What to Do with Trump is Not an Easy Question. But the Path is Getting Clearer.
Democrats are working toward consensus on how to proceed on Trump’s transgressions. For some time now, the further left and recently elected were hot for impeachment.
Old hands cautioned on that course, warning correctly about pursuing it too quickly. The Speaker of the House has made it clear she wanted nothing to do with impeachment.
Things are Moving
Then the last couple of weeks things changed. I suspect that years from now we will look at the period around this week as the turning of a corner. Two things happened that have begun to lead to a sense of things coming to a head.
First, Trump went to a complete “screw you” strategy on the multiple subpoenas from Congress. He has not a legal leg to stand on for almost all, if not all, of them. But he persists.
This has led to many in Congress talking more about the constitutional role of Congress rather than about the politics of any given choice.
A substantial number began talking about impeachment, many more than ever before. This includes some members of the leadership. The Speaker held a closed door, members only meeting this week under some pressure to get on with it.
Apparently, she acknowledged that the times, they were a- changing (thanks to Bob Dillon for the phrasing of that last line). But she also insisted on solid process to bring the country along where the Democrats may go.
Second, Trump seemed to unravel more than a little bit this week. The staged 3-minute meeting ostensibly called to talk about infrastructure was pathetic and bizarre. He then went out to the Rose Garden for a prearranged gathering of reporters. There he railed against the unfair burden he carries.
What proceeded was the oddest presidential performance ever from that podium. He announced that he was holding the country hostage until he got his way. He would work on nothing, cooperate on nothing until all investigations stopped. It was not possible to deal with investigations and govern at the same time, he said.
This impossibility would have been news to Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon. Both of them accomplished quite a bit while they were under investigation. It is difficult to imagine what Trump thought would come from such a demand.
How did he think it would be received by the country? It had an air of desperation about it. Perhaps the fact that his finances are about to become public was more than Trump could handle. All this was followed by a comic moment, and an ominous one.
What Happened Next
First, the comedy. Trump polled his staff members about his conduct at that 3-minute meeting . All dutifully concluded that he was calm and centered. This in spite of the fact he never crossed the room to join the other participants, never sat down, never engaged in conversation.
After his people confirmed he did great, Trump reminded us again (Really!) that he is a stable genius. About then the photos came out of his hand written notes from the Rose Garden, full of spelling errors. As Trump himself would say: Sad, very sad.
The more ominous moment came last night. A White House memo enjoined all agencies, especially intelligence, to cooperate with Barr’s “investigation” of the Mueller probe. This is a gross politicization of government in a way we have not seen, and Bill Barr owns it lock, stock, and barrel. He has sealed his place in history beyond redemption.
My hope is that the agencies called to help this travesty will resist, deflect, and block at every opportunity. That anyone would participate in such a thing would be shameful.
Where to Go from Here
So, the real challenge now for the Democrats is how best to proceed. Their stated goals are proper oversight and public education. They are racking up wins in the courts at a brisk pace.
They may wish to consider rolling all their requests into a single package for court review. This could expedite matters. It could also do a better job of clarifying for the public how unacceptable Trump’s stance is today.
Second, they apparently are working to coordinate the six major ongoing investigations. The aim is to ensure that the public does not drown in excess process and wrangling. I would very much like to see some of these efforts combined into joint hearings.
Such hearings require live broadcast hearings. A central purpose would be to help the public understand why Trump has crossed too many lines.
The country does not currently favor impeachment. The same was true at about this point for Nixon as well. But patient and well-coordinated hearings turned around the public. Enough members of the president’s own party came around. The result was Nixon’s resignation.
The process around Clinton was a political hatchet job. Those hearings exposed them for what they were. Clinton survived and actually rose in public standing.
So, the Democrats have two recent historical models to look to for guidance. May the spirits of Senators Irvin and Baker be recalled and utilized today. If so, Trump’s days are numbered, and the country will be well served. However it goes, this was the week we turned a corner and started on our chosen path.
I wish us luck.
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