ll along, the reasons not to impeach Donald Trump have been pretty clear:
Forcing swing district House Democrats to cast a vote in favor could imperil their reelection bids, thus again putting hard-fought control of the House of Representatives up for grabs
Focusing attention on impeachment could alienate voters who vastly prefer hearing Democratic contenders talk about things like health care, income inequality, climate change and racism/sexism
Virtually no voter is undecided on his or her 2020 vote; Trump supporters and their opposites are already locked in, so this makes no difference
There is virtually no chance the GOP-controlled Senate would vote to impeach. Thus, the whole thing is moot. (And this assumes that the evil Mitch McConnell would not figure a way to block the vote altogether.)
But these reasons ignored the most frustrating one, the one that’s always been most compelling to me. There was no simple way to put Trump’s offenses into a single straightforward charge.
What do you tell voters? He lies? Yep, thousands of times. He mocks people because of their gender, race or disability? Sure, that's how he has fun. He’s a borderline pervert, boasting about putting his hands where they shouldn’t be? Of course. Paying off porn stars? (At least he paid for something!) Continuing to line his own pockets dozens of different ways, thus violating the emoluments clause? Predictably so--and at every turn. Then finally, and most criminally, obstructing justice at a truly breathtaking pace. Ordering underlings to stonewall? Blocking every legitimate demand from Congress and investigators? Firing anyone who didn’t fall in line? Yes, yes and yes.
Daily, he’s said “fine, you don’t like it? Come and get me”—and so far, no one has.
To repeat, the litany of sins is so long that no one could coherently put this together in a way that wouldn’t look like a potential witch hunt to an independent observer. It’s absurd. There’s so much there…where do you start?
Now, all that’s changed.
There is nothing more sacred in our democracy than the right to vote. Who has that right? Who doesn’t? Who gets to decide? Histories have been written on this issue alone. But until Donald Trump, no President requested that the vote should be influenced by a foreign power—in the first case, Russia.
He stood on a campaign stage in 2016 and effectively begged the Soviets to release emails they’d hacked in order to discredit his opponent, Hillary Clinton. He didn’t request the misdeed—he only asked that it be made public. So, he got away with it.
Now it’s different. He’s demanding the that the evidence be created in the first place. He’s admitted talking to another Eastern European leader about conducting an investigation into the family of his most likely opponent, Joe Biden. In all likelihood, he staked the continuation of U.S. foreign aid to that country, the Ukraine, on assurances that the investigation would happen—and turn out how he wants. The evidence supporting the Biden probe is non-existent. The nature of Trump’s crime is obvious. He’s moved beyond the “high crimes and misdemeanors” language of the Constitution to consideration of the two words that precede it: “treason” and “bribery”.
Accordingly, the case to the U.S. electorate can be clearly stated: “Do you support any President going to any foreign power and asking their help to decide a Presidential election?” It’s not hard to help a voter imagine a President from that voter’s rival party doing deals with North Korea or China or Iran. Would that be OK? Or should we act to prevent this precedent from being set?
The proposition is clear, and it flips the table on the prior arguments. Rather than Democrats being forced to support their vote to impeach…suddenly the GOP toadies are asked why they think it’s OK to have some Middle East royal family someday purchasing a U.S. presidency. It puts the Senate in play. The shoe’s on the other foot—and it feels tight.
Trump will continue to obstruct on this and hope that something else comes up to distract the public. But he’s got no power to prevent Democrats on the campaign trail from including talk of treason and bribery at every stop.They don’t have to abandon those issues voters care about most; as I’ve said before, we can walk and chew Trump at the same time.
If things proceed like this, and Trump’s collar begins to feel more like a tourniquet, there’s one option for him no one’s yet talked about.
Some old timers remember the day that newly minted President Gerald Ford announced a full pardon for his predecessor, the disgraced Richard Nixon. Much of the public howled. Nixon remained disgraced—but out of jail.
If Trump serves out his full term and is replaced by a Democrat, there is no chance a pardon happens for him. But if he steps down before November of next year…and plastic president Mike Pence dispenses the pardon…Trump is off Scotland-free. He can just go play golf wherever he wants--something that’s not possible from behind bars.
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