It would be a lie to tell you that I don’t think this president deserves to be impeached, or that I don’t agree that the rule of law is imperiled if he is not impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate. Intellectually, impeachment is the only answer to the immoral, unlawful attacks on democracy that are Donald Trump’s presidency.
But unfortunately, rational thought and rule of law aren’t even real things anymore politically speaking, thanks to Senate Republicans and Donald Trump, and so it is against my own moral thought process that I have to warn that Democrats moving to impeach Trump right now would put vulnerable people at risk.
Let’s walk through this. But first, this position doesn’t come out of concern for party politics. I know it’s not smart for Democrats to try to impeach Trump right now, because while polling shows Americans slowly moving toward it, they aren’t there yet. But that is the concern of strategists, and not the concern of the people.
My issue is the people. And right now, if Trump were impeached by the House, the Republican-led Senate wouldn’t convict. What would happen then?
Many smart people argue that even if Republicans don’t convict, Democrats would get information from impeachment proceedings, and certainly this is true. Democrats are actually leading several impeachment-like investigations currently, but could they get more under the flag of actual impeachment? Yes.
Smart people also argue that to not impeach Trump is to negate the rule of law. This is also true. Of course, the abdication of this duty is on Republicans’ shoulders, but smart people want Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to do it anyway, because rule of law. And this is 100% true.
It’s very popular in liberal political circles to call for impeachment right now. So I get that my opinion here will be very unpopular, but I hope people will be willing to walk through this with me, because lives are at stake.
This is not about our feelings for this President, or his absolute contempt for the rule of law. This is about how best to cut his power off before he kills more babies, hurts more immigrants and refugees, harms more people of color, LGBTQ people, women, journalists and more.
I have my eye on these people, because that is the point of covering politics to me. I am to report on what is most helpful for people and what is doable within the framework of our government. It’s easier to scream for impeachment, and I might spend some of my private time doing just that.
But feelings don’t get us results.
Telling Democrats to impeach Trump is very popular and I agree, but what does it get vulnerable people?
– Trump won’t be convicted by the Senate.
– The rule of law will then be even more undermined than if the House hadn’t tested Republicans’ loyalty.
– Trump will use impeachment that goes nowhere as exoneration to attack the rule of law even more.
– This will not only embolden Trump, but leave him with nothing left to lose.
– Impeachment is not popular (yet, but it is growing in popularity) and thus could cause Democrats to not only lose the House, but fail to take back the Senate when the map is better for them than 2018, and fail to take back the White House.
The country has a lot at stake and a lot to lose if Democrats don’t proceed carefully.
If this seems like I’m making a political argument for Democrats to stay in power, I am, but not because they are Democrats. My argument is for anything that will best protect vulnerable people.
Here’s a photo of what went on in Russia today, because this is the kind of cruel, undemocratic “leadership” to which Trump aspires and he is already claiming the police and military to be his to use for his political purposes: “Police officers detain a participant during a rally held by LGBT activists and their supporters on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in central Saint Petersburg, Russia May 17, 2019”:
The best scenario right now, given the Republican abdication of duty to their country, is the House slipping the information they uncover to a state like New York to proceed with indictments against this president if the law calls for it, and for Democrats to pass a law that a president can’t run out the clock on indictments by being president.
Of course, Republicans in the Senate would have to agree to that… and we all know there isn’t a patriotic bone to be found on the Republican side of the aisle when it comes to Trump.
We also need a law that a person who cheats with the help of a foreign power to get into office will be automatically kicked out of office once the evidence is reasonably considered to be indisputable (we can’t cede reality to Republicans’ version of it, so this is a rabbit hole for another day). But again, to protect our country we run into the GOP firewall in the Senate, which is where Democrats need to focus their energy even more than the White House.
Any way you walk down a Democratic-led impeachment path right now, you end in more harm to innocent people. The very people liberals want to protect are the people who will be harmed.
I am NOT arguing that the rule of law should be ignored for political benefit. If I thought we could protect vulnerable people while Democrats lost politically, I would be pushing for the rule of law to take precedent. Because of course, under normal circumstances it should and let’s face it, Democrats have been pushovers in the past on this very issue.
I am not a fan, nor am I condoning letting any politician get away with a crime because it helps Democrats politically. In fact, one of the things I write about a lot is my concern that we have incentivized committing crimes to get into the White House and then using that crime to protect one’s criminal cabal from prosecution for other crimes. This is a real crisis.
If I were addressing how we got into this mess, besides Republicans being unable to win national elections fairly anymore due to their extremism, I would point to Democrats letting Republicans get away with assaults on democracy for far too long, even though the current mood among Democrats is much more steely spine than it has been in the past. If Trump has given us anything, it is, FINALLY?, a Democratic Party that understands how to fight.
This isn’t about defending Speaker Pelosi (she’s astute enough to see where impeachment goes right now and I would bet that the moment that changes, she will pounce; people are being silly if they really believe that she doesn’t want Trump out of office) or House Democrats, many of whom want impeachment right now. It’s about what being a liberal is based upon; caring about vulnerable people.
Democrats can’t protect vulnerable people if they have no political power, and Republicans are only interested in taking liberties away from vulnerable people, caging babies and separating families.
Everyone who wants to see Trump impeached and who values the rule of law should be publicly protesting those who are telling Trump to ignore subpoenas and spitting on democracy by enabling a hostile foreign power to interfere with our elections on their behalf; this is the only way to get the needle to move on impeachment.
Move the public perception by demanding impeachment from Republicans. Make them answer why they are failing to protect this country right now, when it is still under attack by Russia.
Impeachment has to mean something or not only Democrats and vulnerable people, but this entire country, will be doomed. Impeachment can’t mean anything with Trump’s posse of Putinites in the Senate.
Strategically speaking, but not politically, we need to clean Republicans out of the Senate and then prosecute Donald Trump and anyone who enabled him.
Trump and his enablers belong in jail. But most of all, they need to be removed from power, where they can no longer hurt innocent people.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.