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Mitch McConnell

The Aaron Sorkin President (Ep. 237)

 

On this week’s podcast, Rebekah and DJ fly solo as they discuss the impeachment standoff, the latest Democratic debate, the person running to be the Aaron Sorkin president, and how the evangelical right has been co-opted by the conservative right (or vice versa).

The MPU Impeachment Journal

This column is a compilation of separate thoughts on impeachment and the state of American politics.


As I predicted on the podcast, the two limited and obtuse articles of impeachment that Nancy Pelosi and company adopted are woefully inadequate for the task at hand: galvanizing the nation’s attention and exposing President Trump’s lack of fitness for office. First, they do not allege actual criminal acts, a charge that Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans may very well use to prematurely dismiss the charges in the senate as legally meaningless. The terms bribery and extortion should have peppered the articles’ text, which should have contained one separate article just titled “Bribery and Extortion.” Similarly, opting for the amorphous term “Obstruction of Congress” instead of the criminal code crime of “Obstruction of Justice” was a fatal wimp out on the Democrats’ part.

Moreover, leaving out the Don McGahn incident and other obstruction of justices outlined in the Mueller Report allows Republicans to claim that the entire impeachment is over “one telephone call” instead of the panoply of Trump’s unconstitutional misdeeds over three (or more) years. Campaign finance corruption, emoluments, unlawful executive actions – these should all be in the mix on the senate floor. Make senators Susan Collins, Thom Tillis and Cory Gardner vote to acquit Trump of everything he’s done, instead of hiding behind a very limited single incident. That would have produced a national outrage commensurate with an impeachment trial.

I understand that the House majority’s expensive lawyers probably argued against using those legal terms. But having clashed with attorneys all through my television producing and corporate training careers, I’ve learned that lawyers have a very narrow view of the world that often misses the bigger picture. In this case, they lawyered the Democratic caucus right out of a meaningful impeachment trial.


For Mitch McConnell to stand on the senate floor and complain that Democrats have talked about impeachment since the start of Trump’s administration is the height of hypocrisy coming from the man who announced his goal of making Barrack Obama “a one term president” on the very first night of his first term in office.

Democrats had good reasons to anticipate impeaching Donald Trump. He showed a personality and temperament highly likely to violate the the oath of office. He had talked about forcing himself on women. He had run a scam university and was known for stiffing his contractors. He urged Russia to commit international computer hacking. He refused to sever his ties with his vast business empire, which right there promised to violate the emoluments clause (as he has for three straight years). He lied about charitable donations and it was common knowledge that he misused and abused his charitable foundation. He spoke in vulgar terms and showed little respect for women, children, minorities, international treaties, contracts, and laws. He hid his tax returns and lied about the reason. He regularly defied court orders (one of the charges he was eventually impeached over). His first national security advisor lied to the FBI within two weeks of his appointment to the job. His former campaign chairman was a known international scam artist. He fired his FBI Director for purely personal political reasons and lied about it on national television. He held private, off-the-record meetings with Putin. And as we later found out, he hectored his attorney general and White House counsel to obstruct justice for him. We would also learn he was negotiating with the Russian government to build a hotel in Moscow while actively running for president (the height of poor judgment and bad faith), and he used private channels to run his nefarious schemes, scams, illegal use of campaign funds, and he’s been a serial cheater on every wife he ever married. And his hero is Roy Cohen.

So yeah, people who weren’t mesmerized by his silly tweets and vulgar rallies could read his character and expect he would run afoul of his oath of office. What’s amazing is that 197 congressmen, 53 U.S. senators, and some 60 million Americans did not see it coming.


Trump keeps complaining about the Obama administration spying on him (which is factually untrue). Yet no one ever mentions that he professed to send private investigators to Hawaii to privately spy on President Obama regarding his birth certificate, an invasion of privacy that Trump had no legal standing to commit since he is neither a journalist nor a member of law enforcement. Now, it’s quite possible that he was lying about sending lawyers to Hawaii. But he still made the claim, just as he still keeps making the bogus claim that he was the one who was spied on illegally. People who live in glass houses should not be throwing private investigators.


The Republican Party has allowed itself to become the party of Trumpism. But as the defeats of Matt Bevin, Eddie Rispone, and Ed Gillespie demonstrate, even in red states, you can’t win on Trumpism if you aren’t Donald Trump. Someday The Donald won’t sit in The White House. And the politicians who anchored their careers to him and his perverse style of governing may just find themselves submerged in the anti-Trump backlash that will inevitably rise.


Many Americans think that the senate impeachment trial will be no big deal because the outcome is pre-ordained. Nothing could be further from the truth. There has only been one impeachment trial in modern American history, which established a limited set of precedents for how presidential impeachments should proceed. But Mitch McConnell shows the potential to rewrite the impeachment process and with it all future presidential impeachments ad infinitum. 

If McConnell refuses to allow any prosecution witnesses, he’ll upend the precedent set by the Clinton impeachment trial, when Monica Lewinsky and two other witnesses gave video taped depositions. Or worse, he might submit the entire case for early dismissal which, if successful, could drastically minimize the significance of the impeachment process and forever alter the precarious balance of power between the three branches of government. Should McConnell rig the process to avoid a real final verdict of guilt or acquittal, future Congresses may be more empowered to use the impeachment process as a glorified form of presidential censure. 

It is imperative that impeachment not be dumbed down or diminished to be something other than what the Founders meant it to be: a sober and serious examination of a president’s fitness for office. If the majority party can swat away articles of impeachment without a serious examination of the charges brought by the House, future presidents will be emboldened to break the law whenever their party controls the upper chamber. 

Impeachments will always be a political and partisan endeavor, as they are the product of a political system. But that doesn’t mean we should allow one party to summarily revise the rules that have held U.S. presidents accountable to the people for 232 years.

Article 1 of the Constitution gives the senate sole power to” try all impeachments.” But it does not give the senate majority leader sole power to rewrite the impeachment language in Article 1 for posterity.

 

Kevin Kelton is the co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast and a founder of Open Fire Politics.

 

Dispatch to Democrats: Let’s Impeach Like Mitch McConnell Would

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.


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.

WrestleMania (Ep. 107)

Episode 107 of “The More Perfect Union” podcast series features discussions about the Trump-CNN Logo wrestling video controversy, the Trump family at the G20 Summit, revelations of yet another previously unreported meeting between Russian lawyers and members of the Trump campaign, and we end with some funny political chants.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

The Solar Wall (Ep. 105)

This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at President Trump’s idea for a solar-powered border wall, what it will mean for the country if Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy retires, and what it will mean for Democrats if Jane Sanders’ legal troubles take Bernie down with her.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Helena, Molly, and lots of other smart, fun people.

Only Republicans “Forced” The Nuclear Option

by Kevin Kelton

In the days since Senate Republicans voted to overturn the Democrat’s filibuster and confirm SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch on a mostly party-line 54-44 vote, I’ve seen many respected journalists and not-so-respected bloggers describe the event as the Democrats “forcing” the GOP to invoke the nuclear option.

The Democrats did nothing of the kind.

What did happen is, the GOP voluntarily and willfully broke the long-standing rules of the senate by arbitrarily rewriting them. Read More

More Perfect, After Dark: The Nuclear Option (Ep. 89)

In this “After Dark” episode, the gang shares some laughs about President Trump and share some juicy theories about what Rep. Devin Nunes told the president and why it’s such a secret. Then things get serious when talking about Neil Gorsuch, Merrick Garland, and the liberal/conservative divide over the open SCOTUS seat.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with D.J., Kevin, Rebekah, Greg, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

A Stolen Seat; A System Betrayed

By Rebekah Chodoff Kuschmider

So, I’ve been stewing since Sunday night. For those of you who tuned in to The More Perfect Union “After Dark” episode that was released this week, you were treated to a heated and emotional discussion between myself, Kevin, and Helena about the state of the Supreme Court nominating process. It was in the middle of that discussion when I realized how deep my feelings of anger and betrayal actually are regarding the nomination and subsequent treatment of Merrick Garland last year.

Read More

What Trump Is Getting Right

 

Episode 78 of The More Perfect Union podcast attempts to talk about what the 45th president is getting right after three weeks. But when we exhaust that topic after a minute or two, the discussion moves to the Mitch McConnell–Elizabeth Warren senate flair-up and how Saturday Night Live is getting under the president’s skin. Then we take a look at the new administration’s most lovable geek and put our spin on Ivanka’s war with Nordstrom.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, Greg, D.J., Rebekah, Cliff, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

Let’s Not ‘Hillary’ Elizabeth

by Kevin Kelton

It’s already starting. The Hillarization of Elizabeth Warren.

As if it’s not bad enough that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has started the GOP’s methodical vilification of the 2020 Democratic frontrunner with his senate floor theatrics and that President Trump has chimed to lead the “Pocahontas” chorus. Now the left is falling into the same old, destructive pattern as well.

In my Facebook political group, Open Fire, I’ve already seen Democrats starting the tear-down process by calling the Massachusetts senator shrill, whiny, grating, and in one case saying Warren’s “tone” is so annoying that when he hears her he “just wants her to shut up.” There are Warren-bashing Facebook groups sprouting up, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are predictably going to town on her, and you can bet that the clickbait factories in Macedonia will soon begin churning out sensational fake news stories about her like this and this and this.

That is exactly what led to the Donald Trump presidency in the first place. While there are many theories as to why Clinton lost, it certainly didn’t help that members of her own party were fragging her with Clinton-hate from day one. Starting with Bernie Sanders’ entry into the race, liberals began relentlessly kneecapping Clinton about her emails, her Iraq vote, the Wall Street speeches, The Clinton Foundation, her husband’s infidelities, her own sexuality (with talk of a Huma affair), the cost of her outfits, misogynistic hostility about her ambition and so-called imperial sense of entitlement, and pretty much every other crazy slander you can imagine.

And, yes, they also mocked her speaking cadence and “Shrillary” tone.

In doing so, the Bernie-or-Busters gave life to the evil, “corrupt Hillary”cartoon  caricature that the Trump camp happily adopted.

There is no doubt that the 16-month-long Chinese water-torture of Democrats badmouthing their own nominee led to the party’s abysmal turnout in the swing states that she lost, and to the historically oversized vote tallies that Jill Stein and Gary Johnson ran up. Had progressives and millennials rallied to their side’s nominee the way rural conservatives eventually did, Clinton would be president today. Instead, they gleefully did the other side’s dirty work for them.

Now many of those same Democrats are repeating history by kneecapping their next female frontrunner. A lot of it is due to misogyny (masked in insults about her “tone” or the sound of her voice). Some due to gullibility (buying into GOP-manufactured narratives like “Pocahontas” or that she’s somehow corrupt). And as the inevitable fake news stories and nasty memes fan out on Facebook and Twitter, a lot of gullible Democrats will do the GOP’s bidding by playing telephone with it all in the social media gossip mill.

Folks, don’t do it. Resist the temptation to play into Trump’s hand, and don’t let your well-intentioned friends on the left do it, either. When you see a Democrat peddling Liz-hate, remind them how that played out for our side in 2016. Let’s nip this in the bud now, before it takes on a life of its own.

Because if we help the GOP torpedo our party’s leading voices again, we are doomed to repeat history. And there may not be much history ahead of us after that.

 

Kevin Kelton is co-host of the More Perfect Union podcast and founder of the Facebook political debate group, Open Fire.