Very true — and very inflammatory, at least with the Democratic activist base. After Robert Mueller’s special counsel report made it very clear that the Russia-collusion hypothesis about the 2016 election had no basis in fact, #2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer told CNN it’s time to look to 2020 instead of impeachment. Trying to eject Donald Trump “is not worthwhile at this point,” Hoyer told Dana Bash:
“Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point. Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgement,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told @DanaBashCNN .
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) April 18, 2019
Bash added this significant context to Hoyer’s remarks, emphasis mine:
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, told CNN there is nothing he has seen so far in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that would change the House leadership strategy to avoid impeachment proceedings.
Remember that House Democratic leadership had tried steering away from impeachment almost since the start of the congressional session. Pelosi discounted the idea almost immediately after taking back the gavel so often that The Hill noted “plenty of signals” in February of Pelosi’s opposition to the idea. A couple of weeks after that, Pelosi used almost exactly the same language as Hoyer did today, five weeks ago, again emphasis mine:
Post: There have been increasing calls, including from some of your members, for impeachment of the president.
Pelosi: I’m not for impeachment. This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.
Following that, other members of her caucus publicly supported that position, including — surprisingly — Adam Schiff. That was mainly on the basis that the Senate wouldn’t remove Trump so it made no sense to push impeachment rather than any principled stand about negating an election. Hoyer pointedly noted that the impeach-at-any-cost caucus was surpassingly small, and by the end of last month Democrats were trying to pretend that they’d never backed impeachment in the first place.
So one might think that reinforcing last month’s strategy message would be a no-brainer on the day that Robert Mueller’s report emphasized that no collusion took place and refused to make a stand on obstruction. Speaking of no-brainers, however …
NADLER on impeachment: "That's one possibility… it's too early to reach those conclusions." pic.twitter.com/f2GhqrheqM
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 18, 2019
Nadler was never quite on board with the no-impeachment strategy, of course. At the same time that House Democratic leadership was pulling its Orwellian “who us?” act, Nadler was reminding everyone that impeachment covered a “broader picture” than just crimes. Even here, though, Nadler’s just paying lip service to impeachment, telling reporter it is “one possibility, there are others.”
Unfortunately for Democrats, their own hyperbole undermined any real momentum toward impeachment among voters, almost certainly fatally so. Having promised collusion would be proven, the Mueller report is a massive letdown. Without collusion, the 2016 is legitimate, and if the 2016 election was legitimate, then there’s no reason to remove Trump, especially 18 months before an election.
Even before Mueller’s report went public, Democrats were behind the public-opinion curve, Philip Klein noted earlier today. Now that it’s out, they can’t possibly move opinion in favor of an overwhelming consensus for impeachment:
Impeaching Trump, whether or not it’s favored by the Democratic base, is not particularly popular with the general public. A CNN poll taken last month found support for impeachment was down to 36%. The ideal scenario for Democrats was that Mueller found some shocking bombshell that was unequivocal about Trump engaging in crimes. In that case, it would be easier to move public opinion, and they’d be able to rally their party around impeachment while forcing Republicans to choose between loyalty to Trump and disregarding the will of the voters. Now, that isn’t the case at all.
Knowing this, Democrats now are much more likely to try keep up the specter of investigation as long as possible rather than go for impeachment. This was already signaled in Democrats’ early reaction to the Mueller report and their focus on the redactions rather than arguing out of the gate that it makes a strong case for impeachment, which no doubt would have been the immediate message had the report been more obviously damning. …
So, right now, it appears that Democrats are going to use every opportunity, through testimony, hearings, document requests, and follow up requests, to keep alive the story without going through the process of impeachment.
Even that strategy has an exhaustion point. Voters had begun tiring of the investigation when the relatively trusty and non-partisan Robert Mueller was running it. Once Nadler, Schiff, and others (Elijah Cummings) start becoming the face of it, it will transform very quickly into nothing more than yet another partisan scab-picking exercise of the kind that most voters outside of activist bases intensely dislike. That might end up poisoning the presidential-primary well; it will certainly play into Trump’s complaints about “the swamp” and “witch hunts.”
Democrats and the media will keep the story alive for a few more weeks. After that, if they’re smart, they’ll let the start of the 2020 primary debates eclipse Russiagate for good.