The Ukraine story hasn’t been good for President Donald Trump, and there’s only one way out – to get impeached, and the sooner, the better. Trump obviously hates the idea of being impeached. He thinks it’s unfair, and is raging against the process with every political and legal argument his team can muster and every insult and countercharge he can make on Twitter. But he doesn’t have any choice in the matter. Impeachment is baked in the cake.
There’s no way that Democrats, having opened an impeachment inquiry (although without a vote), can pull up short now. How could they, after touting revelation after revelation, including a supposed “confession” by Trump’s chief of staff? As impeachment rumbles on, it puts every Trump lapse (Syria, Doral, etc.) in starker relief and places it in the context of the question of whether he should be impeached and removed.
Meanwhile, if support for impeachment is about 50 percent or a little higher, there’s every reason for Democrats to stretch it out. The current process suits their purposes nicely. They interview officials in private and then leak the most damaging parts. There’s no danger of public hearings bouncing the wrong way … because there are no public hearings.
The impeachment inquiry also has the advantage of giving the Democratic base what it wants, and creating a strong sense of action against Trump. When Republicans took the House in the middle of Barack Obama’s first term, they had trouble controlling the expectations of their own base, which wanted immediate results when the GOP had limited power.
Impeachment allows Democrats to forestall such a feeling among their own voters, even though they, too, aren’t getting anything substantive done. This suggests that, as of this moment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looks to have judged the politics of impeachment shrewdly, holding off when it still seemed politically premature and striking when the prospect of moving the needle of public opinion presented itself.
Given how impeachment is playing, she should welcome the White House embracing the normal strategy in these fights of attempting to frustrate and delay the inquiry. Not only is this standard approach not fully working – former and current officials are talking to House investigators regardless – at the margins it lengthens an inquiry that’s working for the Democrats. All that said, it’s always possible the public will tire of the probe, especially if it reaches past the first month or two of an election year. What can Trump do about any of this?
Absent a mea culpa and promise of full transparency, which aren’t in the cards for temperamental reasons if nothing else, Trump can’t change the dynamic or the timing. But he should be secretly rooting for the rapid arrival of Impeachment Day (and the near-inevitable acquittal in the Senate). It will be one of the biggest stories of the Trump presidency.
Then, like everything else, it will grow old very fast. Impeachment won’t be forgotten, but it will fade into part of the tapestry of endless Trump controversies and outrages, from Charlottesville to his Helsinki press conference with Vladimir Putin. Democrats will believe they struck a decisive blow against Trump, when they really may have helped him turn the page.
Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review. (c) 2019 by King Features Synd., Inc.
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