Before they leave for their winter break, House Democrats are hoping to wrap up their impeachment inquiry to determine if President Donald Trump has committed any high crimes and misdemeanors. Interestingly, just a couple of days ago, one of the expert witnesses called by House Republicans, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, suggested that they slow down the process.
He testified that they had not yet gathered sufficient evidence to prove that the president had committed any impeachable offenses. In addition, just half of all Americans believe that he had. Conceivably, if the Democrats took the time to interview more witnesses, they might have a more convincing case.
While a seemingly plausible argument, it is clearly disingenuous, since the Trump Administration has been stonewalling the process by forbidding virtually every current or former high- or even mid-level official from testifying. While many might eventually be compelled to do so by the courts, this would lengthen the impeachment inquiry by a few more months.
Were that to happen, the Republicans would surely be screaming that the Democrats were trying to hurt Trump’s reelection chances by moving his Senate impeachment trial to just before the election.
The Republicans want to have it both ways. If the House Democrats conclude the impeachment inquiry too quickly, then they’ve gathered insufficient evidence to make their case. But if they slow it down, then they’re trying to hurt Trump’s reelection chances.
The scenarios with impeachment
I believe that Professor Jonathan Turley – whatever his motives – happens to be correct. The Democrats certainly could make an even stronger case if they took a few more months to gather additional testimony — and in the process, perhaps convince many more Americans of the president’s guilt.
But even more importantly, if the House Democrats were to move more deliberately to gather convincing evidence, then our nation would be provided with a historical standard of what is indeed an impeachable offense.
Just imagine if John Bolton were compelled to testify about his own observations of the principals involved in the Ukraine fiasco. Or what Acting Presidential Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and former White House Counsel Don McGahn each might have to say.
No matter how the Democrats proceed, the Republicans will complain vociferously. So why not take the time to call key witnesses whose testimony can bolster their case?
If the House determines that the president has committed one or more impeachable offenses, the case will be sent to the Senate for trial. But as everybody knows, it would take a miracle for the Republican controlled Senate to manage the two-thirds vote required to remove Trump from office.
Since this outcome is preordained, why go through this whole impeachment process? For months, the Republicans have been claiming that it’s a farce whose sole purpose is to drag the president through the mud when he is completely innocent of all charges. And their proof would be the Senate’s vote that finds him “Not guilty!”
Jonathan Turley and impeachment
So then, from the Democrats’ perspective, what would be the point of permitting an impeachment trial? Trump and his supporters would immediately proclaim that the vote proved his innocence.
So, here’s what the House Democrats need to do. Slow things down, gather more evidence, and then hold a vote. But then, even if the evidence is overwhelming , do not send the case to the Senate – unless there’s a good chance Trump will be found guilty
On the face of it, wouldn’t this just prove the Republicans’ view that this exercise in political futility was merely an effort to do a hatchet job on the president? Perhaps it was.
Still, in the short run, a lengthy impeachment process that uncovered more evidence of impeachable wrong-doing would probably make Trump’s reelection more unlikely. That alone would, of course, would make it well worthwhile.
But in the long run, it would serve a much more important purpose. Even though Trump would go unpunished, he would be tarred through eternity as someone who betrayed his high office. His example would deter future demagogues from even thinking of following the footsteps of this deeply depraved individual.