Terry H. Schwadron
June 24, 2019
Whether you spend your day wondering how best to salute Donald Trump or fashioning ways to exile him to a faraway place, we all must be feeling the same way about this soap opera that is congressional review of impeachment proceedings: The drama is overly emotive, the plot is thin, and the show is endless.
Yes, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is right, and a deliberate, careful process is a good idea. Yes, the now 70 or so House Democrats pushing for an actual declaration of impeachment proceedings are correct. Yes, even Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee are believable. If you’re going to do this thing, Congress, let’s get on with it.
This just in: Americans have no patience.
With a decision — finally — by the Department of Justice to do what its Constitutional government charter requires it to do, and turn over Mueller Report documents to the House Judiciary Committee, I thought we might actually start moving on either filling out a formal indictment, as many Democrats would like, or stepping away from the whole thing, as Donald Trump would prefer.
Plus, the Judiciary Committee has pressed ahead to take recalcitrant witnesses to court, an important step towards, well, more hearings and long court waits for approval to ask the questions they answered in the Mueller Report. The recent hearings so far with John Dean, with law school professors who are former prosecutors, with a silent Hope Hicks, hardly moved the issues forward, and drew derision from Republicans about their version of “political theater” calls. From that perspective, they are failed theater: There is no useful information, and only more court cases over process that result.
At this moment, you’d have to say that Trump’s resistance campaign is winning on his delay-of-game strategy over intended sharp investigation by House Democrats.
The fact of the matter is that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III laid out a path for Congress to follow, did the investigative work needed, and showed the path for review. We can argue over why Mueller felt he could not bring formal criminal charges, but it seems untenable for all parties for the current almost-impeachment status to continue forever.
We haven’t even heard from Mueller himself, outside of his nine-minute Delphic oration upon resigning.
Clearly the most ardent Trumpists would like this daily torture to stop, though just as clearly they do not see crimes or even inappropriateness by the White House at the heart of the Mueller Report. Pretty much everyone else sees that the report is a laundry list of bad behaviors that make Trump unfit for office.
Yes, as Pelosi argues, it would be best if Senate Republicans came to their senses and rose above narrow partisan political politics to look hard at the behaviors associated with the Trump team in the report and in his actions to protect his presidency. So, her thinking has some positive court decisions and the beginning of evidence-building as proving persuasive — eventually. Yes, she would argue, even Republicans should recognize obstruction of justice; yes, something pretty close to witness tampering; yes, a failure to acknowledge an attack by Russians on the 2016 elections. But petty they are, and so Republicans in Washington want to gnash their moral teeth in private and support Trump in public, just for the chance to win reelection and put more conservative judges in place.
But Ms. Pelosi, we’re dying by the day here. We’re looking at a failure of Congress to do its job, a failure by House Democrats to risk losingtheirseats by doing The Right Thing.
Votes to hold Atty. Gen. William P. Barr and former White House lawyer Donald McGahn in civil contempt, with no actual punishment or price to pay for their failures to comply with House committee subpoenas, are useless.
The release of notes, original investigative reports and the like from the Mueller Report does hold some hope. It’s not so much that I believe that these unknowable documents will actually provide specific evidence that is needed, but the release finally may move something here along. My hope is that the soap opera period can come to an end, and that we can make some decisions.
I’m watching Rep. David Cicilline, D-RI, a prosecutor mind who seems to have a healthy respect for assembling the evidence; Cicilline is a big proponent for moving ahead with impeachment, but a barometer for the House leadership thinking. I think as he goes, so goes the decision-making.
It is outrageous that Trump thinks he can dictate with former White House adviser Hope Hicks or McGahn can testify before a congressional committee, when Trump himself is the intended target of the testimony involved. It is anti-democratic, if not downright illegal, for the attorney general and other cabinet officials to refuse to talk with congressional oversight committees.
House Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, has been excellent at walking the line between deliberate and aggressive but we have reached the end now.
What we do not need are show trial hearings. We need the fact-witnesses in those chairs now, to proceed with putting together the best case for consideration.
In the meantime, of course, Barr and Sen. Lindsay Graham are pursuing yet another investigation into the origins of the Russian probe itself, as if adverse findings might excuse the behaviors of Team Trump.
Congress needs to haul these Trump officials into court to force their testimony. The testimony needs to affirm the basic truth of the Mueller Report to be considered evidence. And the evidence needs to be presented in logical and persuasive order for an up or down vote on impeachment.