Shooting Down One Argument

A Democratic congressman from Massachusetts offered this argument against impeachment hearings:

It would be disastrous — and Speaker Pelosi has hit on this — if we proceed with impeachment and we fail in the Senate just as people are going to the polls. That will be a vindication of Trump and it will help him in the final election,” Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) said.

Rep. Lynch apparently thinks the televised presentation of loads of evidence for impeachment, and the news coverage that will generate, won’t do much. He must think we won’t come to a decision about the president’s unfitness all on our own. Instead, we’ll wait to see the results of a trial in the Senate, as if we believe the senators will all act like disinterested jurors making a reasonable, impartial decision. Perhaps Rep. Lynch doesn’t remember the O. J. Simpson trial. It received massive publicity and convinced most of America that Simpson was guilty, despite the jury, which wasn’t even made up of politicians, acquitting him. And who knows, a majority of senators might actually do the right thing and vote for his removal (even though the required two-thirds of them probably won’t).

Adam Jentleson, who used to work for Senator Harry Reid, gave an expert’s response to Rep. Lynch:

This answer from [Rep. Lynch] contains multitudes of learned helplessness and miscalculation.

First, on what planet is it bad for [Republican senator] Susan Collins to vote to protect an impeached [DT] right before the election? Remember, [the nomination of] Kavanaugh [to the Supreme Court] was a much bigger driver for Democrats than Republicans in 2018.

The idea that Trump will be “exonerated” in the public eye by a Senate vote to keep him in office reflects a massive degree of learned helplessness. Democrats have a huge stack of evidence and bipartisan voices attesting to his crimes. If we can’t win that argument, we should hang it up.

There’s a lot of angst about how Senate Republicans still evade accountability for being Trump lackeys. But you counldn’t invent a better way to tie every single Senate Republican to Trump than having them vote to let him off the hook for high crimes. This isn’t brain surgery!

Imagine [senators] Collins or Gardner on camera, being pressed on which of Trump’s many crimes they think should be permissible for a president.

It’s not a good thing to have to explain why you are letting a criminal off the hook. Again, if we can’t win that debate, we should hang it up.

And yes, Collins and Gardner will almost certainly vote to protect Trump. If they don’t, their base will abandon them overnight. In 2018, Dean Heller never recovered from mildly criticizing Trump over health care. Ditto Joe Heck in 2016 over the Access Hollywood tapes.

Meanwhile, we’ll have a presidential nominee. Ask yourself: if you ran for president, would you like your opponent to be on trial for high crimes and misdemeanors? If you answered yes, the good news is, you’re right! The bad news is you’re now disqualified from being a Democratic consultant.

What this boils down to is that people like [Rep. Lynch] are engaged in an exercise of unparalleled groupthink. It’s stunning to witness intelligent people convince themselves that *actually* it is good for a president to get impeached. It’s really quite something.

The group thinkers have also convinced themselves that the pro-impeachment side hasn’t thought through the endgame, when in reality it’s the reverse.

There is no endgame for non-impeachment. It will be a year of Democrats looking like deer in the headlights trying to explain why [DT] did impeachable crimes, but doesn’t deserve to be impeached. Everyone knows Democrats think he should be impeached. They look ridiculous trying to punt.

The endgame for impeachment is impeachment, then a Senate trial where Democrats can win the debate if and when the Senate votes to protect Trump. Then we run in 2020 on the validated idea that the ballot is the only way to remove him, against Senate Republicans who fell in line to protect him.

As the man said, this isn’t brain surgery.

“Stop Asking Us To Wait”

Thirty progressive groups have sent an open letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: 

We write to express deep disappointment and concern over your refusal to use the full scope of your constitutional power to hold [the president] accountable. We urge you to reconsider your position on this issue and immediately open an impeachment inquiry.

Voters gave Democrats control of the House of Representatives because they wanted aggressive oversight of the … administration. Yet, your leadership is resulting in dangerous inaction that enables this racist and xenophobic president. Our families, friends, communities, country and planet deserve a party that chooses people over politics – and that starts with your willingness to take bold, moral leadership.

As Speaker of the House, you have the power to ensure Congress exercises its constitutional obligation to hold this president accountable, but instead of using your power, you are giving us political excuses for why you shouldn’t. Instead of leading, you and your colleagues have asked us to wait – wait for the Mueller report, wait for the unredacted Mueller report, wait for Mueller’s testimony about the Mueller report, wait for more investigations, wait for bipartisan consensus, wait for impeachment to poll better, wait for the 2020 election.

With 10 distinct episodes of obstruction of justice already clear from the Mueller report, violations of the emoluments clause happening on an almost daily basis, and [the] administration now defying subpoenas for both documents and testimony, waiting is a privilege. But it is not a privilege available to the families separated by his deportation force or his Muslim ban, the asylum seekers languishing in Mexico, the people threatened by his embrace of white supremacy, the LGBTQ people whose rights he is taking away, the women whose bodies he is trying to control or the communities threatened by his denial of the climate crisis.

The American people deserve a leader who is willing to bravely use power to rein in the Trump administration and defend our communities. You have stated that we are facing a constitutional crisis. But the remedy for such a constitutional crisis is not traditional congressional oversight – particularly when confronted with a president who has nothing but contempt for such oversight and obstinately refuses to comply with legitimate congressional demands and requests. The framers placed the impeachment power in the Constitution precisely for the purpose of confronting a lawless president like [him].

There’s still a chance to turn things around…. Your strong leadership can help move the public narrative, not only on impeachment, but on the dangers [his] presidency poses for all Americans. Your leadership can position the House of Representatives as the body that exposes the corruption and moral abhorrence of [this] White House, proves that no president is above the law, and persuades most Americans that this president must be removed from office. <Note: I’d say “should be”> You can help expose his defenders and enablers, including those in the Senate, as craven partisans willing to destroy our democracy and defend a criminal president in order to protect tax breaks for their billionaire benefactors and stack the federal courts to defend their white, male privilege.

In the very near future, the Trump era will be one that evokes the question – what did you do? We urge you to use your power to lead and to stop asking us to wait.

Inching Toward Impeachment

One week ago, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the fourth-highest-ranking Democrat in the House, indicated he wasn’t ready to impeach the president:

We have a constitutional responsibility to serve as a check and balance on a potentially out-of-control executive branch. But we will not overreach. We will not overinvestigate. We will not overpoliticize that responsibility. We will proceed as Speaker Pelosi has laid out, methodically yet aggressively to get to the truth.

He said that politics shouldn’t determine whether to impeach or not impeach.

Then Congress took a week off to allow everyone to travel back home and celebrate Memorial Day. After speaking with constituents in Brooklyn and Queens, it sounds like Rep. Jeffries is inching closer to impeachment:

The Judiciary Committee, on which I sit, should have hearings on three things: obstruction of justice, abuse of power and the culture of corruption that appears to exist at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. I’m of the view that those hearings should commence immediately. And we need to present the information to the American people. What you call those hearings — that is a decision that will ultimately be made by [Judiciary Committee] Chairman Nadler and Speaker Pelosi.

In that regard, the Judiciary Committee will commence hearings on the Mueller report next Monday, with “testimony from former U.S. attorneys and legal experts, including John Dean, a Trump critic and former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon”. But there is still no word on Robert Mueller testifying. 

In case the committee has trouble coming up with things to investigate, Washington Post columnist Max Boot offers “seven reasons [the president] should be impeached”, expressed as formal articles of impeachment:

Article 1. … in violation of his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, [he] has obstructed the administration of justice….

Article II. … failed to defend America from foreign election interference…. 

Article III. … attempted to investigate and prosecute his political opponents…. 

Article IV. [and] failed to produce papers and testimony as duly directed by Congress.

Article V. … in violation of federal campaign finance laws, [he] conspired with his attorney Michael Cohen in order to conceal alleged relationships with [Stormy Daniels and Karen MacDougal] before the 2016 election.

Article VI. … in violation of his oath to uphold Article 1, section 9 of the Constitution (“No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law”), [he] attempted to misuse his emergency powers to spend funds on a border wall that Congress did not appropriate.

Article VII. … in violation of his oath to uphold the emoluments clauses (which forbid the president from accepting benefits from foreign and state governments without the permission of Congress) [he] retains ownership of a global business empire which allows him to benefit from dealings with foreign and state governments.

No doubt there are other “high crimes and misdemeanors” Mr. Boot didn’t get to.

He concludes: 

[The president] has committed more criminal and unconstitutional conduct than any previous president in U.S. history. If they refuse to impeach him, members of Congress will violate their own oaths to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

In case you’d like to deliver a message to your representative, you can begin by entering your zip code at the House’s handy Find Your Representative page. Then you click on their name. (They’re waiting to hear from you.)

This Is Past Ridiculous, So We Need To Speak Up

The New York Times is trying to find out which Democrats in the House of Representatives support an impeachment inquiry. So far, 54 of them do; 56 of them gave wishy-washy answers (probably in deference to Nancy Pelosi); and 125 haven’t responded. My congressman, Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) does.

If yours doesn’t, you should consider getting in touch (they all have their own websites). You might even quote these two gentlemen.

Charles Blow of The Times asks:

What the hell is it going to take, Democrats?!

What evidence and impetus would compel you to do the job the Constitution, patriotism and morality dictate?

What is it going to take to make you initiate an impeachment inquiry?

Your slow walking of this issue and your specious arguments about political calculations are pushing you dangerously close to a tragic, historic dereliction of duty, one that could do irreparable damage to the country and the Congress….

Mehdi Hasan of The Intercept takes five minutes to explain why the arguments against impeaching the president are b.s. (I apologize for displaying the disturbing image.)

The situation is only going to get worse. If she feels enough pressure, Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) will eventually admit it’s time to act.

Some Decisions Should Be Easy

Some smart people make them difficult.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, announced a decision yesterday:

The Mueller report lays out facts showing that a hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election to help Donald Trump and Donald Trump welcomed that help. Once elected, Donald Trump obstructed the investigation into that attack. 

Mueller put the next step in the hands of Congress: “Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.” The correct process for exercising that authority is impeachment.

To ignore a President’s repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways.

The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.

She explained her decision to Rachel Maddow last night. The senator begins speaking at 1:25 of this short video. If you watch it, you’ll see that Sen. Warren is a very smart person who made an easy decision (it’s more evidence that she should be our next president).

Rachel Maddow: “What made you decide to take this step today?”

Elizabeth Warren: “Well, I read the report.”

There are other smart people reading the Mueller report (or being told what’s in it) who believe the issue is much more complicated. They’ve seen polls that say the American people aren’t enthusiastic about impeachment. They’re concerned that impeaching the president would “tear the country apart”. They assume that Republican senators would never vote to remove this president, no matter what he’s done. They’re worried that Democrats would suffer in the next election. They think the election would end up being all about impeachment, not the issues voters really care about. They think most voters are too cynical to care about the president’s behavior. For some reason, they think that publicizing the president’s misdeeds in televised hearings would discourage Democratic voters and energize Republican ones.

It’s unfortunate that some of the smart people having trouble with this decision are Democrats in Congress.

From Jamil Smith, writing for Rolling Stone:

Despite a few outliers, such as freshmen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib [and now Elizabeth Warren], most Democrats in Congress have not recognized that the responsibility of impeachment is now at their doorstep, so I fully expect the Democratic Party as a whole will pull its punches.

The pathetic part is that it isn’t because it isn’t “worthwhile.” Impeaching a man who did nothing to stop a foreign attack on American elections on his behalf, then went on to a presidency where he obstructed justice while locking up migrant kids and letting Puerto Rico drown? Yeah, that’s worthwhile. No, they’ll hold off from impeachment… The common perception appears to be that an attempt at impeachment — with Republicans holding a slight but firm majority in the Senate — would be doomed to failure and the entire enterprise would hurt the chances of swing-state Democrats seeking re-election. But it is foolish to assume that every impeachment effort would go the way of Newt Gingrich in the Nineties, when a harebrained effort to fire President Bill Clinton backfired on the Republicans at the ballot box [and ignoring how impeaching a corrupt Republican president, Richard Nixon, helped the Democrats in the 1970s]….

Should Democrats take impeachment off the table, they would let [him] get away with it. It is that elementary. There is no guarantee that he will not repeat the very same encouragement of those Russian efforts, all the while playing dumb so as to avoid legal culpability.

If Democrats were smarter, they would understand that initiating the impeachment of [this president] might actually galvanize their base because it would demonstrate that leadership was willing to take the obvious, the logical and the constitutional step once presented with such an abundance of evidence. They would grasp that the visual of their party standing up to a president wedded equally to corruption and to his assortment of bigotries would be appealing to an electorate where black voters are increasingly driving the conversation. Democrats would seize upon the Mueller Report as a flashpoint for organization and recruitment, rather than take the task of prosecution that the Constitution assigned to Congress, hand it off to voters and call that “democracy.” It is up to us as citizens to choose our elected officials, not to do their jobs for them.

How about this instead? Since there is plenty of evidence that the president abused his office, the House of Representative should begin impeachment proceedings. If the evidence is there (hardly an open question at this point), let the House send the matter to the Senate for final determination. If they choose to, let each Republican in the Senate argue that the president’s behavior hasn’t been all that bad. But let’s see how all the senators vote when they have to go on the record, after hearing all the evidence and arguments.

Whatever Congress ends up doing, the presidential candidates will proceed with their campaigns, emphasizing the issues they want to emphasize. Then, in the next election, let the voters decide whether they prefer Democrats or Republicans. If our system of government still works, the Democrats will take the presidency, the House and the Senate in the 2020 election.

It’s really that simple.

Fourteen Felonies?

Michael Cohen, the president’s former “fixer”, testified before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday. He described the president as a racist, a conman and a cheat — no news there. He also said the president is a criminal — ditto.

But Ken Gude, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, performed a public service by attempting to list “the incredible number of felonies that Cohen directly implicated Trump in”. We don’t know for sure if the president committed all these crimes. On the other hand, Cohen was merely answering questions, not telling us everything he knows about the president’s illegalities. Nonetheless, it’s an impressive collection of felonious behavior:

1. Conspiracy to defraud the United States (collusion) – Cohen’s allegation that Trump and Stone spoke about the impending Wikileaks release of [Democratic National Committee] emails before they were released with [Roger Stone] asserting to Trump that he had communicated with [Julian Assange of Wikileaks].

2. False statements – In response to a written question from Mueller, Trump reportedly denied ever having spoken to Stone about Wikileaks. Cohen said this is false.

3. False statements – In response to a written question from Mueller, Trump reportedly denied knowing about Don Jr’s Trump Tower meeting with Russians. Cohen said this is false.

4. Campaign finance violations – Cohen provided a check that shows that Trump reimbursed him for the $130,000 he paid to Stormy Daniels to conceal their affair.

5. Conspiracy to defraud the United States (election fraud) – Cohen alleged that Trump directed him and Allen Weisselberg of the Trump Organization to conceal his affair with Stormy Daniels with the intention of fraudulently influencing an election.

6. False statements on a loan application – Cohen brought Trump’s partial financial records for 2011-2013 that Cohen alleged showed that Trump falsely inflated the value of his assets to obtain a loan in order to purchase the Buffalo Bills.

7. Insurance fraud – Cohen alleged that Trump would make false insurance claims.

8. Tax fraud – Cohen alleged that Trump would knowingly provide inaccurate lower values of his properties in order to fraudulently obtain tax benefits.

9. Witness tampering – Cohen said that Trump’s threatening tweets were an attempt to intimidate him, saying Trump could do “a lot” to hurt him and his family.

10. Suborning perjury – Cohen says that in a meeting in the White House, Trump indicated that he wanted Cohen to provide a false message saying “No Russia. No collusion.”

11. Suborning perjury – Cohen says that Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow edited his Congressional testimony to falsely shorten the duration of the negotiations on the Trump Moscow project.

12. Obstruction of a Congressional proceeding – The witness tampering and the suborning perjury constitutes obstruction of a Congressional proceeding.

13. Perjury – Cohen says that Trump’s 2013 sworn testimony that he wouldn’t recognize Felix Sater was clearly false, explaining that Sater had an office on the same floor as Trump in Trump Tower.

14. Illegal use of charity assets for personal benefit – Cohen alleged that Trump directed him to get a straw bidder to buy a portrait of Trump at an auction and that Trump then directed the Trump Foundation to reimburse the fake bidder with its assets.

Cohen testified in closed sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. Might he have described a few more felonies? Let’s put it this way. If our legal system works as it should, the Donald will spend his twilight years living in confined quarters at the government’s expense.

Investigations On Parade!

Heather Parton, also known as Digby, founder of the Hullabaloo blog, has compiled a list of planned Congressional investigations. They have a common thread. The list is organized by House committee.

Oversight:
Michael Cohen payments
Trump International Hotel lease
Census citizenship question
Prescription drug prices
Security clearances
Russian sanctions

Intelligence:
Russian collusion
Border wall
Russian sanctions

Judiciary:
Protecting Special Counsel Mueller
Family separation

Way and Means:
Trump tax returns

Natural Resources:
Puerto Rico reimbursements

Energy and Commerce:
Family separation
Environmental Protection Agency and climate change

Homeland Security:
Border security

Foreign Affairs:
Russian sanctions

Transportation:
Trump International Hotel lease
Russian sanctions

Voting matters.