Okay, Democrats. It’s time.
Sunday afternoon at 1:37 pm, the president of the United States tweeted that he is ordering an investigation of the investigation into him. His campaign, okay; but him. Think about that.
Imagine that Hillary Clinton were president and the Republicans were investigating the Clinton Foundation, and she ordered an investigation into that investigation, charging, based on no evidence whatsoever, that the FBI had improperly infiltrated the foundation. And no, this professor is not “proof” of “infiltration.” And anyway, if the FBI has credible reason to believe a crime may have been committed, isn’t infiltration of the enterprise suspected of criminality…their job?
Or imagine that Barack Obama had ordered an investigation into any of the various investigations of the Benghazi consular attack. Or for that matter that George W. Bush had ordered an investigation into the investigation into the Valerie Plame outing.
In any of those cases, Washington would have exploded. But now this president—who, it is documented, has spent 40 years lying to and defrauding people in business, and who lies nearly every time he speaks—and his apologists have so corrupted our system that some people are discussing Trump’s move as if it’s legitimate. Just another interesting twist and turn in Donald Trump’s Washington, ha ha.
No. It’s not. It’s a scandal. It’s the biggest sign yet that Trump knows and respects no law and will use every tool he can to thwart an investigation that is obviously legitimate. We learned over the weekend from the Times that Russia may not be the half of it, a Gulf emissary reportedly offered to help Trump win the election. Again, the August 2016 meeting involving Donald Trump Jr., Erik Prince, and people from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel (what a troika!) is not denied by Trump spokespeople; nor, so far, is the fact that Don Jr. “responded approvingly” to their offers of help. Boom. That alone is collusion and is illegal. As even Steve Bannon knows, if you’re part of a presidential campaign, you call the FBI the moment you even receive such an offer.
With each revelation, Trump becomes more unhinged and more accusatory and thinks up new ways to try to discredit the FBI and entire principle of independent investigations of the executive branch. He and his campaign almost certainly cheated, and all he does—this is the president of the United States—is lie and turn the tables, trying to delegitimize the entire Department of Justice.
Democrats: what say you? I looked Monday morning at Chuck Schumer’s Twitter feed. He retweeted a couple tweets from his Senate colleague Mark Warner about Republicans in Congress “who are trying to obstruct Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation and could be coming close to crossing a legal line.” But nothing about Trump. Nancy Pelosi sent out one tweet criticizing Trump’s Sunday afternoon tweet. Warner, who is the leading Democrat on the Senate intel committee, wrote a few tweets, less about Trump than about Congress. His House counterpart, Adam Schiff, was more direct:
This is all okay as far as it goes, but the country needs more from them. Lately there’s been some chatter about whether Democrats want to talk about Trump heading into the midterms. My colleagues Sam Stein and Gideon Resnick reported that congressional Democrats were refusing to go on cable shows because they want to talk about prescription drug prices but cable wants to talk about Trump. Then I reported that four leading Democratic presidential hopefuls seemed to go out of their way at a major liberal conference to avoid mentioning the president.
This is a guaranteed losing strategy. Candidates campaigning in districts can talk about prescription drugs and other matters all they want. This will happen well below the radar of cable news shows, but voters will hear them. Meanwhile, the national party has to talk about Trump. If a narrative develops between now and November that the Democrats want to be “careful” about how they speak of Trump, core Democratic voters will be demoralized and disgusted.
I can hear the answer back: We’re letting Mueller take care of that. If and when he issues a report before Election Day, we’ll pounce. That’s too cautious. It depends on the actions of someone else. It’s not enough. I’m sure they’d also say we don’t want to get sucked into the impeachment trap, seem like we’re too eager to impeach Trump. But that’s easily enough avoided. All they need to say is we’ll follow the evidence and see where it leads.
But the point they need to emphasize is that unlike the Republicans, they’ll look for the evidence. They’ll look into the Trump Hotel. They’ll haul Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke and Ben Carson up before Congress to explain things. They’ll focus on what’s been happening at the Veterans’ Administration. They’ll investigate policies and outcomes, from the environment to the tax bill (oversight can be “substantive” too, and thus seen as not just “political”). They’ll investigate this Jakarta thing, which has barely been discussed in the media but which alone would have floored this city in normal times. And yes, you bet they’ll investigate the campaign.
The president is lawless. His lawyer is lawless. Both of his lawyers. All they know is to lie, deny, distort, extort, and bully. The country is being governed by Mafiosi values. If the Democrats are unwilling to say that, they’ll let down millions of Americans who are counting on them to defend the law, and they’ll lose, and deserve to. History sometimes presents moments when caution is called for. This isn’t one of them.