I’ve been a deep skeptic of impeachment as a political strategy, putting me solidly in the Nancy Pelosi go-slow camp. I’ve argued time and again that the smart play is IIABN: Impeachment in All but Name, but the great beast of Washington shambles ever forward, its ponderous, inexorable tread leading it toward the inevitable impeachment proceedings against Donald John Trump, 45th president of the United States.
Can you make an impeachment case for obstruction based purely on the released information in the Mueller Report? Absolutely.
Are you there yet politically? Nope.
For my Democratic friends, I know how frustrating this seems to you. This week, forward progress on a number of fronts will help move the nation into the mental and political frame where impeachment could lead to the conviction of Trump, not just what he’ll view as a wrist-slap and a campaign motivation point for his base. You cannot shame the shameless. You cannot make a man who is without a single ethical standard change the behavior that allowed him to grift his way into office and to monetize the presidency.
“But damn it, Wilson, why can’t we get on with fucking Trump? Doesn’t he deserve it? Haven’t we waited long enough?”
I feel your pain and frustration, but unless you convict him in the Senate and destroy his political future, you’re not fucking anyone; you’re just enjoying a masturbatory revenge fantasy. Democrats are making an argument on the impact of impeachment hearings based largely on magical political thinking.
This isn’t the Watergate era. Not a single Republican vote beyond Justin Amash can be guaranteed in the House, and the Senate landscape is entirely bleak. Until you can get to two-thirds of the Senate for a conviction, impeachment means nothing.
For all that, the Democrats champing at the bit to hold Trump to account are having a good week already, whether they know it or not. It’s so good, they’d be fools not to keep doing the things that are starting to work—the exercise of congressional power, the use of the courts to uphold the law, and the momentum building in the public mind for an accounting of Trump’s full-spectrum lawbreaking, contempt, obstruction, and corruption.
The Pelosi-Nadler strategy is starting to shift that political battlefield, and the legal landscape is breaking in their favor. The judicial branch isn’t yet a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump, Inc. Yet. Trump’s own mistakes are helping move the investigation strategy forward and are beginning to ensure that when Congress does start getting testimony and documents from the White House and Department of Justice, Trump will have painted himself into a corner he can’t tweet his way out of.
Even without impeachment proceedings on deck yet, here’s why this week is shaping up well for the Resistance.
McGahn Flirts With #ETTD
Trump’s decision to forbid Don McGahn from testifying before Congress this week about matters on which the White House had already waived executive privilege was a tactical and strategic mistake. On the tactical side, it sets a precedent that anyone who cooperated in the Mueller probe will now have a much harder time claiming executive privilege to maintain Trump omertà.
The strategic mistake is that McGahn’s testimony took on an even more consequential cast once Trump tried to stop it. The president knows McGahn can be asked to pull back the curtain on the Trump reality show and to describe this president’s behavior, actions, and desires.
McGahn is also liberated by something you may have missed. Shortly after the Mueller Report was released, the Trump 2020 presidential campaign fired Jones-Day, McGahn’s law firm. It would have seemed like the usual Trumpian shit-fit for McGahn daring to tell the truth to the special counsel. Now, McGahn doesn’t have to worry about his law firm losing a large piece of business; Trump already fucked him on the deal.
McGann arguably saved an administration from itself by refusing the president’s direct orders to make himself a tool of obstruction of justice. He protected the most ungrateful man in America and has already been punished for it by having the president’s crew turn against him.
McGahn was missing from Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearings, and Chairman Jerry Nadler dropped the hammer. Trump, master of the reality TV form, made a huge mistake here. All eyes will be on McGahn now, making his inevitable appearance a must-see television moment.
The Mehta Decision
Another area where Trump is losing bigly this week is his desire to—as always—hide his tax returns and financial records from the American people and their representatives. This is a matter of black-letter law, with almost no serious legal scholars making even the most superficial defense of the current contempt with which Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the Treasury Department are behaving.
Judge Amit Mehta made it quite clear in his 14-page ruling that the rights of Congress to conduct oversight are not founded by the moods and whims of the man-child engaged in stompy-foot time in the Oval Office or in the novel legal theories of his legal team. This is on a high-speed collision, potentially with Judge Merrick Garland presiding over the case. Who says karma isn’t a delicious bitch?
Of course, noted Twitter legal scholar Donald Trump called the ruling ridiculous and totally wrong and made sure to point out it was made by a judge appointed by Barack Obama. That smell? It’s Trump’s panicked flopsweat. Trump’s taxes are his kryptonite, and you can expect him to fight harder on this point than any other.
The sweeping claims of executive privilege from the White House are backed up only by the Trump Family Legal Defense Center—by which I mean the Office of Legal Counsel at Bill Barr’s Department of Justice. Their weak argument in Monday’s memo and the apparent direction of the courts will have implications for the release to Congress of the unredacted Mueller Report and briefings on the ongoing counterintelligence operation mounted in response to Russia’s verified attacks on our republic.
Once even one of these cases becomes an exemplar, it will be less and less likely the courts will allow Trump’s legal team to mount the same defense over and over. It means Congress will get to see Robert Mueller before the cameras, and damn near any other player in this drama.
In related good news, a new tranche of Michael Cohen's testimony to Congress has now been released. As I’ve said from the beginning, Cohen may be a lying liar who lies, an utterly shit-tier human being, a wannabe bad guy, and an all-around dick, but he still holds many of the keys to understanding Trump’s financial kingdom. Think of him as a douchebag Rosetta Stone to Trump’s personal, sexual, legal, and financial shenanigans.
The most compelling part of these new revelations is that Cohen states under oath that Jay Sekulow, Trump’s lead attorney, requested Cohen lie under oath to Congress on the details of Trump’s real estate deal in Moscow. That Sekulow wanted this from Cohen is a monstrous tell over Trump’s terror that the details of the Russia deal will emerge more completely.
It’s a damn good week. Trump’s strategy is flawed, his decisions are leading him deeper into the political mire. The arc of this story is moving the right direction. Keep doing the things that work, Democrats. Impeachment is the end goal, not the first step, and you’re closing in.