A short list of things Donald Trump has done since Barr’s summary of the Mueller report came out:
—He cleaned house at the Department of Homeland Security, including Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen after she refused to carry out what she believed to be illegal orders.
—Days later, he ordered the Department of Defense to send between 9,000 to 10,000 more troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. There are 2,800 there now.
—He threatened multiple times to open investigations into his political enemies.
—He Blocked House Oversight Committee subpoena for White House adviser Stephen Miller to testify about the Trump’s immigration policies, including his freshly-tweeted plan to bus migrants to “sanctuary cities.”
—His re-election campaign refused to pledge they wouldn’t use stolen information in 2020, like they did in 2016. (In contrast, the Democratic National Committee and the 2020 Democratic candidates made that pledge.)
—He opposed requests for current and former White House aides to testify to Congress.
—He said the White House will fight “all” subpoenas, meaning the decision wouldn’t be predetermined on their individual merits. This likely won’t hold up in court.
—He instructed former director of White House personnel security not to comply with a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee. The official, Carl Kline, was in charge of the White House security clearance process, which Trump reportedly unilaterally overrode on more than two dozen occasions, including ordering exceptions for his daughter and son-in-law.
—His lawyers asked the IRS not to comply with a request from the House Ways and Means Committee for six years of Trump’s tax returns.
—The Treasury Department missed that committee’s deadline to submit the tax returns. Twice.
—He committed several other possibly obstructive acts, including witness intimidation and impeding a congressional investigation.
—He tweeted that if Democrats tried to impeach him, he would “head to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
—When Mexican soldiers drew guns on two U.S. National Guard troops, he contradicted his own Defense Department’s statement about the incident by claiming the Mexicans “probably” did it as a “diversionary tactic for drug smugglers.” (The Defense Department said it “was an honest mistake by the Mexican soldiers,” because though the U.S. soldiers were north of the actual border, they were south of the border fence. Seems an extended border wall—which in most places would have to be constructed north of the border—might create more national emergencies than it solves.)
—He said he’d send “ARMED” soldiers to the border in response.
—He offered CBP commissioner Kevin McAleenan a pardon if he did what Trump wanted, which means Trump knew he was asking McAleenan to violate U.S. and international immigration law. (Trump promoted McAleenan to acting DHS Secretary in Nielsen’s absence.)
—And last but not least, he incited violence multiple times against a sitting Muslim member of Congress.
The decision couldn’t be easier: Congress must impeach Trump.
Democratic leaders, however—such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer—have repeatedly signaled their reluctance to impeach the President, even after Mueller essentially asked Congress to take up the issue. Why? They believe impeachment would divide the country, so much so that it might cost them the 2020 election. The preferred alternative: Vote Trump out.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer pointed out the election is only 18 months away. Counterpoint: The election is 18 months away. If Democrats do nothing now, it will give Trump license to indulge the worst of his authoritarian instincts until he gets voted out. Even if a Democrat wins the White House, Trump will have three more months in which he’ll have nothing to lose. In that time he’ll redefine what it means to be a lame duck president.
Sure, if Democrats impeach Trump he’ll use that to attack them as divisive in the election. Now, this might come as a shock to Pelosi and the like, but a) the country is hopelessly divided; b) it’s almost entirely the fault of Trump and the GOP; and c) Americans across the political spectrum won’t just start holding hands and singing Youngbloods tunes because Democrats didn’t impeach the president. And the calculation is even weirder than this: They’re betting not only that they’ll win the election—not a given—but that impeachment will cost them the election.
But here’s some more news for the Democrats: Trump will run on impeachment whether they go ahead with it or not. If they don’t impeach, he’ll say Democrats couldn’t back up their claims, and even his enemies know he did nothing wrong. He’ll make them look weak—fairly—and, yes, divisive for all their empty talk and lies about him.
In fact, if Democrats don’t impeach Trump, they will have done what Mueller couldn’t: exonerate Trump of his crimes.
In other words, the cynics are right: It doesn’t matter if Congress impeaches Trump. The election will play out the same way.
At the same time, it couldn’t matter more.
Refusing to impeach Trump for his dozens of impeachable offenses—including those outside the Mueller report, such as repeated violations of the Oath of Office (here he did it in a tweet), repeated abuses of power, and as noted by federal prosecutors in New York last year, conspiring in campaign finance crimes—also sets a disturbing new precedent incompatible with American democracy. It would mean presidents can at their pleasure undermine the law and the constitution and face no consequences. Democrats would effectively overrule precedents set in the Nixon and Clinton impeachment that no person is above the law.
Look. Here is Senator Lindsey Graham (then a representative) speaking on the floor of Congress ahead of Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment, pointing out that the moment Richard Nixon failed to comply with a congressional subpoena was the moment he committed an impeachable offense. Trump has refused to comply with subpoenas, and just said publicly he would “fight all subpoenas.”
Clinton’s impeachment was famously unpopular, and he wasn’t convicted in the Senate. (That would almost certainly be true for Trump now.) But the move didn’t cost the GOP politically. They won the White House in 2000, and between 2002 and 2007 gained control of the entire government.
It’s not the least bit controversial. It’s an easy call, and the constitution demands Congress take on this responsibility.
But what do they impeach him for? Trump claimed he can’t be impeached because “only high crimes and misdemeanors can lead to impeachment,” and that “there were no crimes by me.” Putting aside the second part, which is not true, Congress can impeach even if the President hasn’t been charged with a crime. “High crimes and misdemeanors” in the constitution is a term of art—it’s not literal crimes and misdemeanors—and it gives Congress a wide berth. In fact, Congress should bring every count of impeachment they can, not just obstruction, and they should bring them all at once so we can have a public airing of all of Trump’s horrors. The long list from over the last two years will remind and shock the public about just how sick, dumb, and dangerous Trump is. All but the most radical of Trump’s MAGA cult would have to concede it: Trump must go, and we can’t tolerate another president like him.
And I don’t know why Democrat leaders can’t see this, but that is what American voters want.