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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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. J.T.  •  Jun 9, 2017 @1:49 pm

    Pence is less likely to get us all killed, but he’d be a terrible President too so I’m hoping for a long, slow investigation. I want the White House to have to spend all their time on fighting off subpoenas and responding to testimony and have the Republican Congress saddled with an unpopular leader. I worry that Congress will try to sneak things through while other news is breaking (and a Pence White House will provide fewer distractions for the media) but on balance, keeping a neutered Trump seems better than having a “healing” “unifying” Pence.

  2. Pablo  •  Jun 9, 2017 @1:52 pm

    Couldn’t agree more with J.T. Just take away the “nuclear football” and leave a neutered Donald as pretendsident until 2020.

  3. csm  •  Jun 9, 2017 @2:19 pm

    The democrats/progressive left will realize no immediate, tangible political benefit from a Trump removal from office, with Pence waiting in the wings. With Pence in the white house, the GOP will benefit from a more stable and less chaotic environment and likely a more organized approach to their version of “governing.” They will then be able to methodically go about not only dismantling Obama’s legacy but passing some of the most extreme, retrograde legislation ever, with the only impediment being themselves.

    The best scenario may be for this slow drip of “breaking news” to drag on for months or maybe even years. And while nothing short of nuclear winter (LOL) would cause his supporters to abandon him, simple math says Trump and the GOP cannot win with their base alone. The opportunity for the democrats will be there to leverage the ongoing scandal to rally their base and independents and overwhelm President Cretin and his GOP handmaidens at the polls, if not in 2018 then definitely in 2020.

  4. maha  •  Jun 9, 2017 @2:46 pm

    csm — I sincerely believe that if the investigations play out, and collusion between the Trump administration and the Kremlin is proved, that Pence will be shown to have been in on it, and he’ll go, too. Which leaves us with Paul Ryan, who has the advantage of being unliked by many in his party along with being dumb as a box of rocks.

  5. grannyeagle  •  Jun 9, 2017 @2:55 pm

    I am amazed that anyone would want to continue with the chaos that the Trump presidency has created. Personally, I do not want Pence nor Ryan as president. However, the thought of living under this disruption, chaos and the embarrassment it is costing the country makes me sick. After only 5 months, I am so sick of Trump, his lying, his bragging and the toadys around him sucking up I want to move. I would even consider going to Mars and live with the little green men. I do not consider myself particularly patriotic but this country is home and I would like to not be ashamed of the President. There is also the question of doing what is right. And make no mistake, Trump will not be “neutered” nor controlled. If allowed to stay and be corrupt, he will only get worse.

  6. J.T.  •  Jun 9, 2017 @2:56 pm

    The media may love Paul Ryan enough to make it not matter that his party doesn’t like him. Replacing him as Speaker with someone who is smarter and more well-liked may be better for the Rs too.

    There’s just no good options here except drinking heavily.

  7. csm  •  Jun 9, 2017 @3:06 pm

    Maha, yeah I had read that too. The investigation could roll up Ryan as well. Here’s an interesting article:

    https://patribotics.blog/2017/05/11/sources-russia-probe-means-president-hatch-rico-case-against-gop/

  8. Dave Empey  •  Jun 9, 2017 @5:08 pm

    Ideally this will all happen after the Democrats take the House and elect Clinton the Speaker.

  9. maha  •  Jun 9, 2017 @5:16 pm

    Dave Empey — I assume you mean Pelosi, not Clinton. That comes with its own perils.

  10. Swami  •  Jun 9, 2017 @5:09 pm

    I think as far presidencies go…Trump’s is a dead man walking. One of the commentaries that struck me as being spot on is notion that Comey littered the legal landscape with countless perjury traps. He’s ratcheted up the stakes to where the game playing ends and the power and force of law kicks in. Trump’s bullshit claims now only serve as noise.

    “Mr. Kushner, were you in a meeting where President Trump asked everybody to clear the room so he could talk to Director Comey alone?”

  11. maha  •  Jun 9, 2017 @5:19 pm

    Swami — “He’s ratcheted up the stakes to where the game playing ends and the power and force of law kicks in.” Yeah, Trump has gone beyond the point at which bluster and threats can save him, especially since he lacks the wall of media and political solidarity on the Right that protected George W. Bush.

  12. Bonnie  •  Jun 9, 2017 @5:49 pm

    I think I am with J.T. in thinking the only really good option for the rest of us is to drink heavily. Also, it hasn’t been a slow drip, drip of news. The drip of news has been coming so quickly every day, it has literally worn me out. However, I think America needs to find a better and faster way to resolve these matters. The fact that Nixon was able to be elected for a second term before he resigned is just ridiculous. One of the keys to Watergate was Judge John Sirica who was honest and true to the law. Do we have a Sirica now? Maybe Mueller; but, that remains to be seen. I think I will go fix a drink.

  13. Swami  •  Jun 9, 2017 @7:35 pm

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/09/business/media/cnn-drops-reza-aslan-following-vulgar-criticism-of-trump.html?_r=0

    What’s with these people who compare Trump to fecal matter.. Have they no decency?

  14. uncledad  •  Jun 9, 2017 @8:13 pm

    Impeachment is never going to happen as long the butt kissing GOP’ers control the house. Maybe if the democrats can take the house back in “18 and Nancy P. doesn’t take impeachment off the table like she did in 2006. When the current house speaker says the president is too “naive” to commit obstruction of justice, well impeachment just aint never gonna happen, Trump could shoot a man in the face and it wouldn’t happen!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtPKy3Yau7c

  15. uncledad  •  Jun 9, 2017 @8:16 pm

    “The investigation could roll up Ryan as well. Here’s an interesting article:”

    Be careful, I’ve been seeing a lot of this crap, me thinks it is fake! Remember Dan Rather!

  16. moonbat  •  Jun 9, 2017 @9:15 pm

    Don’t count on the precedent of Watergate to help depose Trump. We got lucky.

    …the real lesson of Watergate is not that the Constitution worked. It is that it failed spectacularly. Contrary to the myth, Nixon’s resignation was anything but the inevitable consequence of a powerful constitutional juggernaut.

    Rather, it was the consequence of a bizarre, highly improbable series of events that was more reminiscent of Rube Goldberg than James Madison or Alexander Hamilton (Goldberg being the cartoonist who drew elaborate machines that performed the simplest task by setting off a long, complicated chain reaction). So if you’re thinking (dreaming) that crazy King Donald will be deposed by our vaunted checks and balances, consider first that if the political system really worked, a narcissistic man-child like Trump could have never gotten to the presidency, and second, that the Constitution is a shoddy and inadequate contraption unsuitable for ridding us of narcissistic man-children.

    Simply put, don’t count on it.

  17. maha  •  Jun 10, 2017 @12:32 pm

    moonbat — I don’t think I was arguing that Watergate was a great moment in Constitutional history, just that before the House got serious about articles of impeachment against Nixon, investigations into Watergate were a whole lot further along than are today’s investigations into Trump. And I’m telling people that calls to impeach Trump NOW are premature. If we get a shot at it — and I’m not ruling it out, because even the Republicans may want to throw him under the bus eventually — we’ll get ONE shot, and if done now, it would fail.

  18. moonbat  •  Jun 9, 2017 @9:21 pm

    OT, Vive La France: France is offering US scientists 4-year grants to move to the country and do research

    If you are an American scientist, student, teacher, or business person working on climate change solutions, France would love for you to stay awhile.

    …the French government has created an outlet for people from all countries who still want to fight climate change.

    The website is called Make Our Planet Great Again.

    Researchers, teachers, and students can apply for a four-year grant that allows them to continue their studies or instruction, fully financed. The site also provides information on how to move to France by obtaining a work visa and residency permit.

    The website explains: “You will be able to stay in France at least for the duration of the grant, and longer if you are granted a permanent position. There is no restriction on your husband / wife working in France. If you have children, note that French public schools are free, and the tuition fees of universities and ‘grandes écoles’ are very low compared to the American system.”

  19. Ed  •  Jun 9, 2017 @9:56 pm

    Before cheering on impeachment, let’s get a good handle on one important question: was there a relationship between Nixon being forced from office in 1974 and Reagan being elected in 1980? Did the Republicans turn Nixon’s fall into the rise of the far right?

  20. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Jun 9, 2017 @10:28 pm

    On the plus side, I’d bet a bunch of Trump’s associates would roll on him in a moment to save their own skins. Hell, I’ll bet some would roll on him for ten days off their sentence and doughnut.

  21. Swami  •  Jun 10, 2017 @12:06 am

    Well, with 4 or 5 different investigative committees all taking testimony under oath from maybe 20 or 30 players at different times it’s going to be very hard for any of those players to know who is saying what to whom.. The safest way to navigate a situation like that is to hold on tight to the truth and hope to come through it unscathed. And hope that your hands are clean.
    Flynn already knows he’s fucked and is looking for the softest landing possible. And for whatever reason Trump is exerting a lot more energy trying to shield him from his misdeeds than would seem reasonable given the nature of their relationship. Like Trump, I happen to hold loyalty as a premium virtue, but when immoral or criminal activity encroaches upon that virtue the loyalty goes out the window.
    Momma use to say: When you’re in trouble, you’re in trouble alone.” Also, not that it’s relevant here or anywhere for that matter but..”Know the difference between a friend and an acquaintance”.
    How about…Don’t take any wooden nickels! 🙂

  22. Dave Empey  •  Jun 10, 2017 @10:35 am

    Maha,
    no I meant Clinton. Internet rumor has it that the Speaker doesn’t have to be a member of the House; if true they could elect Clinton Speaker — and then impeach Trump and Pence.

    But that’s really just a fantasy about how to upset Republicans and not a serious proposal.

  23. maha  •  Jun 10, 2017 @12:14 pm

    Dave Empey — The Constitution doesn’t specifically spell out that the Speaker and other officers of the House must actually be members of the House, but it’s the sort of thing a reasonable person would presume, and precedent has firmly established that’s how it works.

  24. Ed  •  Jun 10, 2017 @4:46 pm

    True that, maha and Dave Empey–for that matter, they could make Obama Speaker of the House and impeach Trump and Pence. The legal authority would be there.

    Similarly, the Trumpers are correct to say that the president has the legal authority to fire anyone in the executive branch of government he wants to fire. This does not mean that he has the right to escape the consequences of his choices. Hell, he has the legal authority to call a joint session of Congress during a time of crisis and show up wearing swim trunks, a snorkel, and flippers, and proceed to tell a bunch of jokes where a priest, a rabbi, and a politician walk into a bar. Congress would have the legal authority to remove him from office if he did, though.

  25. elkern  •  Jun 12, 2017 @9:53 am

    We (democrats, greens, progressives, whatever) should NOT hurry towards impeachment.
    1. I want this circus to last at least thru the mid-terms. That reduces the chances that the Democrats will screw up ANOTHER election cycle.
    2. Make the Republicans clean up their own mess. That would break open the rifts inside the GOP – between Old Money, Theocrats, Libertarians, and Know-Nothings – which they would otherwise be able to paste over by blaming Trump’s fall on the Democrats.

    In the meantime:
    1. Pay less attention to Trump (it’s the best way to handle a Narcissist anyway).
    2. Pay more attention to GOP in Congress; scream when they pass more tax cuts for the rich.
    3. Look on the bright side: Trump’s insistence on personal loyalty has prevented the GOP from stacking the bureaucracy.
    4. yeah, OK, drink more. Or if you live in CO, WA, etc, then smoke more.



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