Hoo boy: Some moderate Dems now pushing censure instead of impeachment

Not quite at the “fiasco” stage here, but getting closer.

There’s not going to be a censure vote and all of these guys know it, and Pelosi knows they know it, so imagine how irritated she’ll be to find them running to the media anyway to undermine today’s big impeachment news.


I don’t see the strategic value to them in whispering about it either. Presumably all of them will sigh and vote to impeach anyway when Pelosi demands that they do so. If the idea in talking up censure is to pander to Republican voters back home about how reluctant they are to do this, that pandering is going to be wiped out once they grit their teeth and end up doing it anyway.

Like, do these guys think pro-Trump swing voters will go easy on them next fall if they vote to impeach but make a big show of how their hearts aren’t really in it?

Those Democrats, all representing districts that Trump won in 2016, huddled on Monday afternoon in an 11th-hour bid to weigh additional — though unlikely — options to punish the president for his role in the Ukraine scandal as the House speeds toward an impeachment vote next week.

The group of about 10 members included Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), and Ben McAdams (D-Utah.)…

The Trump-district Democrats say they are increasingly worried that a lengthy Senate trial — which could stretch into the spring — will result in an even more polarizing 2020 campaign.

Some of the Democrats involved have quietly reached out to centrist House Republicans in recent days to see whether they would be willing to censure Trump, according to multiple lawmakers, including in conversations on the House floor.

How do Gottheimer et al. see this playing out for them? Are they actually trying to pull enough centrist Democrats together to block impeachment?


Because every last one of them would be ruthlessly primaried by the left if that happened. It’s as much of a suicide mission as Susan Collins voting to remove Trump would be.

Or are they trying to signal to Pelosi that while they might not have the votes to block impeachment, they intend to vote against it — which would be a humiliating vote of no confidence in Schiff’s case and in Pelosi herself at a moment when she wants the caucus unified?

At least I think she wants it unified. Given how tepid support for impeachment is and has been for weeks, maybe Pelosi’s made a very hard calculation here to free some of the moderates to protect themselves by voting no. She did that on the ObamaCare vote 10 years ago, you may recall — no sense demanding that vulnerable Dems vote yes on unpopular legislation that already has the 218 votes it needs to pass. But ObamaCare and impeachment were two different animals. ObamaCare was policy; impeachment is a moral rebuke of the left’s least favorite politician. Any defections on impeachment necessarily weakens that moral case, especially after the initial vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry set a baseline of 231 Dems in favor. If Pelosi has told these centrists to go ahead and vote their conscience then she really has come to see impeachment as a pure political liability.

But even so, have no doubt that she’ll follow through. It really would be a total fiasco for her to abandon ship at this late stage, when they’re at the brink of doing it. The Republican numbers in this new poll from YouGov made me laugh:


A plurality of GOPers, 47 percent, have somehow convinced themselves that House Democrats might not pull the trigger after all despite weeks of hearings in multiple committees, thousands of news stories, and endless cable news coverage. They’re obviously going to do it. The suspense has to do purely with how many members of Pelosi’s own party end up voting with Trump in the end.

Here’s the draft text of the articles of impeachment, by the way. The first count, abuse of power, summarizes the now-familiar details of the Ukraine matter. Reading through it, I’m surprised they didn’t end up charging him with bribery since their description of what Trump did matches up well enough with the relevant bits of the federal bribery statute. Here’s the law, which says it’s bribery when a person:

(2) being a public official or person selected to be a public official, directly or indirectly, corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for:

(A) being influenced in the performance of any official act;

And here’s the key bit in the first article of impeachment:

We have a public official seeking (“soliciting”) something of personal value for corrupt purposes (“benefiting his reelection”) in return for performing an official act. Why they ended up calling that abuse of power instead of bribery, I don’t know. Maybe they thought the public would have trouble seeing a transaction as “bribery” unless something tangible, like money, was involved. Or maybe they thought Americans would be more likely to support removal if they viewed Trump’s actions here as an injury to the nation, not as a means of illicit self-enrichment (of a sort). Bribery involves both but it’s mainly thought of in the latter terms, I suspect. And they’re not going to get people worked up to remove a guy who’s been open to profiting indirectly from his public office since before he was sworn in.


As for the second count, obstruction of Congress, I’m as perplexed as anyone else as to why Dems think that’s a winner when they didn’t bother waiting around to see how the courts ruled on subpoenas sent to the likes of Mick Mulvaney. To remove Trump for improperly refusing those subpoenas on his deputies’ behalf, we first have to know that his refusal was in fact improper, no? Imagine the Senate tossing him out of office for obstruction of Congress and then later President Pence wins a court battle on executive privilege grounds over some other unrelated subpoena of a deputy. “Trump was right on the law but was ousted anyway!” his fans would say. I think Gabe Malor’s right, though, that this is what Democrats are thinking:

They have to at least assert the claim that refusing a House subpoena amounts to obstruction of Congress, even if the Senate is destined to undermine that claim by voting against it. It may be that in a future dispute between the executive and the legislature a court will look back to this process to see how aggressively the House insisted on its own prerogative to hear from witnesses during an impeachment inquiry. If the House didn’t object to Trump bottling up witnesses, the court might treat it as an admission that even Congress sees merit in the idea of the White House having “absolute immunity” from having to show up and face questions. Congress is asserting its power as a co-equal branch with this second charge. It’s just … not so serious about asserting it that it’s willing to wait around until a court rules on whether Mulvaney et al. should testify.


Exit quotation via Rand Paul: “Right now I think every Republican votes against impeachment and I think that there’s a possibility of two Democrats voting against impeachment.”

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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024