Done deal: John Lewis backs impeachment as Dem leaders prepare to huddle this afternoon

I wonder if he told Pelosi that he was going ahead with this and that was the end of that or if she actually encouraged him to do it, knowing that the proverbial dam was breaking within the caucus anyway. If House Dems are now committed to impeaching Trump, it’s better for Pelosi to look like she’s leading the parade, replete with allies like Lewis formally endorsing the idea, than for her to look like she’s lost control of the House and is being dragged along.

Anyway. They’re really, really going to do this. No matter what the transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky or the whistleblower complaint has to say.

Pelosi is promising an “announcement” later today at 4 p.m. ET, after she and her committee chairmen huddle. I wonder what it’ll be! Here’s Lewis, then read on:

I don’t think Pelosi’s announcement will be that they’re impeaching Trump, actually. That announcement will come Thursday, if Trump tries to block the acting DNI from testifying before Congress and/or continues to stonewall on providing the transcript and complaint. The announcement today is likely to be that they’re voting on a resolution tomorrow:

Presumably the resolution will be a statement of “grave concern” or whatever about what Trump is alleged to have done with Zelensky and a formal demand for the whistleblower complaint, with a warning that impeachment will follow if Trump refuses to comply. That is, Democrats may be left in the position of impeaching him for failing to turn over documents, not for the underlying allegations about misconduct towards Ukraine, which they can’t prove right now. How will that play with that public?

Just as I’m writing this, news is breaking that Team Biden is onboard with that effort and will make it official later today as well:

Here’s the latest Democratic impeachment whip count, although this was taken before Lewis’s statement. With such heavy momentum towards impeachment, there’s no way centrist Dems will hold out once the caucus is approaching a majority in favor of impeachment. Like I said yesterday, at some point they’ll have more to fear from their base by refusing to impeach than they will from swing voters back home by agreeing to do it. Just last night Dem freshman Haley Stevens, who won last year in a Republican-leaning district, came out in favor of impeachment. There’ll be more like her.

Other big-name Democrats besides Lewis, like Dick Durbin, have also endorsed impeachment today, so the dam break really has already begun. The word as of 1 p.m. ET is that Pelosi and the leadership are considering creating a “select committee” for impeachment, shifting the matter away from the Judiciary Committee. The idea is to consolidate the various impeachment claims against Trump and to hand the process to a group of Democrats who are willing to move against Trump more aggressively than Jerry Nadler has. (Given the tension between Pelosi and Nadler lately, she may think she’ll have more authority over a select committee than she would if she let Nadler handle this.) But some House Dems are skeptical that it’s a play to slow down the process and will argue against it:

Does the Ukraine matter belong before the Judiciary Committee, though? Seems like business for the Intelligence Committee or Foreign Affairs Committee, if not for a select committee.

Anyway, there remains the distinct possibility that this cigar will explode in the Democrats’ faces and they know it:

Privately, some Democrats and their aides were more cautious, fretting that the transcript of the July call would not be as damning as billed. They worried that the anticipation of its disclosure was replicating the dynamic that surrounded the release of the report by Robert S. Mueller III, the former special counsel who investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, in which Democrats had expected a set of clear-cut revelations that would all but demand Mr. Trump’s impeachment, but ended up instead with a document that did not move public opinion against the president.

What if they impeach Trump for failing to turn over the transcript and whistleblower complaint, then the documents emerge and they’re not as damning as they were cracked up to be? Democrats will be forced to defend what they’ve done by arguing that the documents are every bit as bad as they’d feared, but if they can’t make that sale to the public then this risks becoming a political disaster for them.

Relatedly, here’s a momentous but momentarily overlooked question: How broad will the scope of the impeachment charges be? Lefties on Twitter this week have made the case that the Ukraine matter is more dangerous to Trump than Russiagate ended up being because his own fingerprints are on it and it’s easy for the average person to comprehend what he’s being accused of, namely bribery and/or extortion. But there are lots of other misdeeds which Democrats have cited in the past as worthy of impeachment. There’s the obstruction material in Mueller’s report; there’s the emoluments Trump is receiving from foreign governments via his businesses; there’s now Ukraine. Do they load up the articles of impeachment with every grievance they have? Because if they do, the lefty argument that Ukraine is a clear-cut straightforward case of wrongdoing will be clouded with arguments about all the unrelated allegations. And it’ll make it easier for Republicans to dismiss the entire matter as a product of personal Democratic animus towards Trump. “They hate him so they’re throwing the kitchen sink at him!”

If, however, Democrats opt to focus exclusively on Ukraine and leave out all the Mueller etc stuff, then they’re essentially forfeiting their right to impeach him for that other stuff. If he’s tried and acquitted by the Senate on the Ukraine charge after several wrenching months of this process playing out, Pelosi’s not suddenly going to turn around and impeach him again for obstructing the Russiagate probe. Democrats get one shot at this. And since convincing Senate Republicans to vote for removal is next to impossible anyway, it might make more sense for Dems to kitchen-sink it. Give Susan Collins and Mitt Romney five reasons to vote Trump out of office instead of one. Maybe they’ll get two or three Republicans voting for removal instead of one or two.

It’s going to be a busy news day. And week. And month. And rest of the year. Stand by for updates.