In re Impeachment

politicians

Recently, Nancy Pelosi was asked this (implied) question:

There have been increasing calls, including from some of your members, for impeachment of the president.

And she gave this answer:

I’m not for impeachment. This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.

The interviewer then chose to move on to other topics.

Problematic Reasoning

Regrettably, Speaker Pelosi’s language was imprecise and her stated reasons were ill considered. (Hear me: I speak of her “stated reasons,” not what she might have been thinking, or what she might have articulated poorly.)

One. Contrary to the apparent implications of her language, there are already many “compelling and overwhelming” bases for articles of impeachment.

Two. Mere “divisiveness,” in and of itself, is not a sufficient reason to avoid doing that which is constitutionally compelled, in the present circumstances.

Three. “And he’s just not worth it” doesn’t make much sense, in the context in which she uses the phrase.

But is Her Overall Point Nevertheless Sound?

Yes, she probably is correct.

As matters now stand, impeachment based on the “compelling and overwhelming” things we already know about would result in a vote not to covict in the Senate. The effect might be to drive away some traditional Republican voters who might otherwise vote Democratic in 2020.

That said, one could certainly make an argument that constitutional duty should trump, so to speak, mere political calculation.

But the big point is that there is no need to resolve that difficult question right now. Don’t tie yourself in knots over hypothetical issues. Wait till all the facts are in. See if there isn’t something there that will make most of the Republican senators want to vote for impeachment. Or, at least something that will severely harm them when they try to defend it and vote to keep Trump in office.

If there’s something that will make them want to vote for impeachment, then well and good. Problem solved.

If there’s something in the facts that just puts them in a terrible political bind, that’s also fine. Just grab those Republican senators down where the hairs are short. Squeeze them hard. And keep on squeezing.

In short, wait for all the information to come in before making whatever difficult choice you have to make between constitutional duty and political expediency.

Because it may well turn out that constitutional duty and political expediency will both point in the same direction.

And wouldn’t that be nice?

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Today’s readers come from six countries, the largest number being from Canada. Hey, guys! Try not to laugh at us too much, OK?

Impeachment?

before its time

Let me be clear. The case against Trump, damning as it is, has not yet been fully developed. My advice would be: impeach no president before his time.

That said, in light of my two immediately prior posts, here and here, and in light of the spectacle that took place on Michael Cohen Day, let me say this about that.

Many of my progressive brethren and sistern have feared impeachment, because it might “turn off moderates and independents.” That is certainly a metaphysical possibility. But in law and business and politics, you have to play the odds. And after Wednesday, I think it’s the unhinged Republicans who are much more likely to “turn off the middle.”

So, I say, when the time is ripe for impeachment, just bring it on.

be sure youre right

All Seriousness Aside

As I said, all seriousness aside.

An Abstract Scenario: Admit the Truth and Explain It, Or Just Keep on Fibbin’

Let us say you have a client with a problem. If I were cute, I would call him Individual-1 or Client-1. But cuteness is alien to my nature, so I shall call this abstract, hypothetical client, Client X.

Client X has a problem, and his problem is that he has engaged in a course of conduct that is highly embarrassing, particularly in view of the fact that he is running for high public office. Though embarrassing, this conduct is not illegal. Or at least it isn’t illegal in any obvious and easily demonstrated respect.

You will immediately see that you and Client X have two choices. One choice is that, when confronted with the facts, your client admits the facts, gets you to explain persuasively that there is no illegality, and then brazens out the bad publicity.

This is plainly the better of two unpleasant choices.

But Client X does not want to take the better choice. Client X wants, instead, to lie through his teeth.

And why, pray tell, is Client X so determined to lie like a rub? First of all, for the blindingly obvious reason that the truth is both embarrassing and politically damaging. Second, and almost equally salient, is the fact that Client X is a lying liar who has been telling whoppers all his life. In consequence, Client X is firmly convinced that he is an accomplished liar and can keep on getting away with his prevarications. So why not risk the embarrassment?

The Downsides of Fibbin’ Instead of Explainin’

In the fever swamp of your client’s brain the second choice seems the better option, but in fact it is the worse option, for at least these three reasons.

First, it’s not going to work: given the fishbowl in which Client X now operates, the lie will be found out.

Second, as and when the inevitable occurs and the lie is discovered, many will assume (not necessarily correctly, but assume they will) that Client X would not have lied in the first place unless the facts were really damning.

And third, having learned of Client X’s lie, they will be less inclined to believe him about other matters, even if, mirabile dictu, he is speaking the truth.

“That’s My Story, and I’m Stickin’ to it—Until I Can’t Stick with it Any Longer”

Trump’s current story about the Trump Moscow Tower appears to be that, yes, he was trying to do a deal up to mid-2016; and yes, he has been lying about it ever since; but no nevermind, because now that he has been caught, he can explain it all away.

Given all that, he asks rhetorically, where lies the harm in the fact that I have been pulling your leg?

This is what I have flippantly called the so-I-lied defense and the so-you-caught-me defense.

These phrases, by the way, are not original with me. It was a not uncommon in the world of corporate defense litigation to see people choosing the lie over the embarrassing explanation.

But What About the Kompromat?

If, however, we go beyond the abstract question–lie or admit and explain–and look at the actual circumstances, we see that Trump–Client X–has another big problem: by lyiingl, he has given kompromat, blackmail material, to the Ruskies.

Haven’t heard a Trump response to that one.

On the other hand, I don’t think that argument will bother the base.

So, as a matter of prudence, probably the you-make-yourself-vulnerable-to-blackmail-by-an-enemy-of-the-United-States argument won’t justify impeachment, because it probably won’t carry enough weight with the base.

And What if the Facts Show the Ruskies Actually USED the Kompromat to Try to Bend Trump to their Will?

Then, I think, we would be in impeachment territory. Mr. and Mrs. Jones would not, I believe, be amused.

And What if the Facts Show that Trump Actually Succumbed to Russian Blackmail?

Then we will be off to the races.

Don’t Get Ahead of the Facts, Don’t Explain the Significance of a Document You Haven’t Seen and Read

be sure you're right

BUT WHEN THE FACTS DO COME IN, TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION

Michael Tomasky: Planning with a Straight Edge Ruler, Assuming the Continued Viability of the Cult of Trump

Right now, I have the sense that some of my progressive brethren and sistern are thinking as if they have been lobotomized. Over in the left brain, careful, fact-based conversations are going on, trying to project conditions into 2020 and beyond, on the assumption that nothing much will have changed by 2020 and beyond, and we will still be divided into the same warring tribes, of nearly equal sizes, each trying to vote the other into submission.

The latter phrase I owe to a fine article I just read. It’s by Michael Tomasky, it’s titled The Midterms: So Close, So Far Apart, and I believe it’s behind the pay wall of The New York Review of Books. (But then, if you don’t subscribe to The New York Review of Books, then you really should remedy that oversight.)

Tomasky does an excellent job of laying out a very guardedly optimistic picture, and includes some good thoughts on what Democrats might do to remedy the tribalism and gain some needed votes over in Trumpland. He focuses on agriculture, rural and small town development, and the opoid crisis. I would add in a coherent immigration policy.

But Tomasky, like many other left-brained thinkers, ignores whatever new crises are coming Trump’s way. Tomasky thinks House Democrats should investigate and expose all of Trump’s misdeeds, but should eschew impeachment, on the ground that it would surely fail in the Senate, and do more harm than good to progressives.

I, myself, have been of this view, until recent days. But recent developments, I believe, should cause us to begin to rethink this view. Cautiously, prudently, but fearlessly, where the facts take us.

Opining on an Unseen Document

My headline urges, Don’t [Try to or Pretend to] Explain the Significance of a Document You Haven’t Seen and Read. That document would be Trump’s written interrogatory response to Mueller, a document on which vast numbers of talking heads have opined, though none has seen it.

If Trump lied in writing to Mueller, on a matter where he clearly knew the truth but chose to prevaricate, then Trump would have committed a clear criminal violation. And that would be a significant change in the situation.

But did he lie? To have a fully informed opinion, we would need to see the exact words of the questions and scrutinize the exact words of the answers. The answers may have been carefully framed and they may have been ambiguous. We just don’t know till we read the document.

Wait for the Facts—But Think Ahead, Contingently

More generally, don’t get over your skis. Wait for the facts.

That said, it’s OK, it’s prudent, and it’s highly appropriate to think ahead about what to do if the facts turn out to be as clear and as damning as they probably will be.

So let’s not make a prediction. Instead, let’s do a thought experiment and assume, solely for the sake of the discussion, that the facts turn out to show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that

  • Trump has acted in such a way as to supply kompromat to the Kremlin,
  • Putin has used that kompromat to affect Trump’s behavior, and that, accordingly,
  • Trump has willfully placed his personal business against ahead of American national interest,
  • Trump has committed perjury, e.g., in his written responses to Mueller, and that, as a general matter,
  • the Trump Organization is a criminal enterprise, engaged in money laundering and other felonious conduct.

then here’s what I say.

I say the House of Representatives has a duty to draw up articles of impeachment and to force a trial and a vote in the United States Senate.

And if there are senators who want to gaslight, who want to defend treason and financial corruption, and  want to cast a wholly unprincipled vote against impeachment, then they can just go ahead and do it.

Make my day.

For one thing, I think about one tenth to one fifth to one tenth of the 44.9 percent of our population who voted Republican in 2018 are not in the Cult of Trump, but voted Republican for other reasons.

Will that minority of the minority put up with Trump’s vile behavior? Yes, they will. Will they go for financial crime? Not so sure. How about proven treason? I don’t think so.

We need to peel those people off. And if we do peel those people off, then Republican voters are no longer 44.9 percent of the population. They are maybe 40 percent, maybe 38 percent, maybe even 35 percent.

And we vote them into submission.

Not forgetting, of course, to add in the rural redevelopment and opoid addiction treatment programs.

Fiat Justicia et Pereat Trumpus

cornered Trump

I’m a fan of Ruth Marcus, and I enjoyed reading her post yesterday, beginning with its headline: Poll by sinking poll, Trump inches toward impeachment.

Ruth speculates, somewhat inconclusively, on what may happen when an “activist Democratic base” pushes the House of Representatives toward impeachment—perhaps against the better judgment of its leaders—and the Senate finds it difficult of impossible to muster a two-thirds majority to remove Trump from office.

Though, as I said, I’m one of Ruth’s fans, I don’t think she has fully war gamed this out. Right or wrong, here’s how I see it.

Between now and the November elections

  • Republican candidates and activists will double down on fear, racism, and Trump sycophancy
  • trade war troubles will become increasingly salient, and, very probably,
  • several more new shoes will drop on Trump, as a consequence of his multifarious malfeasances,

all of which will lead to

  • Trump’s hard core supporters revving themselves up unbelievably, like kindergartners after an especially successful trick of treat expedition, but
  • serious depression of Republican support among the pseudo-respectable wing of what is left of the Republican Party.

Look again at those Florida primary results. Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump made the Republican gubernatorial primary a referendum on Donald Trump. And what happened? What happened was that 54 percent of Republican primary voters—a number equal to 33 percent of Democratic and Republican voters combined—voted to endorse Trump.

If Republicans can only run full out Trumpistas, and if full-out Trumpistas can only one third of the vote, then that, my friends, is not a winning strategy for the bad guys.

And so, the dilemma for Republican pols: you can’t win without Trump, and you can’t win with Trump.

Now, folks, put on your thinking caps. What’s the best way for a Republican pol to escape the otherwise inescapable dilemma?

Think hard.

The best way, in fact the only way, to escape the dilemma is to THROW TRUMP UNDER THE BUS.

And here’s the bonus: YOU GET MIKE PENCE FOR PRESIDENT.

And that will look a hell of a lot like a win-win situation for the Republican pols.

Meanwhile, in News from Mike Allen of Axios:

The bottom line: But President Trump has never been more isolated from allies he needs most.

  • The public is against him: A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found a record 60% of Americans view him unfavorably.
  • Guess who those same people like a lot better: Robert Mueller (63% support his investigation) and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (64% say he shouldn’t be fired; 62% side with him on the Mueller probe).
  • His legal team is shrinking. Not only is top White House lawyer Don McGahn leaving soon, but McGahn deputy counsel Annie Donaldson is expected to leave soon after. “[T]he White House Counsel’s Office has dwindled to about 25 lawyers, down from roughly 35,” per the WashPost.
  • His allies are buckling, with embarrassing admissions in the plea deal by personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
  • Immunity has been granted to his gossip shield, David Pecker, CEO of the National Enquirer’s publisher; and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.
  • Tensions with staff run high as ever. He has never been close to many of his top staffers, and this is more true than ever.
  • The N.Y. Times’ Maggie Haberman tweets: “His aides say he is behaving as if he is cornered.”

God’s Choice for Our Next President

President Pence

I think we may be forgiven for deriving some innocent merriment from the enchanted ramblings of Pastor Kilpatrick. But, all seriousness aside, let’s think this through.

My name is not Nostradamus, but I can apply basic logic to the known facts.

The good ship Trump is taking on water. Faster and faster. Only this morning the boss of the National Inquirer was granted immunity to tell his story about illegal collusion with Trump.

God’s chosen vessel is headed for the iceberg.

So, though I am not Nostradamus, let me make this prediction.

Sometime in the coming months, Falwell, Jr., and Graham, Jr. and their ilk with have a secret conference at some nice, secluded resort.

They will solemnly declare that God has withdrawn His mandate from the Trumpster. They will conclude that God, and their constituents, would be just fine if Vice President Unctuous were promoted to the presidency.

And they will solemnly petition the Democrats running the House of Representatives to pass Articles of Impeachment.

The sooner the better.

Trump ship

Heads We Win, Tails You Lose

heads and tails

Bannon mounts last-ditch effort to save the House for Trump: A new pro-Trump operation will frame the midterms as an up-or-down vote on the president’s impeachment.

Oooooookay. But what if a majority of voters decide that impeachment would be fine and dandy with them?

They have a plan for that!

‘If they take the House, he wins big’: Trump loyalists see upside in impeachment: Why some Trump allies think his path to reelection runs through an effort to kick him out of the Oval Office.

But Seriously, Folks

Many of the talking heads make two assumptions.

A, they assume that Trump, like any other president, wants to see his legislative agenda enacted and, to that end, would prefer to have a majority in the next Congress, or at least to minimize losses.

B, they think that much of Trump’s behavior seems counterproductive in relation to his assumed desiderata.

How to explain this anomaly?

There would seem to be four possibilities.

One, Trump’s poor grasp of reality is such that he does not understand how his behavior is affecting his party’s prospects in the next election. In short, he has a weak understanding of the relation between cause and effect.

Two, Trump does generally understand that his behavior is counterproductive, but is, nevertheless, unable to restrain himself. He is, in other words, in the grip of an irresistible impulse.

Three, contrary to assumption A, supra, Trump does not much care, one way or the other, whether the Republicans retain control of Congress. (If the Democrats control Congress, his vicious tweets will shoe ’em who’s boss.)

Four, contrary to assumption A, supra, Trump affirmatively desires—for whatever reason—that Democrats should retake the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate.

These four hypotheses are not mutually exclusive, at least not one hundred percent mutually exclusive, given the disorder in Trump’s brain.

All that said, I think there is much to be said for hypothesis four—he’s deliberately sabotaging the Republicans.

Remember Michael Wolff’s thesis, as laid out, for example, in Donald Trump Didn’t Want to Be President: One year ago: the plan to lose, and the administration’s shocked first days.

According to Wolff, back in 2016 Trump didn’t want to win. He didn’t want to be the Mad King. He wanted to be King of the Mad.

Having nearly achieved his goal in 2016, Trump may be trying to remedy his tactical errors so that he can, in perpetuity, reign supreme over the gullible 35 percent.