Impeachment? Nah. Democrats Should Keep Their Eyes on the Prize: the 2020 Election

Three key House committee chairmen holding Trump accountable: Jerrold Nadler of NY (Judiciary), Adam Schiff of CA (Intelligence) and Elijah Cummings of MD (Oversight). Source; NY Times.

There are other ways to hold the president accountable. And Trump will just weaponize his Senate acquittal.

After the release of the Mueller Report (which, by the way, most Americans have not read), there came this high-minded din calling for the impeachment of the president.

Democrats, including some prominent contenders on the campaign trail, are preaching that Congress really has no choice…but to fulfill its Constitutional (and moral) obligation.

Now while it’s true that there are certainly grounds for impeachment–Mueller counted 10 obstruction instances, ignoring subpoenas, blatant corruption etc.–Congress has no such obligation.

In a letter to her caucus last Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote: “[T]he facts regarding holding the president responsible can be gained outside impeachment hearings.”


High Crimes and Misdemeanors

The impeachment clause in our Constitution, Article II, Section 4, mentions removal from office for “Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The latter phrasing is not used in criminal procedures. And the Constitution assigned impeachment to Congress, not the courts.

Therefore, impeachment is a fundamentally political act. (In 1970, House minority leader Gerald Ford defined an impeachable offense as “whatever the majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at any moment in history.”)

So let’s pack in the high-mindedness. House Democrats should of course vigorously pursue ways to hold this lawless president accountable, thereby providing a national education about the way Trump operates. But House Democrats, through its own bully pulpit and lawmaking power, should start asserting their contrasting vision for America.

There is so much at stake.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls out Trump at the State of the Union Address, 2019. Source: Vox.
A Positive Face for America

Two members of the House Judiciary Committee, where impeachment proceeding would start, have interesting takes on the road House Democrats must travel.

Zoe Lofgren, Stanford grad and longtime California Congresswoman, had a recent conversation with a grocery clerk who disliked Trump, but added, “if Congress impeaches, nothing else will get done.”

Another Judiciary member, recently elected Texas Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, had this to say: “My district is a heavily…Latino district. They’re concerned about the bread and butter issues here. They’re more concerned about some of the things we have on the [Democratic] agenda: prescription drug prices, health care, good jobs, immigration reform.”

House Democrats would do well to start passing bills–strengthening Obamacare, trickle up tax reform, minimum wage and wage equality–that resonate with the American people. The House bills would have little chance of passing the Senate, but Democrats will carry a basketful of popular issues to the 2020 election.

“Benghazi” Trump?

Even as the above graphic shows President Trump in a weakened state, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the American people are clamoring for impeachment. According to the Morning Consult, overall support for impeachment in a mid-April poll was 34%: “The 5-point drop for impeachment since January was driven largely by Democrats, who soured on impeachment by 12 points, from 71% to 59%.”

It is clearly evident that the Trump administration is determined to ignore all Congressional subpoenas, depriving House committees tasked with oversight from witnesses and documents. It was suggested that Trump wants to “run out the clock.”

Here is an instance when educating Americans is so important. Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), a member of the Intelligence Committee, told Politico:

We need to put some color around the Mueller Report and really come to a conclusion in concert with the American people over what the proper response is…[W]e need to do more work and better understand what occurred.

Rep. Jim Himes

Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat running for president, had this observation: “I don’t think it serves [Trump] well to delay all this…if he knows his history, he will see that the courts are going to rule against him…and the rulings could come out at a time when Americans are thinking about who they want to lead them.

Andrew Goutman

Andrew Goutman is the editor of The Record.

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