June 1, 2019

This entire argument hinges upon the supposition that you can take what the Democratic leadership (especially Speaker Nancy Pelosi) at face value when they avoid going straight for the impeachment claim. Personally, I don't think that's necessarily a safe assumption, given how well Pelosi has controlled messaging in the past, and the rising number of Democratic politicians now openly calling for the opening of an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. In my view, it's entirely possible that she is orchestrating a rising and overwhelming tide that leads inevitably to that inquiry for very specific reasons I'll describe later.

Nevertheless, the first hour of AM Joy was Impeachment Central, with various pundits and experts speaking as to the necessity of impeachment hearings against Donald Trump. (In a nod to a form of both-siderism, Joy Reid also invited Never Trumper David Frum to his own segment to describe why he thought that by not impeaching, Nancy Pelosi is doing the right thing, but as a rule, it's wise to remember he's never correct).

But AboveTheLaw.com editor Elie Mystal is very much on the impeachment train, for the very sensible logic that if this president has not committed impeachable offenses, why and for whom do we have impeachment as a remedy anyway? He has little patience for the Democratic leadership's tentativeness, claiming the public isn't with them.

So, there are a couple of things that Clyburn said that I think deserve immediate pushback. One is this Democratic fascination with a smoking gun. THIS is the smoking gun. The Mueller report is the smoking gun. We have the smoking gun. IT IS ON FIRE. All right? So this search for the smoking gun is ridiculous. We have it. Let's go.
All of their other arguments. "Oh, we have to bring the American people along." He hasn't tried to bring -- of course the polls aren't on our side. They've spent six weeks since the release of the Mueller report -- the Democratic leadership has spent six weeks since the release of the Mueller report trying to tell ME why we CAN'T impeach him, as opposed to trying to tell the American people why we MUST.

Of COURSE the polls aren't on our side.

Mystal expanded that on a Twitter thread this morning:

My Twitter morning highlights an essential point I've been trying to make: By not starting impeachment, Dem leadership has only accomplished making Dems fight with other Dems over... impeachment. INSTEAD OF FIGHTING THE REPUBLICANS.

We should be focused on whether REPUBLICANS will uphold the Constitution, but we can't get to that part, because we have to fight over whether Democrats will uphold the Constitution first.

If we were holding hearings, all these "should we start impeachment hearings" questions would be MOOT. Reluctant Dems would be getting on board with trying to hold a criminal President accountable.
Instead, leadership strategy is to tell the base to SHUT UP and accept defeat.

Then, once the base has been sufficiently ignored, Dem leadership will turn around and say "hey base, we really need your passion and energy for 2020!"

If we don't take back the Senate, we are lost, even if we win the White House. RIGHT NOW, there are vulnerable Republican Senators. Have we spent 6 weeks asking Susan Collins if she will acquit a criminal President? No, we've spent the time asking Pelosi if she will indict one.

Can you IMAGINE how the Republicans would be handling this in the reverse? They'd all be on ONE message "The most unpopular President in modern history is also a criminal, tune for tonight's Impeachment Games to see his lying sons squirm."

These are strong arguments and ones I'm positive have been made behind closed doors. And again, I'm not entirely sure that the Democratic leadership disagrees; there's a big difference between outside and inside voices when it comes to tactical political strategy. The committees are trying, as best as they can, to bring Trump's malfeasance out in the open, and as Mystal points out, Trump is and will fight them tooth and nail. It may be that the Democratic leadership had thought that if they could just bring more and more of this out to the forefront, and to show how hard Trump fights any little bit of accountability, that more people will question why he acts so guilty and start pushing for impeachment themselves. The serious due diligence they put towards doing this by the book also makes the "witch hunt" calls harder to argue.

And the reason that's important is the Senate. If they can get a swelling public tide calling for impeachment, it puts the Republican senators' necks on the line to side with Trump over the rule of law. Suddenly, that assumption that removal from office will die in the Senate becomes more questionable. (And let's not forget, the closer we put all of this drama to the election next year, the worst it is for those Republicans).

The impatience and anger on our side for what seems like Trump skating away from any accountability is real and valid. But it is helpful to remember that Washington DC moves at glacial speed, and all signs point to one direction: the impeachment of Donald Trump.

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