Week of October 18, 2019

House Democrats Call for Impeachment Proceedings against Trump

Although the calls to impeach Trump have become a regular Democratic talking point since Trump was elected president, last week the impeachment process took a step forward when the Speaker of the House Pelosi announced that Congress was going to launch a formal “Impeachment Inquiry” against Trump ten days ago.

But, the chances of an impeachment of Trump and a conviction are very remote.  First, although Pelosi has instituted an “impeachment inquiry,” the House hasn’t voted to open impeachment proceedings.  Pelosi has also chosen the intelligence committee instead of the Judicial Committee to head the investigation.  This could cause procedural issues later.  In addition, a bipartisan majority quashed papers of impeachment a few months ago.

There is also the fact that the Senate is controlled by the Republicans and even though a couple of anti-Trump Republican senators like former presidential candidate Mitt Romney are calling the current issue “very troubling,” there is little or no chance a 2/3 majority of senators would vote to convict President Trump.

The Senate Republicans have made their position clear and are vowing to quickly quash any articles of impeachment that pass the House and warn that Democrats will feel a political backlash if they go forward and impeach President Trump.

 “My response to them is go hard or go home,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over impeachment. “If you want to impeach him, stop talking. Do it. Do it. Go to Amazon, buy a spine and do it. And let’s get after it.”

Nor are all congressional Democrats for impeachment.  Democratic presidential candidate and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said, “I believe that impeachment at this juncture would be terribly divisive for the country at a time when we are already extremely divided.”

She continued to say the 2020 election, not impeachment is the way to make sure Trump leaves office.

Undoubtedly, Democratic congressmen in swing districts that voted for Trump will think hard about voting for impeachment despite political pressure being placed on them.

Breitbart reported, “Democrats are already in disarray less than a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an “official” impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Some “moderate” Democrats who came out in support of impeachment and put their careers on the line are now questioning what is new or different from before.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), one of the House’s most vulnerable Democrats, came out with six other moderate colleagues to back an impeachment inquiry in an op-ed that was a watershed moment in impeachment efforts. But after a Democrat caucus meeting with Pelosi , Slotkin reportedly said to Democrat colleagues: “If you are asking us to stay on message, give us a g-ddamn message to stay on.”

The Issue Surrounding the Impeachment Talk

The issue is a recent phone call where Trump asked Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky to probe the dealings of former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.  Democrats say Trump’s request for an investigation is inappropriate since Biden was officially running for president at the time of the call.

Democrats fail to mention that the Obama Administration and Democrat Senators Durbin and Leahy had asked the Ukrainians for dirt on Trump in May 2016.  Nor do they mention that Vice President Biden bragged that he had forced the Ukraine to remove its prosecutor, who was looking into illegal activities of a company that VP Biden’s son was on, by threatening to withhold $1 billion in aid.

The charges were serious enough that both parties in the House and Senate called for the release of a transcript of the conversation.

Trump released the transcript that confirmed the mention of Biden, but no quid pro quo.  Trump then referred to videotaped comments in which Joe Biden describes how he forced the termination of a top Ukrainian prosecutor by withholding loans. The prosecutor was allegedly investigating Burisma, the gas company where Hunter Biden served on the board of directors earning $50k monthly.

“The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” Trump said.

“Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”

Is this enough of a smoking gun to impeach and convict Trump?  The Wall Street Journal looked at the transcript and said no.  Biden was a government official, who had publicly bragged about how he had intimidated a foreign government who was investigating his son.

An irony is that those who claimed that President Trump was a Russian spy are now insisting that he’s working with the Ukrainians, whose country was “invaded” and partially annexed by Russia.

Republican Congressman Mark Meadows tweeted, “I’ve read the transcript and the Democrat spin was wrong… again – President Zelensky initiated the Giuliani convo and asked the WH to send him to Ukraine – ZERO discussion of foreign aid quid pro quo That’s it? THAT’S what Democrats are impeaching on? Give me a break.”

As the Wall Street Journal noted, “Good luck persuading Americans that this is an impeachable offense.”

So, if these allegations seem thin and the House has refused, in a bipartisan vote, to proceed with impeachment a few months ago, why are they so eager to go ahead now?

The answer is politics.

Behind the scenes, Democrats are in the middle of a civil war over the future of the party. The Democrat leadership wants to defeat President Trump by winning an election, but its activists will settle for nothing less than impeachment even if it means four more years of Trump.

Speaker Pelosi opposes impeachment because she’s seen the numbers. Impeachment polls badly with independents, would increase turnout among Republicans, and doesn’t even score well with Democrats. The impeachment obsession has led to the perception among many voters that the House is focused on going after President Trump to the exclusion of passing legislation.

This is clear in recent polling on impeachment.  Several polls show a growing interest in investigating the issue, but a desire to impeach Trump is still falling below 50%, which will make any politician up for reelection uneasy about voting against Trump.

That means the decision to proceed with impeachment could possibly help the Republicans regain the majority in the House next year.

Democrat Senators from red states have also expressed concern that the impeachment process started by Nancy Pelosi “may spin out of control and destroy any chance their party might have of winning back the majority next year,” according to a report from The Hill. These Democrats believe that if their party doesn’t act quickly, Trump could “turn the tables on them.” “It’s really incumbent on the House to really be laser-focused. The president is a master of pivoting and deflecting and I think it’s really important to stay focused,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who narrowly won re-election

The real appeal of impeachment is more emotional than strategic.  While moderate Democrats want to win elections, Democratic activists want to delegitimize the 2016 election by impeaching Trump.

It’s easier to understand this by looking at the history of the Trump candidacy, the Trump victory, and the Trump presidency.  The push to impeach President Trump did not begin with a crime allegedly committed in office, but began before he even took office and, in some elements of the media, before he even won. The premise of impeachment has always been about Trump’s inherent unfitness to be president.  That’s one reason why the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution, which refers to the removal of an unfit president, is regularly mentioned.

That means the trial isn’t of Trump, but the voters who voted for him – and for the process that allowed him to become president – the Electoral College.

In other words, it appears that the Democrats prefer impeaching Trump and denouncing his voters, to winning in 2020.

The fact is that the Democrats will have problems beating Trump if he managed to wither the impeachment momentum that currently generated.  A recent survey of top business shows that 2/3 of them believe Trump will be reelected.  This belief is backed up by popularity polls which show him almost with a level of  popularity like Obama at this time in his presidency, campaign enthusiasm (he has raised more money than all of his Democratic opponents combined), and a potential unformidable candidate (whoever the Democrats pick).

Even Minnesota, a traditional Democratic stronghold that hasn’t voted Republican since Nixon is turning to Trump according to CNN polling.

We can expect a lot of gamesmanship in the next few months.  Don’t let headlines mislead you.

Civil War?

Talk of civil war occurring in the US is growing.  In fact, a TV network has announced that they will produce a TV series based on a new American civil war.  An upcoming HBO Max series will depict the United States in the grips of a second American Civil War, with the federal government battling secessionist forces called the Free State armies.

The push for impeachment and the inflammatory rhetoric is threatening the civil unrest that we have predicted in past Monitor reports.  President Trump has called Democratic attempts to impeach him a “coup d’état” that threatens to overthrow the legally elected government.

Rush Limbaugh, who is America’s most popular talk radio host has this week referred to the political atmosphere as a “cold Civil War” and “French Revolution.”

The other side is just as inflammatory.   MSNBC’s Morning Joe’s Willie Geist claimed that there’s no one around the table or watching at home who thinks that President Trump will “go quietly” if he’s impeached or defeated at the polls.  Geist seemed to be suggesting that President Trump is speaking of coups and civil war as a predicate for refusing to leave office.

Geist claimed, “That’s the context in which you hear this coup talk, and you hear this civil war talk.”

On Tuesday, anchor Craig Melvin on MSNBC suggested that “heavily armed” Trump supporters would march on Washington “to protect their president.”

On Sunday, President Trump tweeted a quote from Pastor Robert Jeffress, who on Fox News had said that the removal of Trump from office would “cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation.” Jeffress seemed to be envisioning a political “fracture,” not an actual civil war.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough added fuel to the fire on Tuesday’s Morning Joe, interpreting Jeffress’ statement and Trump’s tweet of it in the most inflammatory possible manner. Scarborough alleged that President Trump was making “calls for civil war.”

Democrat Representative Maxine Waters (CA) took her ‘impeach Trump’ rhetoric to the next level on Tuesday morning and said, “Impeachment is not good enough for Trump. He needs to be imprisoned & placed in solitary confinement.”

So, will all this heated rhetoric be limited to “hot air?”  Or, can this lead to civil unrest and even a real civil war?

Yes, it’s possible.  In the past, we’ve covered incidents like Ferguson and the Bundy Ranch, where America has seemed to stand on the precipice of civil war limited scenes.

Although there are many potential flashpoints like anti-Trump ANTIFA protests, one pro-Trump event could be a threat by the biker group “Rolling Thunder” to come to Washington if Trump is impeached.

In 2018, tens of thousands Rolling Thunder participants converged on Washington DC on Memorial Day weekend.  Many of its members are veterans.

Rolling Thunder co-founder Artie Muller first floated the idea in May, and it generated intense social media attention over the weekend after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed an official impeachment inquiry.

“We are all supporting him,” Muller said. “The Democratic Party is really out of line … all they have been trying to do is destroy him.”

Dale Herndon, the director of Bikers for Trump, said Monday the group considers timing critical. With Democrats in control of the House an impeachment could come as early as this year, followed by a trial in the GOP-held Senate.

Bill Williamson, a Maryland native who organized the 2 Million Bikers to D.C. rally in 2013, which brought thousands of bikers to counter protest a 9/11 event, told the Washington Examiner in May that he “most certainly will” be involved in anti-impeachment planning.

Ski Bischof, who organized a pro-Trump rally in Washington’s Dupont Circle in January 2017, said Monday, “If the call is put out to ride, I’ll be there, along with many like-minded brothers and sisters.”

In Virginia, Rolling Thunder chapter President Francis “Mac” MacDonald said in May he “and most of our chapter” would ride in Trump’s defense but stressed it would be in a personal capacity.

One Twitter user wrote, “I am not rich, don’t have a ton of extra money BUT I do have an earmark account for tickets/hotel for just such an occurrence. WE WILL DESCEND ON DC!!!”

Although talk is cheaper than action, given the size of Rolling Thunder events in Washington every May, the potential for civil unrest is there.  The only question is if those who want to impeach Trump and those who want him to stay in office will step back.

In the meantime, try to carefully digest the breathless headlines we will see every day predicting Trump’s impending impeachment and conviction. But the panic

and angry reactions by Trump and his principals around him like Pompeo, Barr, Pence and his private attorney Giuliani, are indications of potential shift in the winds toward more damaged presidency.

more surprises.