For … firing Jim Comey? Something even Jim Comey admitted Trump had every right to do?
Dem Rep. Brad Sherman is under no illusions that this is going anywhere. He’s just laying down a marker after the Don Jr emails blew up and seizing an opportunity to score some cheap points with the Democratic base.
Recent disclosures by Donald Trump Jr. indicate that Trump’s campaign was eager to receive assistance from Russia. It now seems likely that the President had something to hide when he tried to curtail the investigation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the wider Russian probe. I believe his conversations with, and subsequent firing of, FBI Director James Comey constitute Obstruction of Justice.
Every day Democrats, Republicans, and the entire world are shocked by the latest example of America’s amateur President. Ignorance accompanied by a refusal to learn. Lack of impulse control, accompanied by a refusal to have his staff control his impulses. We’re no longer surprised by any action, no matter how far below the dignity of the office—and no matter how dangerous to the country…
I have slight hope [this] will inspire an ‘intervention’ in the White House. If Impeachment is real, if they actually see Articles, perhaps we will see incompetency replaced by care. Perhaps uncontrollable impulses will be controlled. And perhaps the danger our nation faces will be ameliorated.
Here’s a copy of the Articles, which claim obstruction of justice under 18 U.S.C. 1512(b)(3) based on Trump’s firing of Comey and subsequent statements that his decision was related to the Flynn and Russiagate investigations. The statute makes it a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison by any person “who uses intimidation, threatens, or corruptly persuades another person, or attempts to do so … with intent to … hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to a law enforcement officer or judge of the United States of information relating to the commission or possible commission of a Federal offense…” Presumably the intimidation the statute imagines involves the threat of unlawful action — violence against a federal agent, blackmail, and so forth. Firing the FBI director is a lawful act by the president. And Trump’s motive appears to have had more to do with Comey’s refusal to clear him publicly of wrongdoing, not the fact that Comey refused to promise to go easy on Flynn. The Flynn investigation continues, after all. If Trump wanted to hinder it by firing Bob Mueller and/or ordering an end to the probe, he could. (Or he could try.)
We’re missing the forest for the trees here, though. Sherman flagged a criminal statute in his statement announcing the impeachment resolution because he knows he’s on firmer ground politically if he has an actual federal crime to point to as justification. Former prosecutor and reluctant Trump supporter Andy McCarthy argues, though, that the “high crimes and misdemeanors” needed to justify impeachment needn’t involve statutory offenses. They include gross dereliction of duty. Trump’s not guilty of that yet, but stay tuned:
[T]he question is not whether collusion is a crime. It is whether collusion is a high crime or misdemeanor…
The bickering over collusion “crimes” misses the point. If an unfit person holds the presidency, the danger to our society is that he will abuse the power that he wields. The imperative is to remove him from office. Whether, in addition to that, his misconduct also happens to violate penal statutes and be ripe for criminal prosecution is a side issue. It is a subordinate legal question, whereas fitness for the presidency is a core political issue. That is why it is rightly observed that impeachment a political remedy, not a legal one…
The principal duty of the president is to safeguard the nation against foreign threats to our security and system of government. If a president instead has put them at greater risk, if he has conducted himself in such a way as to raise the specter of blackmail by a foreign power, it is always appropriate to question his fitness for the nation’s highest office.
Politically, collusion makes more sense as grounds for impeachment than a dubious obstruction charge since it’s the concern that lies at the heart of Russiagate. But Sherman’s got an obvious problem with using that as the basis for his impeachment articles: There’s still no hard evidence of collusion by Trump Sr. The Don Jr emails are interesting and things may become more interesting still if it can be proved that the president was alerted to the nature of Junior’s meeting with the Russian lawyer when it happened, but until that last dot to the Oval Office is connected in a convincing way, Trump has plausible deniability. The left may have to satisfy itself with forcing Jared Kushner out of the White House if it wants a scalp.
Relatedly, via RCP, an interesting clip of lefty Gavin Newsom trying to warn his party away from making 2018 an “impeachment election.” Russiagate’s interesting and all, he concedes, but it’s not going to swing any elections absent something more directly incriminating involving the president himself coming to light. I think that’s right. How many casual observers of American politics would be able to explain to you in a few sentences what the Don Jr kerfuffle of the last few days is about? This is political-junkie stuff. And political junkies don’t pick presidents, or congressional majorities.