GOP Rep. Michael McCaul: President-elect Clinton could face impeachment

This saber-rattling wouldn’t have anything to do with McCaul’s potential primary challenge to Ted Cruz in Texas, would it? There aren’t a lot of obvious ways to out-populist Cruz, but leading the “Impeach Hillary!” parade in the House would be one.

If I understand him correctly, he’s not implying that the House might impeach Hillary based on what’s currently known about Emailgate. What he’s saying is contingent upon the FBI finding some evidence of intentional mishandling of classified information in the new emails (which is unlikely). If Comey decides to recommend charges against her after all, then the House would act. Given that Paul Ryan’s Republican majority is likely to be depleted next week, though, the caucus would need virtually lockstep support among its members to pass articles of impeachment. Political pressure from the GOP base would be tremendous, but Ryan and the leadership would be nervous about the political consequences given what happened the last time a Clinton was impeached. There might be enough centrists in the caucus who want to wait and see what the DOJ and a grand jury choose to do before supporting Hillary’s impeachment. And the timing is what it is: Some voters would be more willing to cut Hillary a break on removal as a newbie president, since she hadn’t had a chance to govern yet. That shouldn’t affect the calculation of whether a president’s committed high crimes or misdemeanors, but it would.

It’d be a dilemma for Chuck Schumer’s Democratic Senate majority too. Another reason for the House to move slowly on impeachment is that Hillary isn’t going anywhere unless the 51 or so Democrats that’ll be in the Senate next year vote to convict her. (If it’s 50/50, which is probably the worst-case scenario for Dems right now, Tim Kaine would be the tiebreaker.) They wouldn’t even consider it, I’m sure, unless a grand jury returned an indictment first. But … what if President Hillary was indicted? At that point Democrats (not to mention the country) would face a crisis: If Clinton refused to resign but resolved to fight the charges, as is her wont when she’s accused of something, how long would Schumer stand by her as that spectacle played out? Is there any scenario, short of her being convicted at trial, in which Senate Dems would vote to remove the first woman president? Bear in mind that Democratic voters would support her overwhelmingly, having long ago convinced themselves that objections to Clinton’s email practices must necessarily be just another sexist, hyperpartisan witch hunt by Clinton-crazed Republicans. Senate Dems might find themselves in a position usually reserved for the GOP, in which their base strongly favors a confrontational position on an issue that plays poorly with the vast majority of the rest of the country. Schumer’s already staring at a very rough map in the 2018 midterms. If Clinton is an anchor on the party, he’d have some incentive to pressure her to step down.

Yesterday I noted in this post that the odds of Obama pardoning Clinton are higher if Trump wins the election than if she wins. If Clinton wins and Obama issues a pardon, it’ll be read as him conceding that something felonious might have happened after all, which is a … bad talking point for an incoming president. If Trump wins, though, Obama could issue the pardon and say that he’s confident nothing criminal happened but worries that Trump’s “lock her up!” fan base might demand a political show trial anyway. Thinking about it further, though, I can sort of imagine Obama issuing a pardon after a Clinton victory if the GOP suddenly catches impeachment fever and spends the next few months talking up the prospect in the media. In that case Obama could adapt the logic of pardoning her before President Trump takes office: Because these darned House Republicans seem intent on a show trial of our new president, he might say, I’m pardoning her out of an abundance of caution, to prevent them from taking this any further and tearing the country apart over it. I don’t think O would gamble his own legacy on doing that unless he had reason to believe there were no new bombshells coming from the FBI — and there may be — but who knows anymore. Six months ago, I’m sure James Comey never thought he’d gamble his own legacy on inventing reasons not to prosecute the Democratic nominee for mishandling classified info. The urgent need to keep Hillary Clinton out of jail can make a public servant do strange things.

If all else fails, I suppose President Hillary could always pardon herself. Don’t put it past her.