Good Friday Morning! I’m sure, like all Americans, you’ve had your TV on 24/7 with the impeachment trial on, watching each development and speech. Right? No? Yeah, me neither. Anything that goes past midnight on the east coast ain’t worth it. And when Senators are handing out fidget spinners, you know all are having a boring time. A clip did emerge, in the plethora of things Adam Schiff said, that I do want to focus on because it hones in on the real problem in all of these proceedings. Links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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This week on the show, host Daniel Vaughan talks about the political hit job on Bernie Sanders by CNN for Elizabeth Warren and why no one should trust Warren’s account. He also talks through the impeachment trial that’s coming up and a quick hit on the Virginia march in support of gun rights happening this week.
In the last debate before the Iowa caucuses, CNN tries to help out Democrats and Elizabeth Warren by running a flagrant hit on Bernie Sanders. It wasn’t even subtle.
I walk through how recent reports on “Republican challengers” to Donald Trump in the GOP are not serious efforts. They aren’t conservative, and they’re far more Democrats than they are anything serious.
Schiff says Trump will “cheat” in 2020
If you’ve read or listened to me at any point on impeachment, the one thing I’ve hounded is that there are two layers to impeachment. There’s the legal argument where Democrats are saying Trump’s actions are wrong. I mostly agree with that case — all you have to do is see the readout of the call.
The second is the political question of impeachment and removal. And here is where Democrats have fallen flat. It’s not enough to say that the President has committed some immoral act — you have to connect that act with the question of impeachment and removal, that the President’s conduct is so bad, it requires replacement, and not letting an election answer that question. Bad behavior is, by itself, not enough for impeachment.
Democrats, and most DC pundits, have made the first case. No one has made a convincing case that I’ve read, on the left or right, that Trump’s conduct leads inevitably to impeachment and removal. The task for Democrats, going into the Senate, is to make that exact case. And they aren’t doing it.
Frankly, neither side is trying to convince the other. The arguments are mostly both sides preaching to their choirs on cable television. Democrats aren’t working to convince GOP Senators. They’re talking to their base and revving them up. Likewise, Trump’s defense team is mostly trying to keep the President happy with their defense of him, not presenting a coherent argument on substance. It’s two ships passing in the night.
Schiff’s removal argument
Adam Schiff did make a passing attempt to argue that Trump’s conduct required removal. The NYTimes report:
Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead House prosecutor, took the lectern in the chamber as senators sat silently preparing to weigh Mr. Trump’s fate. Speaking in an even, measured manner, he accused the president of a corrupt scheme to pressure Ukraine for help “to cheat” in the 2020 presidential election.
Invoking the nation’s founders and their fears that a self-interested leader might subvert democracy for his own personal gain, Mr. Schiff argued that the president’s conduct was precisely what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they devised the remedy of impeachment, one he said was “as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat.”
“If not remedied by his conviction in the Senate, and removal from office, President Trump’s abuse of his office and obstruction of Congress will permanently alter the balance of power among the branches of government,” Mr. Schiff said in his opening remarks. “The president has shown that he believes that he’s above the law and scornful of constraint.”
The “cheating” argument is the weakest argument anyone could present. Anyone, Democrat or Republican, could cheat in the 2020 election. The Ukraine story is mostly over; they got the aid, and Trump didn’t get the announcement he wanted. It’s hard to argue that an event that’s wrapped up has any power over future events.
The argument Schiff wants to make here, but can’t, is that Trump will cheat in 2020 again. The conventional belief among Democrats is that the only reason Trump won in 2016 was that Russia interfered with the election and pushed Trump over the finish line. But the Mueller report nukes that belief, which is why only the most ardent #resistance types still drive it.
That didn’t happen at all. Russia did interfere, but the reason Clinton lost that election is that she took the midwest for granted, and was shocked by Wisconsin. Even though analysts like Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight and Brandon Finnigan of DecisionDeskHQ were pointing to the midwest and Pennsylvania as prime pickups for Republicans that year.
The fault in impeachment logic
If Schiff and Democrats can’t provide an example for why Trump’s conduct requires immediate removal, then all they’ve done is point out bad behavior that voters should take into consideration when voting in 2020. It’s the central weakness to their entire case: a lot of immoral conduct, but nothing politically strong enough to warrant impeachment.
I’ve listened to a lot of analysis of polls, read polls myself, and people keep missing one point. Across most surveys, you can find a substantial majority of people, and even a significant chunk of Republicans, who believe Trump’s conduct is terrible. Noah Rothman on the Commentary Magazine podcast comes to mind here. They point out that polls show Republicans show some willingness to admit Trump’s conduct is terrible, which gets used to show that Trump’s position is weak.
Again, I point to my overarching theme. To impeach and remove, you have to have more than a lousy act — you have to have actions so bad politically it requires immediate removal. There’s a reason impeachment has only been tried three times in US history, and it’s not for a lack of trying by Presidents. It’s because the political will is never there and the public generally prefers to handle the conduct of Presidents in an election.
Polls show that the public thinks Trump’s actions were wrong. They also show an unwillingness to remove him from office. I don’t see these as mutually exclusive stances. Democrats — and frankly Trump himself — have convinced the public Trump’s actions were wrong. They have not persuaded anyone Trump should get removed ahead of the 2020 election.
The Senate vote will follow the House
Something I’m increasingly convinced of right now, in reading the tea leaves on impeachment, is that the eventual Senate vote will follow the House vote. It’ll be a party-line vote, and all the pressure will be on Democrats on supporting it or not. Aside from Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who is in a state where 7 in 10 voters don’t support the removal of Trump, other Democrats face similarly hard choices:
While reporters have focused mostly on the Republicans either up for election this year, such as Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Martha McSally of Arizona, or Trump’s harshest in-party critics, such as Utah’s Mitt Romney, as to where their votes will go, there are centrist Democrats, including Manchin, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Doug Jones of Alabama who also may vote based on evidence and not party.
Sinema said in a statement Thursday she too takes the process solemnly and also wants to keep her role void of political bias. “The Senate has a job to do that demands our serious, careful consideration of the facts — free from partisanship or political soundbites,” Sinema said, adding she would treat the process with “the gravity and impartiality that our oaths demand.”
Jones, who won in an off-year special election against Roy Moore as the Republican nominee faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors, is looking at a much tougher fight in 2020 when Republican voters are expected to turn out in large numbers to vote for Trump and former U.S. attorney general and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is running for his old seat. Jones has previously said he has a duty to be fair and impartial in this process.
Ultimately, I’d expect Sinema and Jones to vote for impeachment. Sinema, because she’s got enough purple leanings in Arizona to help her out. And if Jones wants a future, because I believe he knows he’s going to lose unless he faces Roy Moore again, he knows voting against impeachment would kill his career. Manchin is a toss-up, but I’d expect him to vote against impeachment, just as he voted for Kavanaugh.
If Manchin is voting against impeachment, it’ll help the way for the moderates in the Republican Party. Sinema and Jones playing coy also hurts Democrats.
The media is spending all its time slobbering over Adam Schiff and the case Democrats are making in the trial. But the politics of impeachment, which have always been lousy for everyone, will be less miserable for Republicans. Watch for moderate Republicans to say something along the lines of while they “don’t like Trump’s conduct, they also don’t see a political need to take away the voice of voters in deciding the fate of Donald Trump in an election year.”
They’ll punt. Democrats face all the hardship of a yes vote. Republicans have the ultimate punt option, and those most vulnerable will get a shot at using that card.
Links of the week
The FBI Scandal – Eli Lake, Commentary Magazine
Latest Democratic debate the dullest political event in years – John Podhoretz, NYPost
Impeachment was the wrong way to go — even if Trump is guilty – Rich Lowry, NYPost
The Good, the Bad, and the Never-Going-to-Happen of the China Trade Deal: Plus, who’s in charge of ISIS these days? – Thomas Joscelyn, The Dispatch
Alarmists Were Wrong about the Soleimani Strike – Hassan Hassan, National Review
Impeachment Doesn’t Require a Crime – National Review
Marching for Life: Abortion Is Anti-Woman – Katie Yoder, National Review
Media ignore Adam Schiff’s record of lying, fawn over him as a hero of impeachment proceedings – Becket Adams, The Washington Examiner
Media Keep Giving Adam Schiff the Benefit of a Doubt – Mark Hemingway, RealClearPolitics
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire piece of the week
Democrats Warn That American People May Tamper With Next Election – The Babylon Bee
WASHINGTON, D.C.—In his opening statement at Trump’s impeachment trial, Rep. Adam Schiff reminded the Senate of their solemn duty and the gravity of just what it is they will be discussing at the trial.
Schiff warned that if Trump is not impeached, the American people may have a chance to tamper with the next election.
Thanks for reading!