Though Mueller concluded that the dizzying array of relations between Trump, his campaign, his family, his business associates and the Russians failed to rise to the level of a criminal conspiracy, and while he punted to Congress to decide whether Trump’s multiple and documented attempts to derail the investigation are enough to charge him with obstruction, the Mueller Report has nonetheless revived several dormant story lines.
Early on, Speaker Pelosi went on record saying that while Trump was “unfit for office,” impeaching him was ‘’just not worth it.” It’s interesting to note the Speaker gave essentially the same response to those who called for the impeachment of George W. Bush, after he and members of his administration lied about conditions on the ground in Iraq.
The number two Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, also has suggested impeachment was “not worthwhile.” Following the release of the redacted version of Mueller’s findings, Hoyer appeared to walk back that assessment, tweeting “Congress must have the full report and all underlying evidence in order to determine what actions may be necessary… and all options ought to remain on the table to achieve that objective.”
Elizabeth Warren, who has spent the last several months issuing bold and innovative policy ideas and schooling her 2020 competitors on what it means to be a Democrat, was the first of the presidential candidates to urge impeachment. Warren argued, “We cannot be an America that says it is OK for a president of the United States to try to block investigations into a foreign attack on our country.”
And Jerrold Nadler of New York, who as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee will likely have the most say on how to go forward and who has subpoenaed the Justice Department for the full, un-redacted version of Mueller’s Report, told NBC’s Meet the Press that indeed, “obstruction of justice, if proven, would be impeachable.”
Early fallout from Mueller has already tarnished senior staff at the White House, where reporters have called for Press Secretary Sarah Sanders to be fired over revelations that she lied to the media.
Over at the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr has performed more like Trump’s personal attorney than the people’s lawyer. Barr is facing rising criticism for his partisan and deceptive roll-out of the heavily redacted edition. Nadler asserted that Barr “deliberately misled the American people,” and Bloomberg reporter Chris Strohm wrote that Barr was under fire for “jumping ahead of the long-awaited findings, using selective language and omitting key details to shape a narrative much friendlier toward Trump and his conservative supporters than the appraisal that Mueller offered in painstaking detail over 448 pages.”
Now comes the news that Mueller has expressed his concern to the Attorney General over how the report has been misrepresented to the public, especially on the issue of obstruction. It’s hard to imagine that Barr felt he could brazenly distort the findings of such a public document without eventual consequences.
Democratic Party leaders are worried that impeachment could galvanize Trump’s followers in an election year, and that a no vote by the Party of Lemmings in the Senate could hand Trump a timely if unearned victory. The consensus at the moment probably tilts toward multiple and extended Congressional investigations. Democrats remember the interminable Benghazi hearings, their repetitive findings and the incendiary press stories they generated. Despite the transparent partisan design (and reed-thin claims) of those inquiries, they took a demonstrable toll on Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
Trump has chosen to defy Congress, refusing to turn over his tax returns and suggesting that the White House will not cooperate with future requests for documents and testimony. Underlying this confrontational strategy is the knowledge that recent Trump appointees Kavanaugh and Gorsuch strongly favor executive privilege and probably would contribute to a Supreme Court majority in support of the president’s position.
Not all Republicans are goose-stepping around DC these days, however. Bill Weld, a former Massachusetts governor who has stubbornly remained Republican even as the GOP abandoned its moderate wing, announced he would challenge the Peacock Pharaoh in the primaries. Fiscally conservative and socially liberal, Weld’s arrival in the race begs an intriguing question–just how rock-solid is that Trump base?