August 26, 2018

Stay with me on this one.

A few caveats:

  • There is absolutely a prima facie case, based on what is out in the public domain, that Donald Trump has met the bar of "high crimes and misdemeanors" to merit impeachment proceedings.
  • The Republican majority will continue to ignore this and will not ever cooperate with any kind of investigation or hearing.
  • Any decent lawyer worth their bar number could argue that Donald Trump's electoral win is illegitimate.
  • An impeachment of a president, while one of the few remedies in the Constitution, is merely a finding of guilt. It is not an automatic removal from office.
  • Removal from office requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate, which will necessarily include Republicans crossing the aisle.

That said, there is no reason right now for elected Democratic members to yell "Impeachment!" from the rafters.

It is the literal embodiment of the topsy-turvy Queen of Hearts trial in Alice in Wonderland. Punishment first, evidence later! The Mueller investigation is not done and what's in the public domain could very well be the tip of the iceberg. Think about that.

Right now, Trump still has a fairly high approval rate among Republican voters (which is, in part, why the Republican majority in congress has no inclination to hold him accountable). But the very fact that Trump has been so opaque about his business dealings and campaign actions indicates that there is likely very, very damaging information out there that we still don't know. We suspect, but don't know. That's not good enough in our legal system to impeach a president. And that is an area that we cannot elide over. If we want the rule of law to matter again, we have to abide by it ourselves. When everything is out in the open, it's entirely possible that public sentiment will shift (though not completely, Fox News isn't going anywhere) and that will make the room for Republicans to shift as well.

Impeachment isn't the agenda, nor should it be. That's the final result of a messy, fraught political process that will grind all other legislative work to a halt. And there is a ton of work that needs to be done to halt the corruption, dirty deeds and just awful acts by this administration. There are many cabinet heads (Betsy DeVos and Wilbur Ross come to mind) that need to be called to testify and held to account. That won't happen if we're locked up with impeachment hearings.

And it is being invoked now, not by the Democrats, but by Republicans to get their based riled up:

But even as the possibility of impeachment waxes and wanes among Democrats, something interesting is happening among Republicans, who are increasingly prone to using the threat of impeachment to mobilize their own base. Jonathan Martin of the New York Times recently wrote a much-circulated report on that phenomenon:

What began last year as blaring political hyperbole on the right — the stuff of bold-lettered direct mail fund-raising pitches from little-known groups warning of a looming American “coup” — is now steadily drifting into the main currents of the 2018 message for Republicans.

The appeals have become a surefire way for candidates to raise small contributions from grass-roots conservatives who are devoted to Mr. Trump, veteran Republican fund-raisers say. But party strategists also believe that floating the possibility of impeachment can also act as a sort of scared-straight motivational tool for turnout…..

So why is it that the media spend so much time trying to get Democrats (who don't hold the majority, cannot call investigations or hold hearings at the moment) to commit to impeachment right now before the most critical mid-term election of our time?

Watch Alex Witt go back again and again with Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) to get him to say the word "impeachment." Kudos to the congressman for deftly sticking to his talking points and stating clearly the Democratic agenda: "Drive down health care costs. Raise family incomes. Attack the corruption in government. Get them to work for the people again and obviously protect the investigation." The next time someone says "Dems have no agenda other than impeaching Donald Trump, refer them to this video.

Let me posit a reason: The media, collectively and individually, are still letting the Republicans frame the news.

Every. Single. One. Of. The. Media. Outlets. And. Journalists. KNEW. What. Trump. Was. Like. Before. He. Was. Elected.

They've. Known. The. ENTIRE. Term. Of. His. Presidency.

And despite their disingenuous protestations that they did cover Trump's problems, media analysis shows they treated all those disqualifying events as something equal to Hillary Clinton's emails being hacked, which was a crime against her, not a crime she committed.

And they NEVER try to corner a Republican politician to ask why they are ignoring all of these problems.

Nope, it's not the responsibility of the media to contextualize all of this to help their audience to understand the depth of corruption and norm-breaking.

It's not the responsibility of the Republican Party to put partisan concerns aside and act -- AS CONSTITUTIONALLY MANDATED -- as a check and balance against abuses of the office.

What the media (and Witt is hardly the only one doing this) wants the American public to believe is that it's the responsibility of the Democratic Party to insist--without power, without the ability to hold investigations, and without the strong enough majority to actually carry out an impeachment--to commit to impeaching the president NOW, before the investigation is complete, before anyone complicit is indicted, and before the mid-term election is held.

So, is it just that they like doing the Republicans' job for them?

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