The Impeachment Charge That Really Matters
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
One of today’s articles of impeachment has lasting ramifications for future presidents.
By Fiona Zublin
This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.
WHAT TO KNOW
What happened? This morning, House Democrats officially unveiled two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. It’s the quick-and-narrow version of impeachment: The two articles focus on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, both of which relate to the Ukraine arms-for-investigation-announcement scandal. The two articles will each be subject to a yes/no vote in the House, likely before Christmas, and if either is approved, the president will go on trial in the Senate, which decides whether or not to remove him from office.
Why does it matter? This will be the third vote to impeach a president in U.S. history, and Trump is expected to avoid removal by the Senate just like Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton before him. While the Ukraine case has grabbed a lot of headlines, and obstruction can seem like inside baseball, it’s the second impeachment article that will live on: The Trump administration has defied subpoenas as it resists providing Congress any witnesses or documents for its inquiry — which Trump calls illegitimate. An impeachment vote would set a marker for future separation of powers disputes.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT
What’s left out? Some had advocated further articles of impeachment over issues like how Trump’s business interests have benefitted from his presidency, or the evidence for obstruction of justice collected by special counsel Robert Mueller in his inquiry into Russian election interference. But limiting the scope of the inquiry is likely the fastest route to rounding up the votes that Speaker Nancy Pelosi needs to pass impeachment out of the House.
Does it actually matter? There’s no sign that enough Senate Republicans are going to defect from Trump’s side to toss him out of office, which requires a two-thirds vote. Still, the impeachment vote, along with a Senate trial in early 2020, allows Democrats to keep the focus squarely on Trump’s alleged misconduct as he gears up for reelection. Polls show support for impeachment closely mirroring Trump’s own disapproval numbers, and a new poll out this week from GOP firms Firehouse Strategies and 0ptimus shows Trump strengthening in critical states Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
On the docket. The Firehouse/0ptimus polling shows voters in those battlegrounds saying Congress should focus on policy instead of impeachment. So it was no coincidence that just an hour after announcing the impeachment articles, House Democrats said they had a deal to move forward on a new North American trade deal Trump negotiated to replace NAFTA. Many on the left have argued that Pelosi should not allow Trump a substantial policy win, but it allows House Democrats to say they’re working to boost the economy.
WHAT TO READ
An Election Too Important to Be Left to the Voters, by Rich Lowry in National Review
“The bottom line is that after tsk-tsking Trump for refusing to say in advance that he’d accept the outcome of the 2016 election, Democrats have steadfastly refused to truly accept the 2016 result (allegedly the work of the Russians) and now are signaling they won’t accept next year’s election either, should they lose again.”
As Democrats Unveil Impeachment Articles, Trump Signals Corruption Will Continue, by Greg Sargent in the Washington Post
“An article for attempting to obstruct the investigation into Russian interference and his own campaign’s efforts to reap the benefits would establish a pattern. Not just with regard to Trump’s effort to extort Ukraine for the same purpose, but also with regard to Trump’s ongoing manipulation of government to cover up his willingness to conspire with and benefit from the corruption of our election last time.”
WHAT TO WATCH
House Democrats Unveil Articles of Impeachment Against Trump
“Our president holds the ultimate public trust. When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the Constitution, he endangers our democracy and he endangers our national security.”
Watch on PBS NewsHour on YouTube:
Devin Nunes: Dems Poisoning Public With Impeachment
“They’ve poisoned so many Americans over the last few years. … I had somebody come up to me, seemed like a nice gentleman with his grandchildren there, and accused Republicans of being Russian agents.”
Watch on Fox News on YouTube:
WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER
The saga continues. Trump’s mercurial personal attorney Rudy Giuliani — who has been at the center of the Ukraine controversy — popped up in Kyiv again last week. He was seeking evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, a narrative national security experts say is Russia-backed disinformation designed to deflect from the Kremlin’s own well-documented efforts. Giuliani said today that he will be submitting a report to Attorney General William Barr this week, in addition to a documentary planned by pro-Trump One America News Network.
- Fiona Zublin