Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Friday, June 9th, 2017.


Impeachment Now? Maybe Not.

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Trump Maladministration

There’s lots of hollering for impeachment NOW, in both news and social media. I want Trump to go away as much as anybody, but if it’s done at all we’ll get one shot at it. Not all the ducks are in a row yet. The Slate Impeach-o-Meter has the odds for an impeachment at 41 percent, which seems about right to me —

And yet, as I alluded to yesterday, until this stuff all tangibly happens—until the things the Mueller investigation might conclude become the things it did conclude—Republicans, who hold the majority in Congress, don’t really have any reason to bail on their president. So we’ll raise our meter, but only by a symbolic 1 percent.

What’s going on with Trump resembles the Nixon almost-impeachment more than it does what went on with Andrew Johnson or Bill Clinton. Although technically Nixon wasn’t impeached, when he resigned in 1974 he did so after articles of impeachment had been passed in the House Judiciary Committee, and party elders in Congress assured him that they not only would pass in the House, there were enough votes in the Senate to remove him from office.  So this is the one time the impeachment/removal process succeeded, even if it was cut short at the end. So let’s look at Watergate.

Forgive me for not explaining who everybody in this narrative is. I’ve got a limited amount of time to blog today.

The Watergate burglary happened on June 17, 1972. Later that same month, the first of Woodward and Bernstein’s investigations tying the burglars to the White House were published in the Washington Post.

In June 1972 (we learned later), Nixon and Haldeman agreed to try to shut down the FBI investigation of Watergate. Through surrogates, FBI Director L. Patrick Gray was ordered to stay out of it.

The Watergate burglars were indicted by a federal grand jury for burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping in September, 1972.

Nixon was re-elected in a landslide in November, 1972.

In January 1973 the Watergate trial began. Several burglars entered guilty pleas. McCord and Liddy were convicted. Shortly after that McCord told a judge that he’d perjured himself under pressure. About this time John Dean began to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

In April, L. Patrick Gray resigned as FBI Director after it was discovered he had destroyed evidence that had been in E. Howard Hunt’s safe. William Ruckelshaus is appointed to replace Gray. Shortly after that Nixon aides Ehrlichman, Haldeman, and Kleindienst resigned. John Dean is fired. Nixon looks guilty as hell.

The Senate Watergate Committee began televised hearings in May 1973. Shortly after that Archibald Cox is appointed special prosecutor.

In July 1973, Nixon refused to release White House tapes to anybody.

In October 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned for being a corrupt s.o.b. I don’t think anyone ever connected him to Watergate.

October 20, 1973, was the “Saturday night massacre” that resulted in Archibald Cox being fired. Nixon was pretty much toast after that, but impeachment was still several months away.

Let’s now move on to 1974. People close to Nixon continue to be indicted or to confess to illegal activities of various sorts.

On March 1, 1974, Nixon himself is named an “unindicted co-conspirator” in indictments of seven former presidential aides.

Finally we get to May 9, 1974 — impeachment hearings begin in the House Judiciary Committee. They were televised beginning on July 24. The Committee approved articles of impeachment by the end of July.

And then on August 8, Nixon delivered his resignation speech. He had been assured that not only would the articles be approved in the House, there were enough votes in the Senate to remove him from office. So, while Nixon technically was not impeached, in effect he actually was.

As I see it, relatively speaking, Trump’s case is somewhere around late spring or early summer of 1973. There is a lot of investigating still to do, and people close to Trump (first and foremost, Kushner and Sessions, IMO) have yet to be grilled and (presumably) indicted. As we’re seeing today after the Comey testimony, plenty of Republicans are still trying to protect Trump. And they have a majority in both Houses. And today’s Republicans are even worse partisan whackjobs than Republicans were in the 1970s. If attempted now, impeachment would fail.

I’m saying impeachment right this minute is premature. Let the process play out a little bit more first. I don’t mind Democrats standing up and saying they’d support it, but I also don’t mind Democrats saying it’s too soon, because it is.

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