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New Republic - September 26, 2019

"Democrats routinely mistake the panicked bluster of Trump cronies for unshakable masculine confidence. Trump is not begging to be impeached, and Giuliani does not relish the opportunity to embarrass them: Neither one of them wants to be here at all."

With Thursday’s release of an almost comically damning complaint from an anonymous whistleblower alleging serious abuses of office by President Donald Trump, we seem to be barreling toward his impeachment. I would like to suggest that House Democrats slow down.

I start with the assumption that there will be no serious consequences for Trump as a result of the impeachment process. That assumption is informed by having been sentient and paying attention to the news during the last 20 years or so of American governance, and by reading a bit about the 20 before that. This is not a country that does serious consequences. I know we want to see Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs, but I also remember wanting very much to see the same thing happen to Karl Rove.

I would be happy to be proven wrong, but I do not expect Trump to be removed from office or to resign in a cloud of disgrace. I do not expect catharsis. Catharsis may be what some people are looking for from any sort of impeachment process, but I would invite them to read former Congressman Brad Miller’s remarkable history, in the latest issue of The American Prospect, of the last 40 years of congressional oversight of (Republican) presidential administrations. It is a story of shameless people getting away with it, over and over again, thanks in large part to a dubious but effective legal theory of presidential power developed by the current attorney general.

“Barr and others on the right have sought relentlessly for four decades to concentrate power in the president and strip power from Congress,” Miller writes, adding that “Barr is committed to presidential power with or without legal authority and with or without public support. And he will advance presidential power by any means necessary, which includes frivolous legal arguments and dilatory tactics forbidden by court rules and canons of legal ethics, and false testimony forbidden by criminal law.”

... If Democrats want a political argument for dragging this out, they can look to history: The Watergate hearings were a television show that lasted 250 hours. The articles of impeachment drafted against Nixon were not narrowly focused on the most blatant and well-supported abuses of Watergate, but included the secret bombing of Cambodia and tax evasion. They followed the investigation where it led, and the public eventually went along with them.

But gaming out how this will “play” with the electorate is beside the point. House Democrats should conceive of their intended audience not as swing voters or cable news pundits but posterity. They are responsible to history. Congressional majorities have tools, like subpoena power and security clearance, that journalists and historians lack. The point of investigating the administration is not to find the one thing they could nail him on, but to find all the things he ought to be nailed on. ...
Read full article at New Republic