Ryan Grim gives the detailed background that led speaker Nancy Pelosi to finally back calls to open an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. He says that the 44 so-called ‘frontliners’, those congressional Democrats who said that impeachment proceedings would harm their own re-election chances and who, along with Pelosi, had been attacking the Squad (Aleander Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley) and other progressives, had received a shellacking from their constituents when they went back home for the recess and heard that they were going to be primaried for not standing up to Trump.
ON WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, as Democrats prepped for a series of private meetings, it was clear that nerves had been frayed. August had been a challenge for the party’s rank-and-file, as activists and angry citizens back home browbeat them at town halls, grocery stores, and local events for the party’s unwillingness to impeach President Donald Trump. “We spent all summer getting the shit kicked out of us back home,” said one Democrat who received such treatment. The day before, former Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski had made a mockery of the Judiciary Committee’s interview of him, betraying open contempt for the process and the people running it.
But there was a bigger problem, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told his colleagues that day. Raskin, the highest-ranking progressive on the periphery of leadership, is a constitutional attorney and had long been calling for impeachment on principle. But politics now mattered too, he argued, and the party’s passivity was causing real political pain for rank-and-file members of Congress, particularly those holding back support of impeachment to honor the party leadership’s opposition to it. In order to placate a small handful of frontliners — perhaps as few as seven or eight — the entire party was being dragged down and routinely humiliated by Trump’s contempt for the rule of law.
Pelosi didn’t seem to understand the shift that was taking place under her feet. Reporter John Harwood asked an aide to Pelosi over the weekend if the news changed her calculus on impeachment and got back the reply: “no. see any GOP votes for it?”
Then Monday night, six of the most vocal opponents of impeachment, the type Raskin was referring to at last week’s meeting, published a joint op-ed in the Washington Post, calling for impeachment proceedings to begin: The authors, all frontline freshmen, included Spanberger, Slotkin, Gil Cisneros of California, Houlahan, Luria, and Sherrill.
Even if polls say that majorities in swing districts would prefer Democrats legislate and cooperate rather than focus on impeachment, those numbers don’t tell the whole story. First, they ignore intensity, as the most active Democrats — the ones who show up to town halls and knock on doors — are also the most likely to be supportive of impeachment, and winning them over has major reelection advantages, while angering them comes with downsides.
I never did understand the argument against impeachment that said that there was no point since the Republican controlled senate would never convict Trump. On major issues, each branch of government should do what it thinks is right and not simply do what the other branches might go along with. For the House of Representatives to not do something because they think the Senate won’t is as pusillanimous as senate majority leader Mitch McConnell saying that he will not bring any legislation to the floor that he thinks Trump will not sign. That is an abdication of one’s role and serves only to give more power to an already too-powerful presidency.
Trump clearly thinks he can do anything he likes and that because Republicans are backing him, that the Democrats will cave. It has worked so far. The Ukraine investigation and the impeachment inquiry is the first major challenge of that belief
You can fully expect Trump and his supporters to bluster that this is a wild-goose chase and that there is nothing to the case while at the same time trying to limit the amount of information given out. Already we see that after promising to release the unredacted transcript of his phone call with the Ukrainian president, it is reported that what will be released are not verbatim transcripts but ones reconstructed from notes by the people who listen in to such calls. Those are two very different things. Also it appears that there was more than one call.
Meanwhile the whistleblower has said through his lawyer that he wants to give testimony before Congress. You can be sure that Trump and his legal team will try to block him on the grounds of national security, that blanket that is used to hide anything that might be embarrassing or criminal by the government.