What has changed in the past 24 to 48 hours is a shift in the sentiment of Pelosi’s members. In a compelling op-ed in The Post, seven moderate freshmen with military or intelligence backgrounds write:
This flagrant disregard for the law cannot stand. To uphold and defend our Constitution, Congress must determine whether the president was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election.
With more Democrats coming on board, Pelosi has begun moving in the direction of impeachment and has a planned meeting with her members Tuesday afternoon. As this process plays out, leadership must begin to focus on public opinion, especially in swing states that Trump needs to win and in which Democrats face competitive Senate and House races in 2020. Democrats need to make the case in places such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Florida and Arizona that Trump has betrayed the country and must go. In that way, a few Republicans in the House and eventually in the Senate might also join in recommending impeachment and even voting for removal, preventing this from becoming a strict party-line vote.
I’d suggest two ways to accomplish this as the House moves ahead to compel production of the whistleblower complaint and the transcript of the July 25 call.
First, every Democratic contender for president should participate in an ad (like the very compelling gun safety ad) targeting these swing states. It would go something like this:
“Trump and his private attorney called on a foreign government to dig up dirt on a political opponent, former vice president Joe Biden. We are engaged in a spirited primary, but every single one of us knows this conduct is wrong and violates the president’s oath of office. We also know that trying to bottle up a complaint detailing an act of treachery is wrong and impeachable. We call on Congress to investigate, and if the facts warrant, to impeach and remove him.”
Second, there needs to be a campaign (akin to the one to save the Affordable Care Act) targeting the most vulnerable Republican senators, challenging them to support full disclosure of the whistleblower claim and pledging to impeach if the evidence shows that Trump attempted to engage a foreign power in the election. That effort would include Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
Republicans for the Rule of Law has kicked things off with this:
By educating the public, Democrats might move the polls in favor of impeachment, giving protection to Democrats in swing districts and states, which in turn will increase pressure on Republicans. As soon as it becomes apparent that not all Republican senators can survive if they vote to exonerate Trump on a party-line vote, Trump’s and Republican primary voters’ calculus on Trump might change. Trump’s continued presidency and his reelection might become dicey propositions for Republicans. Primary voters might seriously look for alternatives; Republican candidates and officials might even call for him to go.
Now, nothing substitutes for Democrats’ progress in fact-finding in the House and, if need be, in court to obtain the whistleblower complaint and the transcript of the call, and/or to find other witnesses (including those in Ukraine) with knowledge of what transpired. Daily revelations in the media, most recently The Post’s report that days before the July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president Trump ordered aid halted, can further the investigation and help surface new witnesses. However, if Democrats really want to protect themselves and prevent this from becoming a partisan circus, they have to begin working the refs, which in this case are the voters.
Public sentiment matters greatly, and the movement of even a few Republican senators and congressmen might compel some rethinking among Republicans as to whether it is time to end their undiluted loyalty to someone who would collude with a foreign power in plain sight.