Freshman Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York made an interesting statement over the weekend when she tweeted, “At this point, the bigger national scandal isn’t the president’s lawbreaking behavior — it is the Democratic Party’s refusal to impeach him for it.”
I’m not sure I would phrase it that way, but the sentiment is correct. For a party that huffs and puffs, writes angry letters and claims to be bothered by Donald Trump’s blatant criminality, total lack of ethics and disgracing of the American presidency, the leadership of the Democratic Party has been largely feckless, failing and/or refusing to hold this administration accountable as it thumbs its nose at the rule of law and is emboldened to do so without fear of consequence.
Some Democrats have been talking a bigger game this past week and have turned up the pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders to advocate for impeachment after the latest Trump scandal. A day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s July 24 congressional testimony about his investigation into Russian election interference, the Trump campaign’s response to it and President Trump’s attempted obstruction of the investigation, Trump phoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and reportedly pressured him repeatedly — with the help of his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani — to investigate Democratic presidential front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden while threatening to withhold as much as $400 million in military and financial aid to protect itself against Russian aggression.
Setting aside the fact that no evidence has emerged of wrongdoing by Biden or his son, Hunter, if you can’t see what’s wrong with a president essentially extorting another country and playing games with our foreign policy to help his re-election prospects against a political opponent, I don’t know what to tell you at this point.
Trump and Giuliani have admitted having conversations with Ukraine about Biden after the issue was brought to light by a whistleblower complaint from within the U.S. intelligence community, one the community’s inspector general (a Trump appointee) dubbed an “urgent” concern worthy of Congress’ attention.
In typical Trumpian fashion, the president and his allies have gone down a familiar path to deflect blame for their collusion. First, as paraphrased, “There’s no way I would ever do that.” Then, “But if I did do it, it wouldn’t be wrong.” Then, “Well, the real scandal is Biden’s corruption.” Then, “Well, the whistleblower is probably part of the bitter ‘Deep State.’ And so is the IG (the one I appointed).”
That is how it goes, over and over again. Throw enough haze and fog up until the public is utterly confused and just wants to take a long nap.
And if all else fails, don’t let Congress have access to the information it is entitled to, to judge for itself. That is what has happened here as the acting director of national intelligence, after consulting with the Department of Justice (run by the president’s obstructer-in-chief, Attorney General William Barr), has suppressed the release of the whistleblower’s complaint, which reportedly deals with more than just a phone call between Trump and Zelensky. Acting DNI Joseph Maguire was scheduled to appear Thursday morning, Sept. 26, in an open hearing before the House Intelligence Committee to explain himself, but as of this writing I wouldn’t bank on him appearing or being the least bit cooperative.
The White House has repeatedly acted to block congressional testimony that could be damaging to him across a wide range of investigations and is likely to continue to do so here. And a big reason for that is that he feels invincible. Literally. It’s a reality show, a game to him. And Republicans have eagerly fallen in line behind him. We saw it with last week’s congressional testimony of former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who thumbed his nose and demonstrated contemptible behavior while being questioned by the House Judiciary Committee over his activities described in the Mueller Report, specifically being pressed by Trump to be a private go-between and pressure then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to halt the FBI’s Russia investigation. Lewandowski arrogantly strolled his way through the testimony, refusing to answer questions with a smirk and taking breaks to huddle with Trump’s GOP minions on the committee. He even had time to plug his run for the U.S. Senate on Twitter. The smirk evaporated at the end of the day when Barry Berke, a professional attorney brought in by the committee’s Democrats to assist with questioning, exposed him for the liar he is. But by that time, most people had quit watching.
Democrats griped about Lewandowski’s behavior, but the question remains, “What are you going to do about it?”
Congressman Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said on a Sunday political talk show that Democrats “may have crossed the Rubicon in terms of impeachment.”
May have? Seriously? That line was crossed long ago, whether it was the welcoming of foreign election assistance, obstruction of an ongoing investigation, obstruction of Congress performing its function as a co-equal branch of government, or Trump’s repeated use of the presidency to enrich himself. He continues to do it because he knows he can get away with it and feels like our laws don’t apply to him.
The president’s attorneys have now argued in court that a sitting president cannot be investigated for criminal acts or non-criminal acts such as abuse of power. Not that a sitting president can’t be indicted. They now say the conduct can’t even be looked into by Congress.
Did we not fight a revolution over the concept that we didn’t want to live under a king? Of all the sentences that could begin with, “What if Obama…,” this should top the list. The right would have wanted him physically hauled into the Capitol for a trial right then and there. All Democrats seem compelled to do now is pound tables and then shrug their shoulders when that doesn’t work.
The speculation amid this latest scandal is that the Democrats eventually will have no choice but to impeach. That will not happen without Pelosi’s support, and to date she has shown little indication of letting it go forward. She, apparently, for the time being, has chosen to value political calculation over constitutional responsibility. Rather than risk (as she perceives it) her members in more moderate districts losing votes and Trump being awarded the headline of an acquittal that a GOP-controlled Senate would almost certainly hand him, she wants to leave it up to the voters to hold Trump accountable.
In the event of impeachment articles being passed by the House, there almost certainly won’t be a conviction in the Senate. It’s hard to imagine that at least 20 Republican senators have the moral backbone to go against Trump, even when presented with factual evidence of his clear wrongdoing. Because of that, Pelosi seems to have been operating on the premise that it isn’t worth the time and could only serve to backfire on Democrats.
There were signs on Tuesday, Sept. 24, that Pelosi may finally have been getting ready to move her position. If Democrats have the facts on their side, what is the harm in getting the case out there to the American people — when a trial would put more eyeballs on the television and raise public awareness of Trump’s transgressions — and forcing those Republican senators to have to defend their vote? For any voters that might be soured by the Democrats’ pursuit of Trump’s removal from office, I believe many more will be turned off by their unwillingness to do everything they can to hold him accountable.
Those of us who recognize that the national Republican Party, which can’t even bother to acknowledge that Trump has three primary challengers, is completely lost and that the Democratic Party is the only viable alternative currently to restore some sanity to this country have an expectation that the Democrats in Congress will take their constitutional oaths seriously. If they can’t do that, then is there really any point in voting for them?
If the Democrats have any guts, they better find them soon. This moment demands it.