In 1998, during the Clinton impeachment, Democratic New York Rep. Jerry Nadler paraphrased Benjamin Franklin saying impeachment was intended to be “a substitute for assassination.”
Nadler may still believe that, but it appears more likely that the Democrat rush to impeachment will take them down rather than President Trump.
The party-line voting throughout the sham impeachment “process” illustrates part of the challenge Democrats face. In 2018, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “Unless you have bipartisan consensus, impeachment is a divisive issue in the country. Many people would think it’s being done for political reasons.” Pelosi was right. And today, lacking bipartisan consensus, many if not most people know that this impeachment is simply a political stunt. The only bipartisanship in the process will come from among the 31 Democrats in Trump-voting districts who may break ranks with their party. One of them, New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, is switching parties rather than face a progressive primary challenger in 2020. Others may feel pressured to “vote their conscience,” which really means vote for political survival.
The charges against the president are confusing to most Americans, and don’t even meet constitutional muster. Realizing they had failed to bother citing an actual crime in their rush to impeachment, the Democrats believe they have cured their fatally flawed effort in the publication Monday of a 658-page Judiciary Committee report, stating: “President Trump abused the powers of the presidency by ignoring and injuring national security and other vital national interests to obtain an improper personal political benefit,” the report reads. “He has also betrayed the nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections.” (RELATED: FARRELL: Obama Wanted To Know Everything His Trump Spies Were Doing, And It Looks Like He Did)
I’m certain Democrats are relieved that they had the weekend to paper-up their pathetic committee hearing work and get that into the report. This shows how Democrats are trivializing the impeachment process. Traditionally impeachment has been considered a last resort to be used against a president who met the strict standard of having committed high crimes and misdemeanors. It was not intended to be the product of policy disagreements, tantrums by frustrated career government bureaucrats, and swamp politics as usual.
Establishment D.C. politics made this impeachment against “President Trump the Disruptor” inevitable. Some liberals were talking about it even before Trump was nominated. Last year Nadler was overheard saying the new Democratic House would go “all-in” on impeachment, long before any supposedly “triggering” presidential phone calls to Ukraine (but before the Russian collusion hoax collapsed and sent them scrambling for a Plan B). And Texas Rep. Al Green, who first filed articles of impeachment back in 2017 (claiming, of course, “white supremacy, bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, white nationalism, or neo-Nazism”) says that if the Senate does not remove the president the Congress scan just keep impeaching him.
By spending so much time focused on impeachment, Democrats are helping President Trump make the case that they have no legislative agenda and are ignoring the substantive issues that are important to the American people. Meanwhile on the president’s watch the stock market continues to post record highs and the unemployment figures are at record lows. Not only does the White House believe that impeachment will help with the 2020 reelection effort, it becomes a major talking point for flipping the House back to Republican control. Democrats might take warning from the results of the recent United Kingdom election that showed that British voters were more interested in a party promising results than a party slinging insults.
Opinion polling has not moved the way Democrats may have expected. Presumably, Democrats believed that four months of the trumped-up Ukraine scandal would significantly erode the president’s support base and make impeachment politically favorable. Three weeks ago, I noted that the polling trendlines were basically flat. Now they appear to be moving solidly in Trump’s favor. On Monday, the RealClearPolitics average of polls showed for the first time more opposing impeachment than supporting it. In fact, the pro-impeachment number peaked back in October. The FiveThirtyEight aggregation shows a similar trend.
At this point, it is fair to ask why Democrats have bothered to go through an exercise that has no chance of success and may well harm them at the polls a year hence. Was it to keep the progressive base happy? Frustration that the Russian collusion hoax fell apart? Distraction from the ongoing revelations of how members of the Obama FBI, Justice Department and intelligence community conspired to derail the Trump candidacy and hobble his presidency? Or is this all simply payback for Bill Clinton’s impeachment 20 years ago?
Way back then, Nadler denounced party-line impeachments that “produce divisiveness and bitterness” and “call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions.”
Even Jerry Nadler can get it right occasionally, just not lately.
Chris Farrell is director of investigations and research for Judicial Watch, a nonprofit watchdog group. He previously worked as a counterintelligence case officer.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.