Let’s start with the race to impeach by Christmas. This is not a holiday sale that will expire on Dec. 24; it’s an impeachment involving the most egregiously corrupt president in our history. If the House impeaches during the first or second week of January, will anything be lost?
Republicans already claim that impeachment comes “too late” and, in a weird echo of the stiff-arm given to Judge Merrick Garland, should not take place in the final year of a presidency with an election looming. That argument lacks logical and constitutional sense and would, if taken literally, allow a president to save up all of his abusive actions until the last year of his first term. (The trial will slop over into 2020, so why not the vote on articles of impeachment?)
On the debate between a wide and narrow impeachment, I have generally come down on the side of a Ukraine-centric impeachment, if for no other reason than the basis for impeachment can be succinctly stated. (Trump abused his office and endangered national security by withholding a White House meeting and military aid in an effort to extort an ally into assisting him in his reelection bid.) However, the ruling last week, followed by a denial of a request for stay, from the district court rebuffing the president’s claim of absolute immunity should change the House’s calculus.
Let’s say the court of appeals affirms the district court ruling, and then the Supreme Court declines to hear the case (hardly a far-fetched outcome). Former White House counsel Donald McGahn would then be freed to testify about the president’s alleged obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation, offering a firsthand account of Trump’s efforts to thwart the FBI and, subsequently, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III by, among other things (it’s hard to remember, I know), firing FBI Director James B. Comey, ordering McGahn to fire Mueller (and then to lie about the order), and telling former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to instruct then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to curtail the investigation. That testimony is unlikely to sway Republicans who refuse to be swayed, but it should remind Democrats and independents of the lengths that Trump will go to abuse his office.
Moreover, witnesses in the Ukraine scandal — including former national security adviser John Bolton, his former deputy Charles Kupperman, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former energy secretary Rick Perry (has anyone asked him whether, now that he’s left office, he might be willing to testify?), and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, the high-ranking officials with direct knowledge of, and in some cases involvement in, the scheme to trade public acts (aid and a meeting) for private benefit (announcement of a bogus investigation into a rival) would be earthshaking. It would destroy Trump’s argument about lack of firsthand knowledge (aside from his own words in the July 25 call with the Ukrainian president) that Trump directed the scheme, and would blow up the notion that Trump is the victim of a deep-state conspiracy (unless Bolton, Pompeo, Mulvaney, etc., are all part of it).
That could be the difference (if only for the history books) between a strong circumstantial case and an indisputable case based on testimony of Trump’s inner circle. That seems to be worth the wait, if Democrats really do believe there is no expiration date on impeachment.