House Democrats have, after months of months of dithering, pulled the trigger on impeaching President Trump. After word leaked of the whistleblower complaint (according to the New York Times it was filed by a CIA staffer assigned to the National Security Council), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi authorized an impeachment investigation to move forward.
The key event was a conversation earlier this year between Trump and the president of Ukraine. The claim is that Trump implicitly linked U.S. support of Ukraine against an aggressive Russia to helping his personal attorney find dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden. The whistleblower asserts that administration officials tried to hide the call (and others) from scrutiny.
“The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law,” said Pelosi. Former Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAulliffe asserted, “The guy has got to be stopped.” Some Democrats believe impeachment by the House will be a death blow to Trump’s 2020 re-election effort.
Trump was himself enraged. At the United Nations last week he alternated between dismissing the whistleblower as uninformed to accusing those who provided information of being treasonous.
His media allies blasted away. Rush Limbaugh fabricated a story of Mitt Romney and Nancy Pelosi meeting on the topic and Romney supposedly promising 20 GOP senators were ready to support removal from office. Sean Hannity opened his show describing impeachment as “the radical, destructive, delusional Democratic Party and the media mob, their allies in crime, which has now descended into complete and utter madness.”
Fox News’ Chris Wallace called those kinds of comments “not surprising, but it is astonishing, and I think deeply misleading.”
Democrats are not all-in on impeachment. Some are nervous that the impeachment push will distract from the 2020 presidential campaigns by their own candidates. Others wonder if a likely acquittal by the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate might benefit Trump as occurred with Clinton in 1999. Democrats in competitive districts and states worry they will be singed by the whole thing.
National polling shows a jump in Americans who now favor impeachment but the numbers are not overwhelming, barely above a plurality in favor.
Idaho Rep. Russ Fulcher ridiculed the effort, claiming, “[s]ince the day President Trump was elected to office, this has been the Democrats’ strategy.”
U.S. Sen. Jim Risch thinks the whole thing is overblown. He encouraged Idahoans to read the whistleblower complaint.
Sen. Crapo wants to wait and let the facts develop.
Rep. Mike Simpson indicates he has “seen nothing that warrants impeachment”.
I personally think Trump is weird and undisciplined. But, I share the opinion expressed this week by former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer: “Impeachment is not a game. It’s the Constitution’s safety valve and it should only be applied in the gravest of threats to our nation and system of government.”
A bizarre and ill-advised effort to smear a political opponent falls short of that high standard. Using impeachment to impact the forthcoming 2020 elections is sort of tawdry in and of itself.
Congress needs to rise to a higher level. It is time for all sides to come together in a bipartisan manner and show displeasure in a way short of impeachment. Democrats should embrace a tool that many thought was the appropriate remedy against President Clinton: Trump should be censured by both Houses.
And, then, both parties should duke it out in 2020 to determine the next president.