Trump Impeachment: Three Political Factors That Give Democratic Congressional Leadership Pause

Former EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg questions whether any member of the NJ GOP will denounce the racism in President Donald Trump's tweet stating that four newly elected Congresswomen should “go back where they came from.”

America last week had a painful reprieve from the continuing nightmare of the Trump chaotic administration.  The majestic funeral of a good and great American, George Herbert Walker Bush, served as a remembrance of the era in which Americans could take pride in a patriotic president of impeccable decency.  On Friday, America reawakened to the reality of the political charnel house known as the Donald Trump White House.

Donald Trump is now approaching the Götterdämmerung of both his political and business career.  Over the past week, two unmistakable realities emerge in the Trump crystal ball. 

The first is that Donald Trump cannot possibly be reelected.  The Blue Tsunami in the midterm House of Representatives elections constituted a massive and total repudiation of the Trump administration.  Now Trump faces a most damaging and severe economic recession caused by his trade wars and interest rate hikes, the latter being a consequence of the massive deficit caused by his reckless tax cuts.  Scandal and economic catastrophe have made Donald J. Trump thoroughly unelectable in 2020. 

The second is that the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York has now presented compelling evidence that Trump has committed two crimes that are felonies both from the standpoint of Constitutional impeachable offenses and indictable federal crimes.  The offenses involve his alleged direction to his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen to make payments to two of his former lovers, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate of the Month Karen McDougal to buy their silence and to thus knowingly violate federal election laws by not reporting these campaign contributions in his Federal Election Campaign reports.   

And I strongly suspect that Bob Mueller will produce other evidence of Trump felonies and impeachable offenses. 

The votes would be there for impeachment of Trump in the House of Representatives.  It only takes a majority, and the Democrats now have that.

After impeachment, the Constitution requires a vote of two-thirds of the members of the Senate to remove a president from office.  The Republicans still maintain a majority in the Senate, and it will thus take a defection of at least 20 GOP Senators to end the Trump presidency. 

Yet such a defection could take place due to the nefarious activities of Trump son-in-law, Jared Kushner.  

Jared Kushner is the most reprehensible of the Trump Romanovs.  As revealed by the New York Times this past weekend, he is in particeps criminis with Saudi Killer Prince MBS in the attempts of the latter to avoid responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.  Killer Prince MBS and Romanov Prince Jared together constitute an international disgrace. 

The appointment of Jared Kushner by Donald Trump was nepotism at its worst – the ascension to power of an incompetent, foreign policy ignorant, arrogant, unethical political hack.  Kushner has absolutely no Republican pedigree, and if Mueller indicts him and Trump subsequently pardons him, even Republican senators will support impeachment and removal of Trump as president. 

While the storm clouds gather over the White House and the possibility of a Trump impeachment increases, the three following political factors, hereinafter analyzed, give Democratic Congressional leadership pause: 

1) The possibility of a honeymoon for a newly inaugurated President Mike Pence in 2020, enabling him to eke out a reelection victory over his Democratic opponent;  

2) The 2020 electoral risk faced by blue dog Democrats who vote for impeachment (i.e.: Democratic House members who represent sizable pro-Trump Republican constituencies); and  

3) The likelihood that a defrocked Trump, after impeachment by the House and removal by the Senate, will make demagogic appeals to his base followers claiming that they have been politically and illegitimately disenfranchised, resulting in a national wave of internecine violence. 

A Pence Honeymoon? 

Mike and Karen Pence are the Macbeth and Lady Macbeth of Washington, DC, and Donald Trump is their King Duncan.  The Pences are most ambitious for the White House, and they will stop at nothing to ascend to the Oval Office, including throwing Donald Trump under the proverbial bus.

Pence already took advantage of his appearance at the capitol segment of the funeral of George Herbert Walker Bush by giving a rather fine panegyric to our 41st president.  In doing so, Pence was attempting to ingratiate himself once again with the pre- Trump traditional GOP establishment and set aside any barriers that may have resulted between him and them resulting from his Trump service.

If the Pences move into the White House, they may well get a honeymoon from the media in the same fashion as Gerald Ford when he became president after the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974.  Had Ford not pardoned Nixon, he may well have turned back the challenge of Jimmy Carter and been reelected.  Pence knows this, and thus he most certainly would refuse to pardon Trump or any of his family members or political or business associates. 

Mike Pence, however, has an electoral stigma that Ford never had.  Specifically, he and Karen are both perceived as being social issue extremists.  Accordingly, Pence would most likely never benefit from any media honeymoon in 2019-2020 in the same fashion as did Jerry Ford. 

The Blue Dog Conundrum 

The Blue Tsunami of 2018 resulted in the election of a number of new Democratic members of the House of Representative representing traditional Republican districts, including Jeff Van Drew in New Jersey’s 2nd District and Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey’s 11th.  Both these new members of Congress will be expected to take center-left positions on issues in order to avoid rousing the Republican base against them. 

When it comes to an impeachment vote, these two blue dog Democrats can run, but they can’t hide.  They will have no choice but to vote for impeachment.  The question is whether this will risk bringing to the polls a higher than normal Republican turnout, spurred at the core by a highly motivated 2020 Trump base. 

I don’t think so.  The Trump base turned out in both these districts in 2018, yet the coalition of Democrats, centrist Republicans, and independents was sufficient to carry the election for these two blue dog Democrats.   I think the same thing will happen in 2020, when anti-Trump sentiment will be more widespread and intense than ever.  I think that this phenomenon will be duplicated in blue dog districts throughout the nation and that virtually all the House blue dog Democrats of the Class of 2018 will be reelected.

The Trump Base: Aux Barricades in 2020?
I have no doubt that if Trump is removed from the presidency by the Senate pursuant to the Constitutional impeachment process, he will not simply let matters rest there.  Instead, he will stage rallies throughout the nation, demagogically claiming that the process was simply a partisan effort to deprive Trump of his right to govern, thus having the effect of disenfranchising Trump voters.

I served in the administration of George W. Bush, and I can say unequivocally that there was no person in that administration of a higher reputation for ethics, competency, and integrity than Bob Mueller, then the director of the FBI.   The overwhelming majority of Americans is likely to accept Mueller’s report and reject Trump’s allegations of impeachment process partisanship.   

Yet there is a hard-core segment of Trump’s base for whom Trump is a literal Svengali.  They will accept Trump’s assertions that they have been disenfranchised and may well take to the streets.  

This could lead to unprecedented domestic political violence in America.  Being the unabashed narcissist that he is, Trump would do nothing to quell such violence.  Instead, he would revel in it.  

There is an option which I believe could actually reduce the credibility of a Trump appeal to his base on the “disenfranchisement” ground.  If either Mueller as Special Counsel, the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, or both indicted Trump on any alleged criminal violations, including the election law violations described hereinabove and then achieved a judicial conviction, there would be a massive defection of GOP senators away from Trump.  These senators could never justify to their constituents the continuation in office of a criminally convicted president, and they would henceforth support, albeit reluctantly, the removal of Trump from office.  The great majority of the Trump base would also give up the Trumpian Orthodoxy. 

But can you indict a sitting president?  There is considerable discussion and debate on this issue.  Recently, the man Trump once referred to as America’s leading Constitutional authority, Laurence Tribe has opined that it is permissible to indict a sitting president, and that in the case of the allegations against Trump, it may even be advisable.  There is nothing in the Constitution, the Federalist papers, or any federal statute or federal court decision, however, that specifically addresses this.

The only official documents on this issue are two opinions of the US Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel holding that a sitting president should not be indicted.   These two opinions essentially concluded that the president’s responsibilities are so important that an indictment would pose too many risks for the government to function properly. 

It is clear to me that Mueller and the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York are not necessarily bound by the Office of Legal Counsel prior opinions.  They should seriously consider the option of indicting Trump.  The ability of the American Republic to survive this Constitutional crisis demands no less. 

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.

(Visited 3 times, 1 visits today)

One response to “Trump Impeachment: Three Political Factors That Give Democratic Congressional Leadership Pause”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

News From Around the Web

The Political Landscape