This special Mother’s Day episode features each host talking about their Mother’s Day plans, their families, and a political issue that’s been on each of their minds this week.
I said something on last week’s podcast and upon further reflection, I was wrong.
I know. It’s a shocker for one of us to call ourselves wrong instead of waiting for Kevin to do it. But here we are.
Anyway, I said that impeachment is a matter for calendar 2019 and I’m pretty sure I’m wrong and I’m going to tell you why. Buckle up.
Every analyst with a functioning knowledge of Congressional procedures can give you the basic rundown of how a traditionally constituted impeachment process of Donald Trump would go. The House would file articles. There would be hearings, There would be a vote, with a likely outcome of referral to the Senate, passed along party lines. Then the Senate would hold further proceedings, presided over by Chief Justice Roberts, and they would vote to acquit, probably along party lines, with a few possible Dem defections.
The whole circus would take about 4 months and at the end, Trump would go on a victory tour for the entirely of 2020. He’d hold rallies and talk about how the Witchhunt 2.0 exonerated him even more bigly than the Mueller report did. In my opinion, Trump basically wins a traditional impeachment process and probably wins the election as well.
Traditional impeachment proceedings, while the morally correct thing to do, are a political minefield for Democrats and could turn into a giant PR victory for Republicans.
But what if we dispense with tradition? What is we take a page out of the Republican handbook and scrap tradition and decorum and political norms? What if we kick all of that in the teeth? What if we, the Democrats, pull a move as lowdown and dirty as the time Mitch McConnell denied a duly elected president his constitutional right to seat a Justice on the Supreme Court? Something as potentially damaging as Jim Comey dropping a letter about Hillary’s emails mere weeks before the election?
What if we impeach a president during an election year?
Here’s what I’m thinking we do. Let’s spend 2019 investigating Trump some more. We already have several committees subpoenaing documents, requesting testimony, and planning hearings about the Mueller report and about irregularities in the way the Trump organization does business. And the administration is already stonewalling like their freedom depends on it. Powerful House committee chairs like Jerry Nader, Adam Schiff and Gerry Connolly are already threatening contempt of congress Citations, fines, and possible referral to the DC US attorney for prosecution for individuals who defy subpoenas. And they’re not out of line: Princeton professor of history Kevin Kruse was on Twitter saying that the same threats were made during Watergate and they were potent enough (and legitimate enough) to compel reluctant witnesses to head to the Hill.
“These are not sacrosanct persons,” Ervin noted in April 1973. “Divine right of rule perished in America with the American Revolution, and it doesn’t belong to White House aides.” pic.twitter.com/XgZwKcUPl8
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) April 26, 2019
I say these threats, and more, are all good. Let’s turn the whole thing into a street fright. Lob subpoenas at the administration in a steady stream and start fining the hell out of anyone who refuses to appear. If the administration sues, so what? Let them take it to court. It doesn’t make them look any more innocent or any more cooperative if they’re willing to burn tax dollars defending their refusal to answer to Congress’s enumerated powers of oversight.
We can run the clock out on 2019 with these kinds of ugly little fights and at the same time, non-oversight committees can keep writing bills that deal with healthcare and education and stopping ICE from putting babies in cages. Show the country exactly how well Nancy Pelosi’s caucus can walk and chew gum. Meanwhile, the 2020 Dem candidates can all stay above the fray by saying “Speaker Pelosi is trying to do her job and I support her. Too bad the White House won’t cooperate. But have you seen my latest proposal on universal pre-k? It’s great, if I do say so myself!”
Then, on February 4, 2020, file articles of impeachment.
Why February 4? I’m so glad you asked! That’s the day after the Iowa Caucus. While Trump spends the morning on Twitter wanking to FoxNews’s slavering coverage of his victory, we slap with him impeachment.
Then we play as dirty as we can and schedule every hearing to coincide with a primary. Take every Trump primary win and steal the media attention by bringing in a major witness to testify against him.
Trump will be furious. He will investigate the investigators. He will spend hours on social media calling everyone with a D next to their name horrible things but you know what? He’ll be out of line. The Democrats in the House will just be doing their jobs. It won’t be their fault they had to wait so long to start this process. If the administration had cooperated in 2019, this all could have been over by Thanksgiving.
The key will be keeping it going until after the conventions in August. We do not want to refer to the Senate until after Trump has accepted the nomination because the optics of him accepting the nomination after being acquitting by Putin’s gang of bitches from the Senate will hurt the Dems. McConnell-ski and (Russian) company have to be forced to decide whether to take the vote in the early fall or not take a vote at all.
This would be the ugliest political campaign since Aaron Burr went door to door against Jefferson. But literally nothing I’m proposing is against the law or outside of the role of Congress. Pelosi has a right and a duty to do all of these things. Nothing in the Constitution says she can’t do them during an election year. And I think we all know traditions and norms don’t – can’t – matter in the era of Trumpian politics.
Republicans have lied, cheated, and used stolen materials to rig the system in their favor. We can’t be afraid of paying them back in kind.
by Kevin Kelton
Among the first questions former Vice President Joe Biden will face on the campaign trail is whether he thinks congress should begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. Several candidates have already weighed in with qualified (and in the case of Elizabeth Warren, unqualified) answers of “yes.”
But Joe Biden is a different type of presidential candidate, whose candidacy should be based on character, decency and raising the standards of decorum back to where they once stood. So here’s the answer I hope Biden gives to the impeachment question:
I’m not going to answer that directly because I think it’s unseemly for a candidate to call for the removal of his or her political opponent, just as I thought it was unseemly when candidate Donald Trump was going around the country saying that his opponent should be ‘locked up.’
But I will say this: the House of Representatives and the Senate both have an important responsibility for oversight and to hold the executive branch accountable. Because no one, not even a president of the United States, is above the law.
And if you ask me if I think the president committed obstruction of justice? The answer is an unqualified, ‘yes.’
If Biden can nail the right answers on his first few campaign questions – such as Medicare expansion versus single payer Medicare For All, the Green New Deal, and issues of income inequality – he will go a long way toward assuring the 2020 electorate that he’s in step with today’s Democratic base and is not a throwback to the 1990s.
Joe Biden is a great American and great public servant who could make a great Commander in Chief. All he has to do is prove he can be a great candidate.
This week the MPU gang tells you why the Mueller Report is unlikely to be the dud that some cable news talking heads are claiming it could be, why Trump’s meeting with Kim Jung Un will be a bigger dud than Trump is would like it to be, and what they’ll be snacking on when Michael Cohen drops a dime on The Donald in his televised congressional testimony.
This MPU episode looks at the ongoing showdown between President Trump and the new Democratic congressional majority over his demand for $5.7 billion for his border wall/steel slats/fence/drones/security/whatever, watching Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dance on the top marginal tax rate, and Elizabeth Warren’s first week on the presidential campaign trail.
by Kevin Kelton
The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.
–Sen. Mitch McConnell, 2010
Every opposition political party has a duty to try to oppose and, when justified, defeat the party in power, and that starts with its highest leaders. Just as the Republicans worked their tails off to unseat Barack Obama in 2012, Democrats have an obligation to their voters to do everything in their constitutional power to unseat Donald Trump.
The question is, How?
For one, Democrats should not be afraid of impeachment and so cowered by the right as to turn the mere mention of the word into a taboo. The “I word” is not a curse; it’s a constitutionally sound legal process that The Founding Fathers created for just this reason. The House is fully in its constitutionally mandated oversight rights to investigate potential high crimes and send articles of impeachment to the Senate if justified. Yet with a “jury” comprised of 53 Republican senators, it’s doubtful (though not inconceivable) that body will achieve the requisite 2/3 vote to remove Trump from office.
But that does not mean an impeachment trial would be in vain. While the decision to vote for or against an impeachment conviction is a political calculation made by each senator, the damning testimony and evidence that would likely be unearthed in an impeachment proceeding would greatly inform the 2020 election.
The 2018 midterms showed that most Americans have lost patience with the lack of character and moral compass of this president. The revelations that could come out during an impeachment trial would greatly add to that impatience. Like the Titanic taking on water, Trump’s presidency cannot float forever. With each dirty revelation that surely would come out, each compartment of Trump’s illicit ship of state will begin to flood, and the entire administration will quickly submerge.
From Paul Manafort to Michael Flynn to Michael Cohen to Roger Stone – and maybe even Jared Kushner and Don Jr. – the wrong-doings that would come out during testimony in a public impeachment trial will send the Trump dominos falling. The president himself would probably survive thanks to his GOP firewall in the senate, but his presidency would be mortally wounded and on life support just as it heads into the 2020 primary season.
The idea that Trump might emerge from an impeachment acquittal victorious and vindicated is nonsense. He is not as likable as Bill Clinton, and his high crimes will prove much more than a sordid sexual affair. And it cannot be overlooked that even with a bump in Clinton’s approval ratings after his acquittal, that still didn’t stop his vice president, Al Gore, from losing the presidency in 2000.
One could even anticipate a GOP primary challenge to Trump on moral grounds. His poll numbers might get so bad that Trump would be compelled to forgo a re-election run, handing the nomination to Mike Pence in an effort to salvage some scraps of his presidential legacy. (A Hail Mary pass that didn’t work so well for Hubert Humphrey or Gerald Ford.)
But invariably, we will have to unseat Trump (or Pence) at the polls. While right now the pundit banter seems to flitter around who is the most progressive candidate or who is the new, younger face the party needs, I suspect that an impeachment process will change that equation. Voters often lurch from one extreme to the other – from Reagan-Bush old stodginess to Clinton young dynamism; from Clinton philandering to George W. Bush family values; from Bush II recklessness to Obama coolness.
If Trump is proved in a senate trial to be a dirty con artist who scammed his way into office and continues to profit illicitly from it, decency and honor may be the commodity 2020 voters crave.
Joe Biden is well-positioned to make that case. Just as George W. Bush was able to run on restoring honor and dignity to the Oval Office, Biden could run on honor, decency and competence. So might another Democratic candidate who can project a similar sense of honor and character in a way Hillary Clinton could not. A Trump-weary electorate might flock to that message and messenger.
The way to unseat Trump is to hammer his faults relentlessly and then offer a clear contrast. An impeachment trial in the senate, even one ending in acquittal, would magnify that contrast.
Trump’s policies may resonate with conservative voters, but his bankrupt character is what will ultimately defeat him.
This episode looks at the tragic chaos at the southern border, the comical chaos of the Trump administration, and the looming chaos of the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries.
Real debate without the hate!
September 1, 2018
The Honorable Rod J. Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General
United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.
Re: Final Report from the Office of Special Counsel
Dear Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Members of Congress,
It is with great regret that I must issue this Final Report from the Office of Special Counsel announcing that we hereby close our investigation into Russian Interference with the 2016 Presidential Election with no finding of wrongdoing in this matter. I am sorry to say that after fifteen months of rigorous investigation by the nation’s premier team of criminal investigators and prosecutors, and at a cost of millions of dollars to U.S. taxpayers, our efforts were all for naught. Quite simply, we were stymied by the superior intelligence and cunning of Donald J. Trump and his campaign cohorts. In short, we failed.
Specifically, while my team was successful at chasing down thousands of leads and obtaining some 19 indictments and five guilty pleas from individuals and companies who worked together to elect Mr. Trump, we were helpless to build a case proving their illicit actions really happened. Even with bank records, wire-tapped conversations, thousands of emails, and other incontrovertible evidence of their web of conspiracy to affect the 2016 election, we have decided to hang it up and call it quits without attempting to make a case to the American people, the task we were specifically assigned and sworn to carry out.
While there is ample evidence that campaign staffers Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page met with Russian operatives to discuss publishing materials meant to discredit candidate Hillary Clinton in exchange for a more favorable foreign policy toward Russia once the election was over (including changes to the RNC platform made at the behest of campaign manager Paul Manafort to benefit Russia in the Ukraine), we are stymied about how to prove said quid-pro-quo conspiracy so that rural voters and GOP Senators might comprehend it.
Further, despite thousands of documents showing unreported illicit financial transactions and favors of influence between Russian oligarchs and Mr. Trump’s family, we were unable to connect the dots of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, even though the President himself is on public record asking for their help to smear Mrs. Clinton with illegally hacked emails, and even though the President’s son, son-in-law and campaign associates met and spoke repeatedly with Russian operatives in furtherance of their efforts to illegally obtain and release her emails, and even though Mr. Trump and family would have been the sole beneficiaries of said collusion to affect the outcome of the election.
Moreover, while we have documented proof through emails, tweets and sworn witness testimony that Trump confidant Roger Stone personally engaged Julian Assange and the Russian hacker Guccifer 2, who went on to procure and release DNC and John Podesta emails to damage Clinton’s campaign only days after Stone predicted those events on multiple media outlets, we felt we had no choice but to accept his explanation that he was merely joking and the timing and specificity of his “jokes” was a coincidence. True, we could have called Mr. Stone to testify under oath and catch him in multiple changes in his story, but why bother? He said it was a misunderstanding and we have to take an upstanding man like him at his word. To have done less would have been a perjury trap.
Similarly, the fact that the President attempted to obstruct justice by firing FBI Director James Comey and through other documented efforts to derail our investigation is simply beyond our capacity to prove in court. As you know, the President claims it was all a misunderstanding, and the American people would surely believe a sitting U.S. president with a 13% “honest and trustworthy” rating over contemporaneous FBI memos, the sworn testimony of multiple eye witnesses, and every single officer of the U.S. Department of Justice.
I know you and the American people were hoping to find closure through our investigation. But frankly, the only way to do that would have been to put the key witness on the stand. And any effort to subpoena the President to testify under oath, as was done in Clinton v. Jones and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, would have been an unconscionable perjury trap and may have insulted the President’s feelings as well. No president of the United States can be expected to testify truthfully and get his multiple different stories straight under that kind of pressure.
In all candor, it appears that Mr. Trump and his team of neophyte political amateurs were just too cagey and sinister for us. For that, and for all the negative press generated by the President’s disinformation campaign while we professionally and meticulously investigated this case out of the public eye as we were constitutionally charged to do, I humbly apologize. And if you’ll authorize it, I would like to testify in front of Congress so I may publicly clear the President’s good name and admit the folly of our partisan attempt to reverse his magnificent electoral mandate.
Oh wait!… No, I take that all back. I don’t know what I was thinking. It was 2 in the morning and I was Ambien writing.
We are still investigating. Further criminal indictments and referral for impeachment forthcoming.
Robert S. Mueller III
(As dictated to Kevin Kelton, cohost, The More Perfect Union podcast)