Nadler: Congress has to look at a "broader picture" than just crimes in deciding whether to impeach

I don’t know who he thinks he’s kidding with this answer. The left, presumably.

The special prosecutor is limited in scope. His job was limited in scope and limited to crimes. What Congress has to do is look at a broader picture. We are in charge — we have the responsibility of protecting the rule of law, of looking at obstructions of justice, of looking at abuses of power, at corruption, in order to protect the rule of law so that our democratic institutions are not greatly damaged by this president.

There’s still no word from Bill Barr as I write this at 12:45 ET. Nadler went on to say that the report could conceivably show that Mueller found probable cause to believe Trump committed a crime and refused to charge him simply because of the DOJ policy that bars a sitting president from being indicted. In that case impeachment is obviously on the table.

But in the scenario where probable cause just isn’t there? Please. The Speaker of the House is already on record as opposing impeachment. A recent CNN poll found support for impeachment at its lowest level since last June. If Mueller clears Trump the bottom will drop out of impeachment fever among independents, to the extent they’re experiencing any sort of “fever” for it to begin with. Nadler can reassure progressives if he likes that Democrats are doing their own investigations, that offenses that don’t quite rise to the level of crimes are potential grounds for impeachment, etc, but absent new evidence of something truly outrageous the political will to do this just won’t be there. Pelosi was nervous even before Mueller submitted his report that impeaching Trump without overwhelming public support would backfire. She’ll be terrified of it if Mueller declines to accuse him of anything.

In fact, the most gung-ho fans of a dubious impeachment attempt after this may end up being Trump and his own team. They know how this issue can work for them. Here’s CNN reporting 10 days ago:

Several of the President’s political advisers, preparing for a re-election campaign focused on boosting turnout among the President’s base of supporters, have looked to the possibility of Trump’s impeachment as an opportunity to cast Trump as a victim of Washington politics and overzealous Democrats, three sources close to the White House and the campaign said. And with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — which Trump has frequently cast on the campaign trail as a “witch hunt” — expected to end soon, Trump is looking for a new boogeyman…

“I think it was really smart on her part,” a senior Republican operative close to the campaign said of Pelosi [opposing impeachment]. “Why go through a lengthy drawn out fight over something that’s going to be divisive and energize the President’s base when there’s an election coming up and you can win that?”

Ted Cruz was also talking up impeachment this morning, as you’ll see in the second clip below, for the same reason Trump’s advisors are interested in it. Impeachment is a risky play for the out-party under the best circumstances; under circumstances in which Mueller has cleared Trump, there’s no scenario in which it doesn’t look vindictive, the product of sore-loserdom by a party that bet everything on Russiagate, whatever grounds Dems may offer to justify it. The House investigations will proceed, evidence will come out in dribs and drabs of Trump’s general shadiness, and Dems will use that to try to engineer a death by a thousand cuts for him at the polls in 2020. But impeachment for any reason becomes unlikely in the extreme if the Mueller report goes soft on Trump.

The one agonizing possibility for both sides is that Mueller will declare in the report that there’s no evidence of criminal conspiracy with Russia by the president or his campaign but there is plenty of probable cause to believe the president obstructed justice in various actions he took involving the investigation. What do Pelosi and Nadler do with that? Does it depend entirely on what the polls say about public reaction to the report? I don’t know that they’d move to impeach if the case for obstruction rests entirely on known facts, like Trump firing Comey. But if Mueller discovered, say, that Trump and his team tampered with witnesses by dangling pardons at them? All bets are off. Stay tuned.