Trump is daring Democrats to impeach. We must make sure he loses in the long run.

Round One goes to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler.

Those of us who lived through past constitutional crises can only stare with horror at the jaw-dropping atrocities against the rule of law that Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans are trying to pull.

Impeachment is too good for Trump, even as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says he’s “becoming self-impeachable” by his actions to hide anything and everything about the report prepared by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election. Impeachment also is too good for Attorney General William Barr, whose threats against Congress and refusals to cooperate with House committees make Richard Nixon’s Watergate crew look like Boy Scouts. The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress, sending the issue to the full House. Way to solidify your reputation there, Barr. But you don’t care, because your own Dept. of Justice would be the federal department acting on that contempt ruling.

The crew at FiveThirtyEight contends that, by going after Barr, House Democrats are using him as a Trump stand-in, sort of an “impeachment lite.” Sorry, but Barr is guilty all on his own. His behavior is worse than anything Eric Holder ever did, but that never stopped House Republicans from ranting and raving about “Fast and Furious” and holding him in contempt, even though he testified to Congress 10 times about the subject and turned over some 7,000 documents.

Republicans gave up any possible pretense of honor long ago. They threw whatever was left of their morality and ethics into the dumpster when they sold their souls to keep a Senate majority and to capture the White House in 2016. As Jennifer Rubin wrote in The Washington Post:

Republicans think they serve Trump. They are entirely unwilling to look beyond naked partisan concerns, to adhere to their oaths and to take seriously the assault that Trump wages on the Constitution. …

For a report that is supposed to entirely exonerate Trump, he and his minions are going to extreme lengths to conceal its complete contents, to prevent the attorney general from testifying and even to try to keep Mueller from testifying. If he did not obstruct justice before, he certainly is obstructing Congress now. The House should exercise all of its powers to end Trump’s autocratic spasm. Our democracy is at stake.

Just impeach the bastard already.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the Senate confirming ultra-conservative judges faster than a Kentucky racehorse. McConnell, Trump, and the rest of the GOP are counting on those judges to put the brakes on any attempt at accountability for their leader. They know he’s more crooked than San Francisco’s famous Lombard Street. But they don’t care, because they need his fanatical base for their own reelection.

Trump is betting that he can stretch out any court battles over his bogus claims of executive privilege and his challenges to all subpoenas. He’ll likely lose in the end, but he’s taking a chance that today’s court is different from the Supreme Court of 1974, when the justices ruled unanimously to order Richard Nixon to deliver tape recordings and other subpoenaed materials to a federal district court. According to a 1974 Washington Post story about that decision:

The court rejected Mr. Nixon’s broad claims of unreviewable executive privilege and said they “must yield to the demonstrated, specific need for evidence in a pending criminal trial.”

The President said he was “disappointed” by the decision but said he would comply. His lawyer said the time-consuming process of collecting and indexing the tapes would begin immediately.

Instead, Trump is counting on the justices of 2019 to throw precedent out the long vertical windows of the Supreme Court building and rule in his favor. Trump obviously thinks the conservative majority work for him, especially the two justices appointed by Trump (really the Federalist Society). And even if the justices rule against him, who believes Trump will abide by that decision? Nixon complied, but will Trump? By all accounts, he’s never followed the rule of law his entire life. Likely, he figures, who’s going to stop him?

Remember that one of the impeachment counts the House was working on when Nixon resigned was obstruction of Congress. Trump, Barr, and their fellow Republicans aren’t even pretending that they have any intention of cooperating with Congress’ role of executive oversight. Trump will obstruct, obstruct, obstruct all the way to the courthouse.

With the latest claims of executive privilege and acts of obstruction, Trump is practically daring Democrats to impeach him. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has always been measured in his comments about the Mueller report, saying he respected the conclusion that Mueller felt he couldn’t make a case for criminal conspiracy (obstruction of justice is obviously a very different matter). He also has held back on recommending impeachment. But Trump’s actions now are forcing the issue. As Schiff told Greg Sargent of The Washington Post:

If things continue on their current course, it will escalate the chances that “we end up in a constitutional confrontation,” and will add to “the weight behind an impeachment process.” …

Schiff is talking about an impeachment inquiry as something that Democrats may be forced to resort to, in response to continued across-the-board stonewalling from Trump, regardless of what Republicans think.

Trump is betting that public opinion will be in his favor. Americans are evenly split on impeachment, mostly along party lines. If the House does impeach, Trump figures that will fire up his base. But they’re probably as fired up as they’re going to get. And they don’t care that he’s committing contempt of Congress along with breaking countless other laws; that he lost more than $1 billion in bad business deals in the 1980s and 1990s (he tweeted that such real estate write-offs were “sport”); that he’s ballooning the deficit; or that he’s causing Midwest farmers to declare bankruptcies at record rates (bankruptcies doubled in 2018 compared with what they were in 2008, thanks to Trump’s tariffs and trade war). If hearing him brag about grabbing women by the pussy didn’t stop his base from voting for him, Trump reasons, why would they care about his illegal acts that warrant impeachment?

Most political scandals take a long time to develop and even longer to investigate. But public opinion can change, as this report from the Pew Research Center shows. At the beginning of the Watergate scandal in 1973, Richard Nixon’s approval ratings soared way above 50 percent before dropping to 24 percent by the time he resigned. Public opinion supporting Nixon’s impeachment went from 19 percent in the summer of 1973 to 57 percent by the time of his resignation.

I know, I know. There was no Fox News during Watergate. And even if Trump is impeached, the Senate will never remove him from office.

But Trump will face the ultimate court of public opinion — that of voters — in November 2020. We must make sure there are more of us on the side of the Constitution than there are on the side of ridiculing the oath all those lawmakers swore the day they took office.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on May 12, 2019.

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