Impeachment Friday Reads: Full Speed AheadPosted: December 6, 2019
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
Congressional Democrats continue to make progress towards the goal of impeaching Donald J. Trump. Susan B Glasser —writing for The New Yorker–has interviewed Adam Schiff on “TRUMP, IMPEACHMENT, AND WHAT’S NEXT.” One of the largest hurdles for Schiff has been the way the White House has refused to cooperate with documents requests and ordered key witnesses to ignore subpoenas. This is likely to lead to an article outlined in the category of obstruction of justice.
… Schiff noted the dilemma that Trump had created for the House by refusing to coöperate with the impeachment inquiry—the first time a President had issued such a broad order. The House Intelligence panel heard from seventeen current and former Trump Administration officials who defied the President and agreed to testify, but senior figures, such as Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, refused, and not a single department agreed to hand over documents. “What Turley is arguing on behalf of the Administration is you should allow the President’s obstruction to succeed,” Schiff told me. “And that’s not a particularly powerful argument when the President continues to solicit foreign interference in our election.” Later, he added a clear preview of what one of the articles of impeachment against Trump will end up being: “You could not have a more open-and-shut case of obstruction of Congress.”
Still, Schiff told me that he knows there is more the investigation could learn and that it remains open, saying, tantalizingly, that “there may very well be a great body of evidence at the trial that’s not available to us today.” I pressed him on why, then, his panel had not subpoenaed some key witnesses, such as Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, to whom the President essentially deputized Ukraine policy; the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who listened in on the famous July 25th call; or the Vice-President, Mike Pence, who met with Zelensky in Trump’s place in late summer, when Trump was withholding nearly four hundred million dollars in congressionally appropriated military assistance for Ukraine. Schiff said that there was no point in doing so, given that his panel had subpoenaed a dozen Administration officials, including Mulvaney, who had refused to comply.
In the case of John Bolton, Trump’s former national-security adviser, who, according to aides who testified, had called the Ukraine scheme a “drug deal,” Schiff told me that his staff had been in touch with Bolton’s legal team after a court recently ordered the former White House counsel Don McGahn to comply with a House subpoena, in hopes that the ruling would change Bolton’s mind. His staff said, “ ‘Hey, if you’re sincere, the McGahn ruling ought to persuade you,’ ” Schiff recalled. “They made it clear, ‘No, you subpoena Bolton, he’s going to sue you, and this will be tied up indefinitely in the courts.’ The long and the short of it is, though, given that the President is today trying to get foreign interference in the next election to help him, we do not feel that, when we already have overwhelming evidence, we should wait any longer.”
The Judiciary Committee spent a day listening to testimony on Trump’s guilt in terms of the U.S. Constitution, writers of the Constitution, and prior examples of impeached officials from both English and US History. This Washington Post headline suggests that more than the three democratic witnesses agree that Trump’s actions and words are impeachable. This headline suggests quite a few more than three actually: “More than 500 law professors say Trump committed ‘impeachable conduct’ “
Senate Republicans continue to be recalcitrant. However, they do not want to turn their role in the impeachment process into a joke. Politico reports today that “GOP leaders have no interest in turning the Senate into a circus with the hard-line demands of Trump’s House allies.”
On Wednesday, a conservative backbencher in the House issued an explosive request to Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham: Subpoena the phone records of House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff.
On Thursday, Graham had a succinct response: “We’re not going to do that.”
The demand from Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) reflects House Republicans’ eagerness to see Democrats squirm once impeachment moves to the GOP-controlled Senate and out of the “sham” process they’ve derided in the House.
“I’m talking to my Senate colleagues: here are the witnesses you should call and here are the questions you should ask,” said Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah). “It’s going to cast us in a different very light. This is a chance to tell the other side of the story.”
President Donald Trump has joined in as well, tweeting on Thursday that he wants to call Schiff, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Bidens as witnesses in his impeachment trial.
But Senate Republicans are beginning to deliver a reality check to the president and House Republicans that there are limits to what they can do.
“You got two different bodies here,” Graham, a stalwart Trump ally, told reporters on Thursday. “Are we going to start calling House members over here when we don’t like what they say or do? I don’t think so.”
Senate GOP leaders have signaled they intend to defend Trump wholeheartedly, but they’re also loath to let the upper chamber descend into chaos or divide their caucus ahead of a tough 2020 cycle. And even if Senate Republicans wanted to embrace the hard-line posture of the House, the party’s narrow majority makes that all but impossible under Senate rules.
Calling controversial witnesses will require near lockstep party unity from 51 of the 53 Senate Republicans to make any procedural maneuvers, a tough task given the diverse views in the GOP, according to senators and aides.
This is from The Bulwark and Charles Sykes. I admit I am no fan of his and tend to grab the channel changer when I see him on MSNBC or elsewhere. However, this will give you some idea of what Republicans who are not part of the Trump Cult believe.
It now seems inevitable that at least one of the articles of impeachment will center on Trump’s obstruction of Congress and/or justice.
So this is a good time to step back and recognize the most salient fact about Trump’s obstruction: It is working.
As galling as it may be to acknowledge it, the reality is that Trump’s effort to obstruct Congress is a success, much like his well-documented efforts to obstruct the Mueller probe. The House decision not to push for the enforcement of its subpoenas virtually guarantees that the case will go to the Senate without volumes of pertinent evidence.
I am among those who think the evidence at hand is more than sufficient to justify Trump’s impeachment. But his partisan supporters will continue to declare the effort a sham and the case unproven while unironically complaining about the lack of direct evidence—and at the same time ignoring Trump’s all-out effort to conceal such direct evidence from Congress.
Historians, who will know far more about Trump’s conduct that we do now, will marvel at how much evidence of his misconduct was left on the table. They will have access to documents, emails, text messages, memoirs, and transcripts (possibly even eventual court documents, should we wind up with a case titled something like United States vs. Giuliani) that we have not seen.
At least some of them will write, “in fairness…” and then note the comprehensive nature of Trump’s obstruction. But, by then, Trump will have been acquitted by the Senate and claimed “total exoneration.”
For Trump, this is the lesson that he learned from the Mueller probe: Investigations can be successfully obstructed, the rule of law be damned.
NPR reports that Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary committee believes Trump should participate in the House inquiry. So far, the Congressman from Georgia has done himself no real favors in his performance to date. But, he may have some sway or not.
The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold its second hearing in the impeachment inquiry on Monday, when counsel for Democrats and Republicans on the Intelligence Committee will discuss the evidence against the president. In a letter on Thursday to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., Collins said Republicans on the committee should be allowed a hearing day before articles of impeachment can move forward. Meanwhile, the White House faces a Friday deadline to inform the committee on whether it will participate in future proceedings.
A vote by the full House on whichever impeachment articles are adopted by the Judiciary Committee could come by the end of the month. The process would then move to the Senate, where 20 Republicans would need to break ranks and join Democrats to reach the 67 votes, or two-thirds majority, required to convict and remove the president from office.
Given those numbers, Collins said there is nothing to indicate impeachment can pass the Senate. “Many of us believe it’s already been decided,” he said. “Why waste our time?”
So, it’s still basically looking like the Senate will likely not vote to remove Trump from Office and that Congressional Republicans can seethe all they want over whatever injustices they’ve invented. The Public, however, seems to have fairly consistent views of the matter. This is the latest from Forbes writer Karlyn Bowman.
Opinion is moving in a narrow range. Republicans oppose impeaching the president, Democrats favor the action. Independents are split. Polling in some key 2020 states suggests less support than the national polls for impeaching and removing Donald Trump. The president’s overall approval rating has hardly budged—in late September in the RealClearPolitics average of polls has him at 44%. But a closer examination of the polls unearths some meaningful findings that haven’t received much media attention.
First a quick update on recent polls. In CNN’s November 21-24 poll, 50% said President Trump should be impeached and removed from office. The responses were identical to CNN’s mid-October poll. When asked whether they felt strongly or not strongly, 91% of those who supported impeachment and removal said they felt strongly, as did 89% of those who felt strongly that he shouldn’t be impeached. In Quinnipiac’s late November poll, 45% of registered voters said he should be impeached and removed; 48% didn’t think so. In their late October poll, those responses were 48% to 46%. Eighty-six percent in the poll said their minds were made up. Only 13% said they could change their minds. A new FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll will follow the same people over the course of the next three months to see “if, when, or how Americans change their minds on the facts underlying the Trump impeachment inquiry.” In the initial commentary, the pollsters noted that since October “support for impeachment has been remarkably steady . . ., and Americans’ appetite for impeaching and removing Trump may have even started to plateau.” The early December Reuters/Ipsos poll describes opinion about whether Trump should face impeachment as “unchanged.” But what other kinds of questions are pollsters asking, and what do they tell us?
You may read about those questions at the link.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?