Earl Ofari Hutchinson
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi couldn’t have been more explicit when she flatly said that Trump represents a grave peril to the country. Pelosi said that hours before she made public what the articles of impeachment against Trump were likely to look like. The “grave peril” warning was a big, and risky, jump for Pelosi. Hitherto, the Democrat’s strategy has been to play it close to the vest in making the cased against Trump.
That was to argue the law, the Constitution, parade packs of witnesses before the intelligence committee to build a circumstantial factual indictment of Trump. Then layer that over with testimony from respected constitutional legal scholars who outline how Trump allegedly abused executive power.
There’s always been problems with simply trying to build a case against Trump on just the facts. They can be distorted, massaged, interpreted, reinterpreted, countered, and ultimately dismissed by the other side. Trump and the GOP have done all of that. As long as the “facts” were presented solely by Democrats and witnesses that could be tarred as having an ax to grind against Trump, then the claims of impartiality would ring hollow to many.
The polls pretty much underscored that. They have seesawed back and forth on whether the majority of Americans want to see Trump ousted. The divide on this point has been for the most part frozen in place with Trump backers buying his line that it’s a witch hunt by sore loser, vengeful Democrats who lost in 2016 and will lose again in 2020.
Trump has done much to ensure that this line holds. He has refused to release batches of documents to the House committees that deal with what he did or didn’t do in his dealing with the Ukraine. He has likewise refused to allow White House staffers who might have information about those dealings to testify. The Democrats, then, are left to flail away that Trump is obstructing the committee’s impeachment inquiry, and worse obstructing Congress. The problem, again, is that the flailing is coming solely from the Democrats and that reinforces the deep suspicion among many that it’s a partisan hit job on Trump.
There’s another problem. Given all that’s known about how Trump does business, skirts the law, and double deals at every turn, it takes no imagination, let alone, mounds of hard evidence, to believe that Trump demanded a quid pro quo from Ukraine leaders to go after Biden. It takes even less imagination not to believe That Trump would mock and abuse presidential power for business, personal and political gain.
Yet, knowing this and proving this are two different things. In the absence of a tape—ala Nixon–a memo, or some hard document that directly incriminates Trump for flagrant abuse of power, he and the GOP can scream and keep screaming it all “BS.”
This forced Pelosi to do what she had for months stirred clear of. And that’s mounting a frontal political attack on Trump. Now that she has, this will open wide the favorite counter by Trump and the GOP. That’s that impeachment is a ploy to damage Trump politically in the run-up to the November elections. The big question is will it? The even bigger question is will impeachment give the Democrats any edge with the voters in the five or six states that will decide the White House?
The polls are certainly no help in determining that. The partisan divide is just to locked in place for that. The one ominous clue that won’t thrill many Democrats is that the impeachment inquiry battle has been viewed with a shrug, ho hum, and downright disinterest by many voters in the Heartland states. It’s seen as just another free-swinging ongoing grudge match between the GOP and Democrats for political upmanship. The only real winner in all of this are the cable networks who pump the squabble for all its worth in hopes of a ratings bonanza.
Trump has one other ace that makes it even tougher for the Democrats to avoid the partisan political taint. No sitting president has ever been indicted, simply because it would cause monumental political and legal havoc and paralyze the chief executive and by extension the government. The only recourse then in impeachment. The Constitution is clear on this. However, that presents almost the same colossal problem that trying to indict a president brings. It’s top heavy with political infighting, pushback, stonewalling, and ultimately inaction. This is why impeachment of a president has only been tried twice in the nation’s history—Clinton and Andrew Johnson. Neither was convicted in the Senate.
The possible political gain to Trump of a prolonged impeachment battle is the reason that Pelosi beat back repeated calls and efforts by a pack of Democrats to nail Trump with impeachment. Pelosi did not want to have Trump running and tweeting all over the place screaming he’s a martyr on the political cross of Democrats. With her frontal political assault on Trump, she has guaranteed Pelosi that he’ll do just that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Who Can Beat Trump?: America’s Choice 2020https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KVM86C6 He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.