Impeaching Trump: Is That All There Is?


One nagging thought (well, one of several) persists as House Democrats move to draft articles of impeachment.

I know Pelosi, Nadler et al. have many good reasons to limit their case to the aid extortion Trump et al. tried to work on Ukraine. This scheme does comprise the most egregious high crimes, with the most serious potential consequences, known to have been undertaken by and at the behest of this president. The Dems want to sustain momentum, keep the public’s attention, and avoid distracting from the primary rounds that begin next month. Past scandals didn’t move the all-important public opinion meter, so better to concentrate on one that might. And since they haven’t a prayer of turning enough Republican senators to get a conviction, the best they can do is establish a record (as Schiff ably did).

But is it wise to put the whole case in this one basket? This scandal seems to have moved that meter only marginally. Trump’s earlier potential crimes and misdemeanors, if less serious, may be easier to understand. Together they establish a modus and motive that support the Ukrainegate case.

The witnesses taking the stand earlier, and committee chair Nadler himself, showed this when they recalled how candidate Trump publicly urged Russia to hack the Democratic National Committee’s emails. What hasn’t been recalled, and was too little noted at the time, was that the only change in the 2016 Republican platform that team Trump demanded was weakening its expression of support for Ukraine against Russian aggression.

Indulge in reverie for a moment and imagine how the hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen MacDougal would sit against a Ukrainegate bribery count. That’s only reverie, of course; even if it had time, this House wouldn’t want to follow the stained-blue-dress precedent and convene hearings on anything so petty and seamy. But it already has a record of multiple past instances of obstruction of justice, complete with convicted henchmen, in the form of the Mueller Report and James Comey’s congressional testimony. The fact that Mueller’s own appearance fell flat doesn’t gainsay the strength of the record his team established.

If you’re going to charge Trump’s latest obstruction of justice, why not charge his past obstructions? If you’re going to call him corrupt, why not include counts for taking foreign emoluments and for self-enrichment by steering federal business to his hotels and resorts?

Republicans would howl that the Democrats are getting desperate and flinging whatever they can find. But if the Dems limit their case the Rs will still call them desperate and holler that all three years of witchhunting could turn up is this so-called Ukrainian nothingburger.

The public, the real arbiter, deserves a refresher course in this president’s outrages. The sum is greater than one of its parts.

Eric Scigliano
Eric Scigliano
Eric Scigliano has written on varied environmental, cultural and political subjects for many local and national publications. His books include Puget Sound: Sea Between the Mountains, Love War and Circuses (Seeing the Elephant), Michelangelo’s Mountain, Flotsametrics and the Floating World (with Curtis Ebbesmeyer), The Wild Edge, and, newly published, The Big Thaw: Ancient Carbon and a Race to Save the Planet.


  1. The results of the various emoluments lawsuits have been very uneven. So that doesn’t seem like such a great thing to feature. With regard to the Stormy Daniels hush payments that’s the subject of the tax return appeal that just was issued a stay by Justice Ginsburg. This is a very fruitful area It could well result in a release of Trump’s tax returns to the House oversight committee. It’s already considerably more likely to gain of success than the impeachment inquiry itself

  2. I wonder. If Trump were to be reelected, would it be all litigation, all the time? He will continue his impeachable behavior, daring another round of impeachment hearings, and many of the loose threads, such as tax returns and Russian entanglements, will keep surfacing. I also imagine Republicans will be a little more open-minded, following lots of defeats in 2020. Welcome to 1859!

  3. I don’t see even a single convincing reason to believe that expanding the scope of the impeachment proceedings would make the public any more supportive of the process. These other things that Eric raises — that Trump had perfunctory, transactional sex with pornographic actresses and Playboy models and then lied about it (it was good clickbait for a while, but does anyone outside of the wokescolds in the media genuinely care about this? It’s 2019, not 1989), or that Trump petulantly and ineffectively attempted to obstruct an investigation into a situation where investigators were unable to prove his participation in an underlying crime — have been aired ad nauseum in the media already. Everyone’s heard it already. It’s wishful thinking to believe that more rehashing of this stuff is going to change anyone’s mind.

    Rather, the opposite is far more likely — by expanding and extending the proceedings, the Democrats will test the patience of less ideological independent voters past the breaking point, and they will sour completely on the process. There are already warning signs in the polling that this could happen.

    Pelosi is pursuing impeachment for one reason: she believes, given her public and constitutional responsibilities, she has no choice given Trump’s clear abuse of power in the Ukraine matter. And she’s right about that. But she has no illusions that this is somehow going to magically turn into a political win for Democrats, with the tribalized and tuned out American public suddenly having a “Eureka!” moment about Trump and then rushing to join the left at the barricades. While impeachment is politically a wash right now, Pelosi believes, again correctly, that she needs to get this over and done with quickly, because pursuing a partisan impeachment with zero chance of success is a politically risky move that could yet blow up in Democrats’ faces and — a tragedy to be avoided at all costs — re-elect Trump.

  4. It is now clear that House Democrats will not follow the advice of Eric, or many others, to throw more articles of impeachment at President Trump. Certainly he is worthy of more articles—he ought to be impeached for climate denial, putting the future of the entire globe at risk while he curies votes in Appalachia—but the political class needs to finish this ordeal and move into 2020 elections.
    I agree with Eric’s plea: “The public, the real arbiter, deserves a refresher course in this president’s outrages,” but we will get that refresher course through the entirety of 2020. And there will be more, you can count on that.
    “Events, my dear boy, events,” was the legendary reply of British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan when asked about his concerns entering office (his reply is certain, the exact question is much-debated). There is always more to come with this president and in these times.
    Look for 2020 to be the year of the Supreme Court. We are edging toward a big abortion decision, which will enrage one side or the other, maybe both. The Court is due to release critical decisions regarding Trump’s finances; nothing is dearer to his heart than those records, or potentially more damaging. We could have one or even two open seats on the Court, if Justice Ginsberg’s health strikes harder and Justice Thomas retires, as is rumored. Will the “McConnell Rule” about filling vacancies in a presidential election year prevail, or will McConnell?
    Economists are predicting—yet again—recession, striking at Trump’s best calling card, a strong economy. Brexit, Hong Kong, and a host of other items threaten to add to the mix already festering. The Middle East is roiling. Trump will be tempted to cut deals with the Taliban and even North Korea to have bragging points, hoping their promises will be good at least through November.
    Any of these occurrences could alter a close race, if the Democrats can come up with a candidate capable of making it a close race. That, too, is one of the “events” that will determine if Trump and what is now the Party of Trump (PoT) prevails in 2020.


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