I've always been an outlier on the issue of impeachment. I continue to think that the way the Democratic majority in the House is managing the issue is neither right nor will it be as effective as it could be. Let's begin at the most important issues and work backwards...
First, the reason to impeach the president is if he has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. The process exists to protect the country from abuse of power. That and not political considerations must be the primary driving factor in shaping a decision to proceed or not.
In other words, impeachment is not just about whether the president honors his oath of office or not, but whether members of Congress do as well. That said, if the president is seen as a threat, then the goal of impeachment must be to hold him accountable.
Ideally, that would occur through a fair investigation, accumulation & presentation of evidence, a vote to impeach based on that evidence & a trial in the Senate about whether to remove Trump from office or not.
But we know that GOP partisanship may keep that from happening.
For this reason while goal one of the process must be justice as described above, the process should take into consideration the possibility that the right outcome may be blocked for political reasons. (Mitch McConnell & the GOP doesn't let it happen.)
The default is that the impeachment process informs the national political process--so that if the Senate simply covers their ears and refuses to hear the facts, the people of the United States have the opportunity to over-rule the Senate and serve a jury on Election Day in 2020.
(They should on that day be asked to judge not only the president but also those who obstructed justice or put party before country during the impeachment process--voting out Senators and members of Congress who abetted the most corrupt president in history.)
We also know from what we have seen to date that the GOP leadership is complicit with Trump and are committed to subverting this process, ignoring the president's crimes and defending him at all costs. That's why, while I have long felt seeking bi-partisan consensus...
...should not be a gating issue as to whether to proceed or not with impeachment. It would never come. It was an illusory goal. We have seen that again today in the House vote. Our system is failing us because the GOP has become so corrupt.
But their obstinance, their willful blindness, their rejection of what the founders would have wanted or expected, must not be allowed to serve as a shield for wrong-doing--especially when it puts our institutions, the rule of law in our country and our national security at risk.
That is why I have always felt that the impeachment process should have begun sooner and included a much broader investigative mandate. The idea that the Ukraine case is sufficient alone to impeach the president...that it is simple and let's keep it simple...is a big mistake.
It is a mistake because it is wrong. It is a mistake because in the current atmosphere when crimes are ignored that will be seen as "proof" they did not exist and as precedent they should not be prosecuted in the future.
It is a mistake because the Ukraine case may be cut and dry to the fair-minded but the GOP will muddy the waters by reducing it into a discussion of what presidential foreign policy prerogatives are...which will soon numb the audience to sleep. (The crime must be made clear.)
But it is also a mistake because there are so many other clear crimes that must be called out--to serve justice, to set a precedent and to describe them in simple, powerful, evidence-based terms to the America people via television coverage of hearings.
Some of these are every bit the "slam dunk" that Ukraine is. Obstruction of justice (as described by Mueller very clearly). Violation of federal campaign finance laws. Violations of the emoluments clause. Violations of laws regarding Congressional oversight.
Should abuse of national security rules and procedures be in there? Yes. What about the collusion case? Yes...because it is real and testimony Mueller could not get can be compelled by Congress. And because Russia 2016 and Ukraine 2019 are largely the same case.
Would all this require resources? Yes. And the Dems have simply not invested in the investigative staff this demands and past such investigations have enjoyed. Would it require time? Yes. (That's why it should have started sooner...& why it should go on as long as it takes now.)
Spend the money. Spend the time. Reveal to the court of public opinion the serial abuses of the most corrupt, dangerous president in American history. Charge his enablers like Barr and McConnell. Make the whole case because making only part of it makes the case seem smaller.
But making only part of it is also inadequate to the demands of the Constitution and to the politics of the moment. Only through a compelling publicly made televised impeachment case can public opinion be swayed enough to make the GOP fear for their futures.
That--GOP self-interest--is the only way a Senate conviction becomes possible. But since that is a remote possibility (appealing to their consciences or sense of duty certainly won't do it) then making the bigger case is the best way to defeat them in 2020.
Like it or not, 2020 will be about Trump. If his crimes a clearly enumerated he stands to lose in the biggest landslide in half a century. The transparent failings of his defenders will also result in their defeat. And we can begin to restore decency and the rule of law in DC.
That is what is at stake here. This is not simply a process to placate the angry. It is not one that benefits from timid tactics or too-calculated (mis-calculated) shrewdness. Do it right. Do it big. Do it on TV. Win the case in the court of public opinion.
Make the case to history and the chances of success are increased dramatically...even as a stand is made for truth and for our 243 year old experiment in democracy. The stakes are so high we can afford no less.
You can follow @djrothkopf.
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