Democrats, remember that 99 percent of the time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s political instincts are solid. She warned against fanning impeachment flames. No matter how much evidence special counsel Robert S. Mueller III found of obstruction — he DID NOT exonerate President Trump — Republicans will never, ever agree to impeach or remove him. Support for impeachment has never been high. Where does that leave Democrats?
I’ll offer some observations about the political implications for Democrats:
1. Democrats won a historic victory in 2018 running not on impeachment/Russia but on health care and economic issues. They will have to do the same in 2020 to dislodge Trump.
2. The Southern District of New York, New York state prosecutors and other jurisdictions continue to investigate Trump, his associates, his foundation, his business and/or his family. We don’t know if we’ll hear the results before the 2020 election, but Trump has already been fingered — as “Individual 1” — in ordering Michael Cohen to commit a crime. That alone should disqualify him from reelection, but again, the better case is that Trump is guilty of betraying the “forgotten men and women" he said he’d look out for.
3. Likewise, the full Mueller report, according to the attorney general, will contain evidence of obstruction of justice. Democrats should feel free to make the case that a president who did what Mueller found shouldn’t be in office. One more time: Don’t make the election about Trump being a rotten human being, a liar, etc. Anyone contemplating voting against him already knows that.
4. Trump’s conduct toward Russia and North Korea, not to mention our allies, is bizarre and dangerous, whatever the reason. His fondness for thuggish strongmen and antagonism toward our allies should be part of the case for booting him out. We’re not “winning”; Trump is making us less safe.
5. Congressional investigations should focus on possible financial crimes that Mueller did not address, conflicts of interest, issues of competence (e.g. the child separation policy) and other abuses of power. Re-plowing the conspiracy/coordination issue would be a mistake.
6. All of the above should make clear that the entire report must be released promptly. Democrats should insist upon it. Considering Attorney General William P. Barr’s entirely inappropriate effort to exonerate his boss, Mueller should be called to testify as to his findings on impeachment.
7. Trump’s judgment in hiring a cast of pro-Russian dupes in the campaign and, once in office, a fleet of incompetent and/or ethically challenged Cabinet members and senior advisers should be part of the case against Trump. He hires the worst people.
8. Taking impeachment out of the equation is a good thing for Democrats. It removes one possible source of division within the party. It also avoids the unappetizing prospect of impeaching a president whom the Senate will not remove.
9. The House has made progress on policy fronts, including passage of a background-check bill and an ethics reform bill. Democrats should intensify those efforts and highlight the GOP-led Senate’s refusal to consider popular bills. The GOP Senate does little else — other than to protect its members from hard votes and rubber stamp Trump’s dreadful nominees. (Speaking of which, if the Senate confirms a political hack with no PhD in economics for the Federal Reserve Board, those senators will be held accountable.)
10. The election is more than 1½ years away. The absolute best way to get rid of Trump is to pick an electable and competent presidential nominee. Be smart.