Angry Robot

To Impeach or Not Impeach

I place a lot of stock in the opinion of Josh Marshall at TPM, who thinks, if I can summarize: impeachment that is sure to die in a Republican-controlled Senate is a waste of time, so Democrats should focus on the other ongoing investigations, and possibly pursue impeachment at a later date if the needle starts to shift. Here’s one article on the topic, and here’s a more recent one.

(Brief summary of how it works: the House of Representatives, now controlled by Democrats, would start an impeachment inquiry. This would be a “trial” in the House in which evidence is presented, testimony given, etc. They would then vote on articles of impeachment, and then the vote on whether to actually remove Trump from office is done by the Senate, and requires a supermajority of 67. The Senate is currently controlled by Republicans.)

On the other hand, there are some great points in this article. First, impeachment proceedings themselves will move the needle.

Richard Nixon’s approval rating was at 65 percent when his impeachment process began and only 19 percent of the public supported his impeachment. By the end, the numbers had flipped: his approval was 24 percent and support for impeachment was 57 percent.

Second, even if the Senate lets Trump off, this is a better position for Democrats than failing to impeach:

If the public believes Trump is guilty but the Senate lets him off anyway, he won’t ever be truly exonerated—he’ll be O.J. Simpson, assumed guilty but sprung by allies and circumstance. Some Democrats have argued that we should skip impeachment and vote Trump out instead. But if the House impeaches Trump and Senate Republicans fall in line to protect him, the argument that the ballot is the only way to remove him will be supercharged… By contrast, declining to impeach Trump validates his claim that Mueller exonerated him.

Finally, this sobering point:

Even more ominously, Trump’s weaponized Department of Justice under Barr, who has shown himself to be Trump’s eager and obedient partner in abusing the power of the state to advance the president’s political interests, will inevitably invent a pretext for investigating the Democratic nominee. Democrats should consider whether they’d rather engage that fight against a president who has been impeached for serious crimes, or against a president strengthened by the de facto exoneration bestowed when his opponents declined to pursue the evidence against him.

Here’s an article by Greg Sargent that goes into more detail about how impeachment proceedings against Nixon affected poll numbers. Essentially, support among Republican voters was never more than one third, but the proceedings galvanized Democrats and swayed independents.

Josh has just posted this morning on the topic, clarifying some points, but unfortunately it’s behind the paywall (totes worth paying for btw). Here’s the crux fo me:

Historically impeachment inquiries have lasted about eight weeks, give or take. So once you commence an impeachment inquiry I think you’re starting a timer that leads you to a vote on articles of impeachment in a couple months. It seems crazy to me to put a two month time limit on the mountain of things Democrats need to be investigating. In theory, you could just declare its open-ended and say it won’t be bound by any arbitrary timeline. This was actually my thinking at first. But that’s naive. This greases the skids for actual impeachment on a pretty short timeline and ‘when will they impeach’ will become the question that overwhelms everything else.

Two points here. First, even if you concede that the inquiry must not last longer than two months, that’s still a lot of time when you consider these would be televised daily – and of course there is a shit ton of evidence. Second, even if you are strategic about timing, potentially this leaves a fair amount of time for the various committee investigations to hold their hearings and present their findings. The earliest you would want to have the impeachment inquiry would be fall 2019 (no one watches TV in the summer). Perhaps you want the committees to get airtime in the fall; you hold the inquiry in the winter, or the spring of 2020. I’m not sure it works to wait until September 2020 given that the election is early November, and you want to have the Senate already have voted at this point.

I’ll say this much. I’d get cable again just to watch it.