Littwin: The smart move would be not to impeach Trump, but is it the right move?

President Trump meets with Fabiana Rosales de Guaido, first lady of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, March 27 in the Oval Office. (White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

So now that we have the damning Mueller Report, or much of it, in hand, the obvious question is what the hell we should do with it.

If you read the report — and I advise anyone who wants to take serious part in this conversation to do the full 448-page slog — you can’t miss the obvious invitation for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings. 

Should House Democrats accept the invitation, despite the fact that Senate Republicans would never vote to convict Donald Trump? This is how unlikely it would be: If all the Senate Democrats held, they’d still need 20 Republicans, almost all of whom have enabled Trump’s behavior, to toss Trump from office. If those Republicans voted to convict, they’d be basically voting to convict themselves as accessories.

On Friday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren became the first of the presidential candidates to call for impeachment hearings. Julian Castro followed. That may be the right political call for Warren, who needs to rally the progressive base, but would it be the right political call for Democrats in general, not to mention for the country?

There’s a theory, which many hold, that impeaching Trump could be the most likely path for him to get re-elected. The safe call is to have more hearings and leave it there. That’s where Nancy Pelosi seems to be — and without Pelosi, the question is pretty much moot.

But there’s still this question: Would failing to impeach be the honest call?

It’s obvious that Trump never should have been president. But it’s just as obvious that he was elected president — if due to some unlikely circumstances — and that he could be re-elected. Whatever call it is, it’s not an easy call.

Here’s what we do know. If Bob Mueller could have indicted Trump — Justice Department rules say you can’t indict a sitting president, which is more a guideline than a constitutionally held rule — he likely would have. Instead, in somewhat strangled language, the report says that on the subject of obstruction of justice — a presidential impeachment standby — Mueller couldn’t exonerate Trump.

Here’s the money quote from the report: “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

He couldn’t exonerate Trump because the report gives so much evidence of Trump’s attempts to interfere with the investigation — of the times he lied, of the times he encouraged his aides to lie on his behalf, of the warnings he tweeted to witnesses. It is a White House, as a Washington Post headline says, of “paranoia, lies and fear.”

Trump has claimed victory because no one could show his campaign actively conspired with the Russians. But the report does show, as if anyone doubted it, that the Russians were the bad actors in the 2016 campaign — a fact Trump has consistently either minimized or denied — and were acting on Trump’s behalf. And even worse, that Trump actively welcomed their help.

So, let’s get this much straight. Forget the Game of Thrones meme. Forget Attorney General Bill Barr’s shameful misdirection and his disingenuous appeal for sympathy for the beleaguered president. Trump didn’t get exonerated in this report. He was eviscerated. And even he knows it.

As now-Sen. Mitt Romney — finally locating his conscience — tweeted, “I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President.” OK, so Romney’s a little late to the party, but I can name a few prominent Colorado Republicans who have yet to show.

For any other president — any other — this report would be beyond devastating. It would be, as Trump himself predicted when Mueller was named special counsel, “the end of (his) presidency.” Trump was wrong about that. His presidency goes apace — as I write this, he’s in Florida golfing with Rush Limbaugh.

But when Trump, according to the report, said in the same breath, “I’m fucked,” he was both right and wrong. Any fair reading of the report shows that he is, in fact, screwed — by all those who ratted him out/told the truth to Mueller’s team, who presented us with 10 possible examples of obstruction of justice. In the one comforting reveal in the Mueller report, many of those obstruction attempts were compromised when Trump’s aides refused to carry out his orders. 

And yet. And yet.

His supporters will support Trump even if the president is backing away from exoneration, seeing now that the very word has become late-night comedy fodder. So he is back to hoax and more. In tweets Friday, we got “Crazy Mueller Report,” “18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters,” “illegally Started Hoax” and “total bullshit.” 

Republicans in Congress, with rare exceptions, will go in one of two ways: 1. They’ll dismiss or ignore the findings in the report or 2. They’ll go the Cory Gardner way, which is to thank Mueller for his efforts, badmouth the Russians, say it’s time for Congress to get back to work and never, ever, even once, mention Trump, collusion or obstruction. 

Which takes us back to impeachment and what the point would be. I’m not a fan of impeachment. No one can be surprised by Trump’s presidency. His approval ratings aren’t much different from when he won election. He didn’t win in spite of who he is, but, in large part, because of who he is.

Democrats know what happened when Republicans overreached and impeached Bill Clinton, and they rightly fear the same could happen to them. But this is different. Yes, the politics will say to leave it alone. But sometimes even politics is about something more than, well, politics. Sometimes, you just have to do the right thing. When the president is a threat to democracy — and it’s all laid out neatly in a 448-page report — how much choice do you really have?

 

 

10 COMMENTS

  1. Mike Littwin, Please, using all your knowledge gained in covering many presidential campaigns, explain FACTUALLY, no more spinning, how the Mueller report has enough concrete evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians. Really? Because you do not think he is PRESIDENTIAL enough, he should be impeached?

  2. For nearly a generation now, Impeachment has been forever sullied as merely the tool for hypocritical, partisan attacks on the president, thanks of course to Newt Gingrich and his congressional accomplices. Such was the shame associated with the term after its misuse by the GOP that when it might have been warranted during the Bush/Cheney administration (even leading to international charges of war crimes), it was determined that the better part of wisdom was to let the clock run out on that miserable administration, and let the electoral process take care of their dismissal from office.

    Recall that the GOP did not learn anything from their first attempted coup. When in 2016 it appeared that Hillary Clinton would win the election, hyenas in the Republican Party were already calling for her impeachment on Inaugural Day (if not sooner).
    If Democrats initiate impeachment proceedings, however justified, it would widen the divisions that have riven our nation. What was once thought of as the “Lunatic Fringe” has already grown into the “Mainstream GOP”. I do not wish that number to increase. Democrats would become indelibly associated with the same hypocritical, partisan behaviors as projected by the “victimized” GOP regardless of the facts.

    Every time we think Trump’s supporters in and out of office have reached rock bottom, they find a stronger tool to dig even deeper.

    There are more than a dozen federal and state investigations still going on investigating Trump’s personal and business activities. The likelihood of criminal charges being levied once Trump is out of office, I believe, is rather high given his track record with civil judgments already assessed against him and his associates.

    I say let those investigations run their course. Given the slow pace of the wheels of justice, November 2020 is just around the corner. Let the results of the electoral process be the final judge of whether the wisdom and strength embodied in the principles our Founding Fathers bequeathed us are still held by a majority of voters. If by some catastrophe Democrats fail to convince a majority of voters the need to rid our nation of a cruel tyrant and his enablers from office, then God help us all.

    We get the quality of government we deserve, either way.

  3. Several hours before (Attorney General William P.) Barr’s letter was released, former intelligence officer Malcolm Nance predicted on MSNBC that the report could “technically eclipse Benedict Arnold” in its level of treasonous activity. “ – thedailybeast.com

    As the Trump-Kremlin conspiracy vanishes in a flash and puff of smoke, the colossal absurdity of it suddenly becomes clearer. – nationalpost.com

    “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in an interview that she opposes moving to impeach President Trump even though she believes he is “unfit” for office — her first definitive statement on the subject and one that stands to alienate members of her own Democratic Party who are intent on ousting the president.” – msn.com

    “[T]he Democrats are helping (President Trump),They are. Take the focus on Russia-gate. What’s that all about? I mean, it was pretty obvious at the beginning that you’re not going to find anything very serious about Russian interference in elections.” – Noam Chomsky

    “A unilateral pursuit of impeachment by Democrats would be an “exercise doomed for failure.” – House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA)

    “Certainly no (2020 Democrat presidential) candidate is going to say on the record what one almost-candidate, Michael Avenatti, said last year—that to have the best chance of beating President Donald Trump, the Democratic nominee “better be a white male.” “- Politico.com February, 2019

    “We know that some of the front-runners for the Dem Nom are woefully short on spine, so much so that the condition seems to have robbed them of the ability to speak…Bernie Sanders and Liz Warren being the two standouts in this regard.” – Anonymous January, 2018

    {}

    Here’s how conflicted Mr. Littwin is on impeachment: He offers pros and cons—-sometimes both in the same sentence—-trying hard to draw a distinction between “the right thing to do” and “the politically right thing to do” while deftly keeping one foot planted firmly on each side of the argument.

    —– “Should House Democrats accept the invitation (to impeach President Trump), despite the fact that Senate Republicans would never vote to convict Donald Trump?”

    —–(Impeaching President Trump) may be the right political call for (Sen. Elizabeth) Warren, who needs to rally the progressive base, but would it be the right political call for Democrats in general, not to mention for the country?

    —–“I’m not a fan of impeachment.” followed in the very next paragraph by, “Sometimes, you just have to do the right thing.(impeachment)”

    —–“It’s obvious that (President) Trump never should have been president. But it’s just as obvious that he was elected president —if due to some unlikely circumstances (Read: Hillary Clinton) — and that he could be re-elected. (Read: Bernie Sanders)”

    Mr. Littwin isn’t the only one who thinks four more years of President Trump is possible. According to mediaite.com so does Noam Chomsky, “the noted progressive scholar, believes Democrats have focused far too much on Russia. And he thinks it might earn them four more years of President Donald Trump.

    “[T]he Democrats are helping him,” Chomsky said. “They are. Take the focus on Russia-gate. What’s that all about? I mean, it was pretty obvious at the beginning that you’re not going to find anything very serious about Russian interference in elections.”

    But the money quote can be found in paragraph 5: “”without (Speaker) Pelosi (D-CA), the question (of impeachment) is pretty much moot.“ And without Speaker Pelosi this entire column is moot.

    But the most telling sign of Mr. Littwin’s intense impeachment ambivalence is the column’s last sentence which he ends with a question mark, not an exclamation point.

    Mr. Littwin glosses over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s finding that there was no collusion between President Trump and Russia to interfere with the 2016 election. This is how Glenn Greenwald of theintercept.com described that finding:

    “The two-pronged conspiracy theory that has dominated U.S. political discourse for almost three years – that (1) Trump, his family and his campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, and (2) Trump is beholden to Russian President Vladimir Putin — was not merely rejected today by the final report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It was obliterated: in an undeniable and definitive manner.”

    For 674 days “Collusion, Collusion, Collusion” was the chant of the MSNBC-addicted rubes who thought/hoped/wished/prayed that Mueller would find our president guilty of colluding with the Russians to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, a.k.a the collusion delusion.

    Many in the mainstream media had long ago tried and convicted our president of collusion. To his great credit Mr. Littwin was an exception. Never once did he claim that Mueller would find our president guilty of collusion. Not once.

    But nothing could stop those infected with Trump Derangement Syndrome—-the uninformed, intellectually-challenged, willfully-ignorant, facts-don’t-matter crowd—-from submitting hysteria-induced, you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up comments like these:

    —– “With Russia’s help, one of their agents posing as a politician was able to exploit a weakness in our electoral system for the first time in modern history to get “elected” by a minority of voters*. Your support for this treasonous act is why you are no longer able to wear the colors with honor not to mention why Mueller is about to take a giant dump on Trump and the complicit members of the Republican party.”

    —– “Once again we have evidence that (our) president has committed treason and should be impeached along with his minions and jailed for a long time. I am listening to his clown Spice right now who is trying like hell to somehow come up with some kind of excuse for the treason committed by dot and mike p. No such luck.”

    —– “So when do the Treasonous Trumpets get their Scarlet T’s? “

    —– “Trump the Traitor will always have an asterisk next to his name. As will his supporters. I imagine those loyal to the crown suffered a similar fate when our country was founded. His ilk are simply the latest version of the Tories…and will be held by history with the same disdain. A just punishment for treason. Among other things.”

    —– “The final word of the day is Treason. That’s the charge that Mattie was trying to avoid by pulling the fire alarms as he ran from the building. Treason or treasonous…as in Republicans on Capitol Hill have been treasonous and are now going to start eating their own.”

    —– “Republicans have been there before after all…but when you add treason and sedition, well…It’s best if everyone knows that about them right?”

    —– “They want us all to go along with the Donald like this is how America operates. SINCE WHEN? This is TREASON, folks, and EVERYTHING that the Donald does is and should be suspect.”

    —– “But that is what the folks who brought us the War of Treason want – no Federal government or regulation from the Federal government.”

    —–If (the results of the 2016 election) are clean, what’s (special counsel) Mueller doing?

    —– “…..good example of someone clearly not able to come to terms with the reality of the Mueller investigation of Russia’s influence on our election and the collusion they received from Trump’s administration.”

    —– “If Mueller and his team of bloodhounds keep going…you’re full of sh!t, just like your traitorous president”

    Will the shamed, Dunning-Kruger effected, totally-out-of-touch-with-reality authors of these, uh, incredible-but-real, childish comments identify themselves, will they admit they were, well, wrong, will they apologize? No, no and hell, no! They lack the capacity to accept facts that conflict with their stunted, slanted and skewed points of view.

    They’ll simply slink off into the night, tails tucked firmly between their legs, to lick their wounds and conjure up brand new and even more convoluted conspiracy theories to feed the rubes who can’t spot an obvious con, explaining why they believe our president will be indicted, impeached, jailed or led out the White House in shackles and handcuffs.

    The more you know.

    *

    “Politicians say more taxes will solve everything
    And the band played on” – Temptations

    “Let me tell you how it will be
    There’s one for you, nineteen for me
    ‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
    And you’re working for no one but me” – Beatles

    “Tax the rich, feed the poor
    ‘Til there are no rich no more?” – Ten Years After

    “Eat the rich
    There’s only one thing that they are good for
    Eat the rich” – Silversmith

    Laquan McDonald/Rahm Emanuel
    Jussie Smollett
    Virginia Governor Ralph Northam
    Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax
    Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring

    • Magic is one of my favorite athletes I ever dealt with. But he is remarkably thin-skinned, and from what I’m told, all the heat and kitchen cliches probably apply in this case. I’m thinking the Lakers and Magic are both better off.

      • I agree but it could not have come at a worse time for the Lakers and, this is just me, I think it could have been handled much, much better.

        Do you think LeBron went to LA for basketball or business?

  4. I agree. It could have — and should have — been handled much better. Think for LeBron, business and basketball go hand in hand. Like it was for Jordan. And for Kobe.

    • Mr. Littwin,

      Thank you for answering my LeBron question and I know I’m pushing my luck here but I hope you’ll answer one more—-and it’ll be my last—- LeBron question. If not, that’s OK.

      Do you think an NBA franchise (or any sports franchise, business, organization) can be successfully run from the bottom up long term?

      • Generally, i would say no. But at this particular point where stars recruit stars and form mega teams, i’d Still say no, but not a hard no. In Miami,
        Pat Riley is a great builder of teams, but if Wade doesn’t recruit LeBron and Bosh …

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