Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor: It's time to start on impeachment

She’s been hinting at impeachment for months, long before Mueller finished his investigation and then more insistently on Twitter after his report was published. Today’s the first time she’s made the case in a format as visible as the Senate, though, which strikes me as smart politics. Support for impeachment may have collapsed among the general public but it’s still a winner with Democrats, particularly the party’s left wing — which of course is the wing Warren is courting. She’s been moving up on Bernie Sanders in polling lately thanks to her “I got a plan” shtick, even placing ahead of him in one survey. A cri de coeur about ousting Trump can only help her rise further once it start circulating among progressives, especially if it makes her the de facto leader in Congress of the “Trump must go” push.

If nothing else, it diversifies her image. Until now she’s been known as the wonk’s wonk, the “cerebral” candidate who plays to your head rather than your heart. Today she’s going for the gut. This is her showing progressives that “she fights!”

Whether or not she’s right that the obstruction evidence detailed by Mueller justifies impeachment, I think she’s right that Mueller intended the report’s obstruction section as a referral to Congress. The intro to that section emphasized that (1) there’s too much evidence to clear Trump but also (2) it’d be unfair to accuse him of a crime in light of the DOJ’s policy that a sitting president can’t be indicted and therefore wouldn’t be allowed to formally answer the accusation in court. If Mueller can’t deny that there’s probable cause to believe Trump obstructed justice but also can’t haul him into court then logically the matter should be referred to the one tribunal which the president does constitutionally have to answer to, Congress. They don’t have to accept the referral, of course; Pelosi could shrug and say, “Meh, voters will remove him next November,” and that’s the end of that. (A Twitter pal noted last night how odd it is that she prefers to let the electorate reckon with Trump despite also believing that Trump might ignore the will of the electorate.) But I think Warren’s claim that Mueller wanted Congress to look seriously at this holds water.

It’d be nice if he interrupted his busy schedule of being retired to sit down before a House committee and give us a straight yes or no on that, right? And maybe answer this question too: Did he want Bill Barr to issue a verdict on whether Trump obstructed justice in his summary of Mueller’s report or was Mueller hoping to have official silence from the DOJ on that point? Lefties have spent a lot of time whining about Barr’s summary, most of which is hard to stomach given that we had nearly the entire report before us within weeks. But there’s some truth to the idea that Barr’s “NO OBSTRUCTION” takeaway has made it harder politically for Democrats to impeach Trump than if Barr had remained silent and the initial takeaway was instead “MUELLER CAN’T CLEAR TRUMP OF OBSTRUCTION.”

Harder, but probably not much harder. As I’ve said before in writing about the post-Mueller polling, I think collusion was the whole ballgame on the question of impeachment. If Mueller didn’t have Trump and Putin scheming to rig the election then Democrats weren’t going to get anywhere close to a majority in favor of impeachment. At the end of the day, Americans aren’t going to countenance trying to remove a sitting president for obstructing a probe that *didn’t accuse him of an underlying crime.*

Two clips of Warren doing her “she fights!” things here. Exit question: Would impeachment really be a political disaster for Democrats? A heavy majority of the public opposes it, but if Dems did it soon and the Senate quickly ran through a trial finding Trump not guilty, they’d have appeased their base and the backlash among Trump fans probably would die down before the big vote next November.