Number three House Dem James Clyburn: The Mueller chapter is closed and we need to move on to health care

Man, Pelosi really wants to change the subject, huh?

They’re not completely changing the subject, though, as the full transcript of this interview with Clyburn makes clearer. I think Pelosi and the Dem leadership realize that impeachment is out of their control to some extent. They can stop it in the House if it came to that but they can’t stop progressive all-stars from chattering about it and they won’t stop committee chairs like Jerry Nadler from investigating other aspects of Trump’s life and business. They got elected last fall partly on the promise that they’d put POTUS through a wringer on oversight. They can’t break that promise just because Mueller didn’t deliver.

As I say, read the transcript and you’ll find Clyburn specifically saying that Nadler and other committee heads should proceed with their work. Still, declaring that the Mueller chapter is “closed” when the report hasn’t even been revealed yet is noteworthy in its haste to move on.

I think Pelosi and Clyburn anticipate — correctly — that there’ll be some grounds for progressives to double down on Russiagate over the next few weeks as pressure builds on Barr to release the full Mueller report. Maybe Barr will choose not to release any part of it, offering only a lengthier synopsis of its findings instead. Maybe he’ll release parts of it but not all of it. Maybe he’ll release all of it, in which case there are sure to be bits and pieces that can be cherry-picked to support the case that Trump really was guilty of conspiracy and/or obstruction and that Mueller dropped the ball somehow. Any or all of those are potential grounds for lefties to screech about chicanery by Barr and possibly even Mueller to protect Trump. But unless Barr has completely misstated Mueller’s findings, none of it will be enough to justify impeaching the president after Mueller, Barr, and Rosenstein cleared him. Pelosi’s a bottom-line politician and the bottom line here is that impeachment is DOA. So she and Clyburn are going to try to counterprogram the eventual progressive double-down by insisting that it’s time to shift to the issues that got them elected last fall, starting with health care.

Which seems like a good dynamic for her, frankly. If she had total control and could stifle all impeachment blather from within the caucus it’d no doubt annoy lefties, if only because they want to believe they didn’t waste the last two years investing in Mueller and Russiagate. Having AOC and other House progressives screaming about it is an outlet for that. If the Dem rank-and-file starts to complain that the leadership isn’t talking enough about impeachment, Pelosi can point to the leftists in her ranks and say, “What do you mean? They talk about it all the time.” It’s a version of good cop/bad cop, with the good cop pitching to swing voters who care more about health care than impeachment and the bad cop satisfying the progressive id by blasting Trump, Barr, and Mueller periodically.

Besides, just because the big bomb didn’t go off doesn’t mean they can’t try again with smaller ones:

Some House Democrats suggested Monday that they will double down on a strategy of attempting to cripple Trump with what one aide described as “a thousand cuts” — highlighting what Democrats view as Trump’s abuse of his office as well as policies that repel voters, such as family separations at the border…

Democrats on the intelligence panel are refusing to back down, even as some of their other colleagues want to move on, at least on the Russia question. Before Barr released Mueller’s findings, Schiff had argued that a lack of charges would not mean there wasn’t “compelling and incriminating evidence” of collusion that the American public deserved to see.

“Our probe in intelligence is much broader than the scope of what special counsel Mueller had to deal with,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), arguing that he did not believe Mueller focused on all the counterintelligence the House panel is trying to scrutinize.

“Mueller’s two-year investigation wasn’t thorough enough” will be an interesting talking point for Pelosi to try to reconcile with the alleged need for House Dems to pivot back to the issues that got them elected. It’s one thing to demagogue Barr and Rosenstein for supposedly distorting Mueller’s findings, quite another to insist that Mueller’s verdict isn’t the final word on the matter after the entire country was led to believe that it was. Imagine what sort of smoking gun Schiff’s intelligence committee would need to produce at this point to convince a huge majority of voters that Trump should be impeached and removed *even though* Bob Mueller cleared him of conspiracy. Is there anything short of audio of Trump and Putin conspiring that would do it?

That’s the only way the good cop/bad cop thing might go bad for Pelosi, I think — if the intel committee turns up something that Mueller overlooked for whatever reason, even if it’s not an amazing smoking gun that proves guilt. Most of the country will shrug but the left might seize on it as a way to validate their suspicions in hindsight: We were right, Mueller was wrong! What does Pelosi do then?

Anyway. Over in the Senate, Schumer offered a resolution yesterday formally calling on Barr to release the report but was blocked by McConnell. How come? McConnell probably figures that no political good can come at this point from the public actually seeing Mueller’s report, since we already know the big takeaway and there are bound to be passages in there about how Trump acted badly, if not criminally, in various circumstances. He’s trying to create some space for Barr to stick the report in a drawer somewhere if he decides that’s what best for whatever reason.