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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes – Trump Impeachment Edition

“Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell assured Sean Hannity on Fox News. “There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this.” Then there is “Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who exchanged a reputation for moderation for a reputation for Trumpist sycophancy, was even crisper. “This thing will come to the Senate, and it will die quickly, and I will do everything I can to make it die quickly,” he said.” Given these stated positions of two of the top Republican senators, who could blame Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not allowing them the opportunity to trivialize the hard work of the House Intelligence and Judicial committees and make a mockery of the U.S. Constitution. As Ezra Klein writes at Vox, “Impeachment’s most important role is preventive, not retributive. It is to make sure that neither Trump nor any future president tries to abuse their power to amass more power in this way again. But if Senate Republicans abdicate their constitutional duty and, as Graham promised, do everything they can to make this die quickly, they’ll be unleashing Trump and his successors to abuse the power of the presidency even more flagrantly in the future.”

From “Six pages of loony ranting, and journalists still won’t question Trump’s mental state” by Dan Froomkin at Salon: “The livid, unhinged six-page rant full of lies, hyperbole, wild accusations and self-pity that Donald Trump put on White House letterhead on the eve of his impeachment — “for the purpose of history,” he said — was an extraordinary gift to news organizations that have hesitated until now to address Trump’s mental state…To everyone but the willfully blind, it was effectively a confession of the president’s unfitness for office — a view straight into the mind of a mad king unable to grasp basic facts, control his emotions or acknowledge any restraints on his behavior.” Froomkin calls out some reporters for sugar-coating descriptions of Trump’s screed, but also credits some others: ” Former Republican strategist Rick Wilson said on MSNBC that the letter was “six pages of pure crazy, weapons-grade nuts.” CNN political analyst Gloria Borger said: “I think if I’m a senator, a Republican senator, and I’m looking at this and this landed in my lap like a grenade today, I would wonder about the president’s fitness for office.”

In “Trump goes after late Rep. John Dingell: ‘Maybe he’s looking up’ instead of down” at The Hill, Justine Coleman reports on Trump’s insulting, in a Michigan speech no less, the memory of the longest-serving member of congress in U.S. history, Rep. John Dingell, Jr. (D-MI), who died in February and was succeeded by his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, who responded, “Mr. President, let’s set politics aside. My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.” Not the smartest of moves in one of the most important swing states, which Trump barely won in 2016. Dingell and his father, John Dingell, Sr., represented Michigan in Congress for a combined total of 82 years. Dingell was instrumental in passing historic legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Medicare Act, the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Clean Air Act of 1990, and the Affordable Care Act.

“But the letter only underscored Trump’s determination to lie and bully his way to reelection,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in The Washington Post. “Republican claims that this is purely a partisan process must be challenged at their core. It is partisan only because Republican politicians lack the guts to acknowledge the obvious: A president who presses a foreign power to smear a domestic political opponent is engaged in despotism. Period…So when the issue comes before the Senate, Democrats cannot back down from their leader Charles E. Schumer’s demand that witnesses be called in a real trial. Those Republican senators who have claimed independence from Trump — particularly those up for reelection — must be forced to go on record, repeatedly if necessary…There is no middle ground. Either senators support a full accounting of the facts, or they are covering up for Trump.”

Another question that arises from the impeachment vote in the House of Representatives that should be directed to presidential candidates Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the only House member who voted “present,” as well as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the first opportunity: “Rep. Gabbard/Mayor Bloomberg, will you or won’t you promise to support the Democratic presidential nominee?” Let no self-respecting reporter allow either one of them to wiggle out of a straight answer. Neither Gabbard nor Bloomberg made the cut for the December televised debate. Voters need to know the sincerity of the party commitment of all candidates who profess to be Democrats, especially those two.

At Politico, Kyle Chesney, Sarah Ferris and John Bresnahan discuss what is known so far about  Democratic impeachment strategy going forward: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to commit Wednesday to delivering articles of impeachment to the Senate, citing concerns about an unfair trial on removing President Donald Trump from office. Senior Democratic aides said the House was “very unlikely” to take the steps necessary to send the articles to the Senate until at least early January, a delay of at least two weeks and perhaps longer…“So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference just moments after the House charged Trump with abuse of power and obstructing congressional investigations. “That would’ve been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.”…Pelosi’s comments, which echo suggestions raised by other Democrats throughout the day, inject new uncertainty into the impeachment timetable and send the House and Senate lurching toward a potential institutional crisis…Though the House adopted two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of congressional investigations, it must pass a second resolution formally naming impeachment managers to present the case in the Senate. That second vehicle triggers the official transmission of articles to the Senate…By delaying passage of that resolution, Pelosi and top Democrats retain control of the articles and hope to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to adopt trial procedures they consider bipartisan.”

At Talking Points Memo, editor Josh Marshall provides one of the best assessments of Trump’s impeachment thus far: “Ordinary venal corruption can be impeachable. Some serious crimes that are not tied to a President’s official duties might be impeachable. But the crimes Trump is accused of – and of which he is clearly guilty – are definitional examples of the kind of wrongdoing impeachment was designed to combat…If we step back from signature phrases like “high crimes and misdemeanors” and look at the document in its totality, foreign subversion is a central, paramount concern in erecting a robust presidential power. The president is the only person who can never have had a foreign allegiance. He or she is specifically prohibited from accepting any thing of value or any power or title from a foreign power. The impetus to creating the constitution was the perceived need to create a more robust central government with a more powerful executive. The other signature, structural element of the document is the fear that this empowered executive will use these powers to perpetuate their own power and break free of the republican system of government on behalf of which and for which they hold these powers. Both of these central fears about presidential power are directly implicated in Trump’s criminal behavior.”

FiveThirtyEight’s Perry Bacon, Jr. reviews the shaping of public attitudes toward impeachment, and notes, “Support for impeachment increased substantially soon after the Ukraine scandal started dominating headlines, in late September and early October. During that time, the broad details of the scandal became widely known, and several prominent moderate Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came out in favor of starting the impeachment process. By mid-October, most Democrats and more than 40 percent of independents were backing impeachment. And public opinion hasn’t really moved much since then, even during the sometimes-riveting hearings conducted by the House Intelligence Committee in November…What does this tell us? I think there’s a case to be made that what moved Democratic voters and perhaps some Democratic-leaning independents to back impeachment was as much Pelosi and other Democratic elites embracing it as the underlying evidence (Pelosi initially opposed impeachment after the Mueller probe ended but before the Ukraine story broke).”

Democrats who believe that the minimalist 2-count approach to impeachment that passed the House yesterday was inadequate may find David Corn’s review of Trump’s impeachment-worthy deeds in Mother Jones of interest. Corn writes that “Trump entered office as virtually an advertisement for impeachment. His disregard for the law and his profound lack of integrity already formed a prominent part of his permanent record.  He had run a fraudulent business(for which he would later be fined $25 million). He and three of his children (Eric, Donald Jr., and Ivanka) had overseen a fraudulent foundation (for which they would later be sanctioned). He was widely known to be a cheat who didn’t pay his bills. He was shown to be a nonstop liar. There had been plenty of stories and lawsuits focused on Trump and the Trump Organization’s shady business practices. He had worked with mobsters (and lied about it). He had hired and still hero-worshiped Roy Cohn, a ruthless, by-whatever-means lawyer who represented organized crime figures. That in itself was a huge tell…He had broken his promise to release his tax returns, failing to comply with this most basic requirement of transparency for a politician. And the instant he stepped into the Oval Office, Trump began violating the Constitution by running afoul of the emoluments clause, which prohibits a commander in chief from accepting payments from foreign governments. His hotels and businesses routinely pocketed revenue from overseas governments and officials…And he invited a foreign adversary to intervene in the 2016 contest when he called on Russian operatives to hack Hillary Clinton. (Trump also welcomed, denied, and aided and abettedMoscow’s covert attack on the election that was waged in part to help Trump win.)…The warning signs continued after he became president. Cronyism and nepotism ran rampant in the White House and throughout his administration. Trump exploited the presidency to hype his own businesses. His kids used his presidency to cash in. Cabinet members became involved in assorted scandals. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, was given a plum White House job, though he couldn’t obtain a security clearance. (Trump eventually had to order that Kushner be granted a clearance.) Trump’s companies pushed to expand their overseas operations (despite his promise that they would not). Trump trampled ethics rules. If there had been an algorithm that predicted impeachments, Trump would have rung the bell.” Despite Trump’s incessant whining about impeachment, the record shows he got off pretty easy.

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