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Trump’s Contempt for Democracy is Pushing Congress Toward Impeachment

Politically, it might make more sense to focus on the next election, but Constitutionally, Democrats in Congress have no choice but to go after Trump now

Nobody Above the Law Constitutional Crisis Rally, November 2018. (Photo: David Geitgey Sierralupe)

Nobody Above the Law Constitutional Crisis Rally, November 2018. (Photo: David Geitgey Sierralupe) 

ven Nancy Pelosi, who has rejected the idea of impeaching Donald Trump as a political trap for Democrats who should focus instead on the next election, is changing her tune. She now acknowledges that the country is in a “Constitutional crisis,” and that Congress has no choice but to act.

The Trump Administration’s open contempt for Congressional oversight puts Democrats in a corner. Impeachment might not be the formula for success in the 2020 presidential race. It might provoke a backlash and fire up Trump’s base. But at some point, Congress has to do its job and provide a check on executive power.

The turning point came with Attorney General Robert Barr’s dismissive testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1, and his subsequent decision to skip his appearance in the House.

Barr was openly contemptuous of Congress. He waved away Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s assertion that his summary of Mueller’s report was misleading, brushed aside questions about the credibility of his own previous statements under oath denying knowledge of Mueller’s objections, and outright refused to produce relevant documents. Finally, when he refused to comply with a subpoena for the full Mueller report, the House Judiciary Committee moved to hold him in contempt. The full House will decide whether to go along with that recommendation in the coming days.

The stonewalling by the Trump Administration is making it harder and harder for the Democrats to ignore the problem of a lawless President. The political question of whether anyone cares if Trump and his enablers are lying and cheating, and whether the Democrats gain anything by pointing it out, is being overwhelmed by this administration’s brazen disregard for democratic norms.

Here’s an idea: Maybe the Democrats should just get out and lead.

Here’s an idea: Maybe the Democrats should just get out and lead. Sure, a lot of voters don’t know a lot about the workings of government or the system of checks and balances set out in our Constitution. But the time for worrying about the politics of holding the President accountable is past.

Let the Democratic presidential candidates make their case to voters that they have the best plan to address problems like health care, wage stagnation, college debt, and climate change. The people we have already elected to Congress need to impose accountability on a lawless executive branch.

The stonewalling is truly breathtaking.

Barr has refused to turn over the Mueller report to Congress or appear to answer questions. And, during the back-and-forth between the Justice Department and Congress, the White House claimed executive privilege to shield evidence in the report from Congress.

The White House also blocked former Trump lawyer Donald McGahn from turning over documents subpoenaed by Congress that go to the heart of the issue of Trump’s obstruction of justice. (McGahn, according to the redacted Mueller report, was pressured to fire the special counsel and to lie to cover it up by Trump.)

“Our fight is about defending the rights of Congress, as an independent branch, to hold the President, any President, accountable,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler said, just before his committee voted to hold Barr in contempt.

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Meanwhile, Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, refused to provide the House Ways and Means Committee the President’s tax returns, in the same week that The New York Times released a blockbuster investigation showing Trump, contrary to his public representations of his ever-expanding wealth, spent a decade in the red, reporting more than $1 billion in losses between 1985 to 1994. The President himself, still withholding his tax documents, responded by suggesting that instead of being a billion-dollar loser, he is a major-league tax cheat.

No one who pays any attention is unaware of the fact that Trump is a liar. Last month, he reached the 10,000 mark for “false or misleading statements” during his time in office, according to The Washington Post.

Like her detailed policy proposals on a variety of other issues, Warren makes the case for impeachment in clear, simple terms.

Does it matter that some portion of the American public might find impeachment distasteful, or believe Trump’s claims that the investigations just prove he is an outsider battling “the system”? It’s hard to find the right formula for combatting a politician who so successfully exploits the info-tainment system, an increasingly divided electorate, and an entire alternative reality promoted by Fox.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, whose poll numbers have been steadily rising since she became the first Democratic candidate to call for impeachment, is showing the way.

Like her detailed policy proposals on a variety of other issues, Warren makes the case for impeachment in clear, simple terms:

“The Mueller report lays out facts showing that a hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election to help Donald Trump and Donald Trump welcomed that help,” she wrote. “Once elected, Donald Trump obstructed the investigation into that attack. Mueller put the next step in the hands of Congress: ‘Congress has authority to prohibit a President's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.’ The correct process for exercising that authority is impeachment.”

Later, Warren added: “To ignore a President’s repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways.”

Nadler agrees. “We must do all we can in the name of the American people to ensure that when the Trump Administration ends, we have as robust a democracy to hand to our children as was handed to us,” he said, explaining why his committee should hold Barr in contempt.

At some point, efforts to court votes by avoiding the impeachment fight stops looking politically smart, and starts looking cowardly.

We have already reached that point.

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Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine, and opened the Progressive’s office in Washington, DC, during the Clinton Administration, where she made her debut as a political pundit on CNN’s Capital Gang Sunday and Fox News. Se moved to Oaxaca, Mexico, for a year in 2017, where she covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Donald Trump. Follow her on Twitter: @rconniff

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