 points underwater. That’s not just Trump’s base talking, there are a whole lot of Americans out there, who…still don’t think that he should be given the heave-ho. Right now we have a historically unpopular President, and an unsettled GOP base, why risk not only motivating his base, but also aggravate a good sized chunk of the voting public…?”
Murfster35 cautioned that if the democrats overreach, they may be punished at the polls, saying “Impeachment against public sentiment is a risky venture at best, and self destructive at worst.” But Pelosi’s strategy is right for another reason:
“I don’t believe for a hot nanosecond that this was some accidental, off the cuff flub by Nancy Pelosi. She was making this statement on purpose, and in direct response to external stimuli. That stimuli is coming from a combination of Democratic House members calling for immediate impeachment proceedings, as well as media figures calling the House investigations, “informal impeachment proceedings.” In the age of Trump, Pelosi knows that the mere attachment of the word impeachment makes any findings connected to it “Fake News!”… She is trying to separate her fledgling investigations from the stigmata that the word impeachment carries with it.
This is a win-win situation for Pelosi and the Democrats. By taking impeachment off of the table, they make it the forbidden fruit, and just provide the evidence, and wait for the surly masses to demand it. And if it gets too late in the cycle to impeach? Who cares. There [will] have been 18 months of disastrous televised hearings, all of the…President’s sins laid bare, with no other remedy in sight, except at the ballot box.”
Contrasting this view is the belief that Congress has a Constitutional duty to begin the impeachment process when it believes that the president has committed impeachable offenses. Many believe that the criteria to impeach has already been met. If the House fails to act soon, it will be hard to justify impeaching any president in the future. It is necessary to show that the government can hold itself accountable, that assaults on democracy will not be tolerated.
But it is sobering that polls show that only about a third of Americans support impeachment. And according to a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, 50 percent believe that the Mueller investigation “is a witch hunt”. The public does not support impeachment now, regardless of the evidence they already see.
The House Democrats’ burden will be to build a public case before pursuing impeachment. But the first challenge for the Democrats will be obtaining access to the information they need to build that case. Besides the Mueller report, at least six House Committees (Intelligence, Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, Ways and Means, and Oversight and Reform) have launched investigations into Trump’s presidency. As reported on March 19 in the Washington Post, “The White House has ignored more than a dozen letters requesting documents…setting up a clash that could escalate into subpoenas or even court battles.” In addition, other government agencies are refusing to comply. Thirty inquiries sent to Department or Agency Heads have gone unanswered or answered unsatisfactorily. According to Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, “President Trump’s actions violate our Constitution’s fundamental principal of checks and balances.“
So the stage is set for a showdown—apparently not between Mueller and Trump, but between the House of Representatives and the White House. Stay tuned.