A new poll shows that among Democrats, the drumbeat for impeachment proceedings is getting louder and more intense.
At 27%, overall support for impeachment is up 10% from last month. Another 24% of those polled support continuing the investigation. The effect of these numbers, in isolation of any other consideration, is bad news for Donald Trump.
Beyond Trump’s base, there is a near consensus contradicting his and Senator McConnell’s claim that this matter is over.
If history is instructive, this can only get worse for Trump as public investigations continue.
One would be hard pressed to believe that Trump’s disastrous interview with George Stephanapoulos helped his public image and his credibility.
In fact, support for impeaching Trump is greater than it was for Nixon when his impeachment proceedings began. Earlier this month, Greg Sargent pointed to the fact that only 19% of Americans supported Nixon’s impeachment when hearings began.
Not surprisingly, even when the end came, the majority of Republicans remained opposed to Nixon’s impeachment.
Today, support for impeaching the President is, again, 27%. The key thing about this is the increased support that came from hearings putting out information and the public learning it. The case against Nixon was minor when you compare his misdeeds to those of Donald Trump. We have video of Trump admitting to one of the counts of obstruction, cited in the redacted Mueller report. We have tweets.
The case can be made on what’s already in the public record. But it has to be made in made better-known to the public by way of public hearings. If most Americans don’t have the time or inclination to read the Mueller report, it’s very unlikely they will read reams of transcripts.
This explains frustration in some circles with decisions like allowing Hope Hicks and Robert Mueller to testify privately, but with transcripts available to the public.
We already know that pundits and analysts will read those transcripts because it’s part of the job. But someone with two jobs is more likely to spend their few minutes of free time with their families, or catching up on errands, rest or pretty much anything but reading a transcript.
Serious thought about impeaching Trump recognizes that nothing is a sure thing, no matter how open and shut it may appear to people who have been working with it every day for a few years.
Impeachment is the Constitution’s nuclear option and that means it’s important to consider the risks that go with impeachment options vs. the risks that go with doing nothing. Ideally, a similar analysis should be done when considering the benefits.
Objectively speaking, valid points can be made on both sides of both assessments. But not all points are created equal. Some are stronger and have more far reaching implications.
Some hard realities include the fact that Donald Trump has a base that probably would still support him if he killed someone on 5th Avenue and it was live-streamed on Fox. That base is a bit larger than the number of people who continued to support Nixon to the very end.
One must recognize that understanding these numbers is part of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s job – not only in terms of considering the political risks, but also considering the risks for the country’s very existence as a democratically-governed republic.
And that is where things turn indisputably in favor of impeachment proceedings or at least censure.
Since facts about Trump’s impeachable offenses began to emerge, some of the country’s greatest experts on the Constitution have evolved from outright opposition to impeachment proceedings to arguing that opposition to impeachment, at this point in time, amounts to ripping that remedy out of the Constitution.
Harvard Law Professor, Laurence Tribe is one person who went through this evolution. In an opinion piece, published by the Washington Post on June 5th, Tribe offered an alternative to sending articles of impeachment to the Grim Reaper.
“The House, assuming an impeachment inquiry leads to a conclusion of Trump’s guilt, could choose between presenting articles of impeachment even to a Senate pre-committed to burying them and dispensing with impeachment as such while embodying its conclusions of criminality or other grave wrongdoing in a condemnatory “Sense of the House” resolution far stronger than a mere censure. The resolution, expressly and formally proclaiming the president impeachable but declining to play the Senate’s corrupt game, is one that even a president accustomed to treating everything as a victory would be hard-pressed to characterize as a vindication.”
This is the closest to a bullet proof proposal that I’ve seen. We already know that if articles of impeachment are sent to the Senate, they will meet the same fate as the 200+ bills passed by the House.
But, it’s also stronger than censure, which doesn’t even seem like a slap on the wrist considering just the potential offenses cited in the Mueller report. And, it’s likely that since Mueller’s mandate was extremely limited, that separate House investigations will uncover more information, more offenses or both.
A vote for an impeachment resolution could be held following public hearings. Public hearings are key, because like it or not, most of America is not going to read through reams of transcripts, even if they’re transcripts of testimony by Robert Mueller or Hope Hicks.
As Tribe pointed out not even the greatest liar of all time, Donald Trump, could find exoneration in such a resolution. He may try to remove the stain of impeachment with Putin’s bleach, but he will be unsuccessful and he will enter the 2020 election with that stain on his name.
I fear for the future of America if the House opts for just hoping that Trump will lose in 2020. Yes, it will get rid of him, but it won’t remove the precedent that he established.
Trump is the criminal president. His closest advisors and cabinet are a collection of serial ethics offenders and law breakers. We saw how Trump and Kellyanne Conway reacted to recommendations that she be fired because of her series of Hatch Act violations.
We’re at the point that we’re digging through the volume of ethics violations and broken laws to see if there is anyone in the Trump administration that could pass the ethical/legal/moral standards of a pre-Trump administration.
This culture of corruption and criminality won’t just go away by ushering in a new president, even if that president is a Democrat.
No matter what, it will be necessary to pass bills that spell out a legal obligation to inform authorities if a hostile foreign power offers you dirt on an opponent. We will need to rectify the DOJ policy against indicting sitting presidents, which hadn’t contemplated the possibility of a Donald Trump.
We don’t know what the future will bring. It’s impossible to anticipate every conceivable variant. But we can make it more difficult for people like Donald Trump to use the presidency as a shield of immunity for their criminal behavior.
And if we are going to avoid impeachment based on the premise that Trump can play the victim card, that means contemplating the implications of doing nothing. That begins with ripping the impeachment power out of the Constitution.
Doing nothing would amount to dispensing with the bedrock of American democracy, the rule of law. It would amount to saying a president can lie, cheat and steal with impunity. The law, also facts and truth, are what the president declares them to be. That includes the Constitution, which, until now has been the firewall that empowered us to criticize the government, demand that the government prove charges against us, and provide us with a bases to confront accusers.
The potential implications are vast, infinite and amount to destroying the great American experiment.
Ms. Woodbury has a graduate degree in political science, with a minor in law. She is a qualified expert on political theory with a specific interest in the nexus between political theories and models and human rights.
Based on her interest in human rights and the threats that authoritarian regimes are to them, Ms. Woodbury’s masters thesis examined the influence of politics on the enforcement of international criminal law was cited in several academic studies.
Published work includes case summaries for the War Crimes Research Office.
She has an extensive background doing legal research in international and domestic law.
Ms. Woodbury’s work for politicusUSA includes articles on voting rights, the right to asylum and other civil/human rights.