My hot take for today is that this cynical strategy of shouting “constitutional crisis!”, which is clearly aimed at appeasing pro-impeachment progressives, will backfire by stoking their desire for impeachment instead. Even friendly outlets like CNN have taken to asking Democratic guests why, if the White House’s refusal to comply with subpoenas is really a “constitutional crisis,” they don’t just impeach Trump already. Democrats seem to have no good answer except to mumble vaguely that “we’re not there yet” or that “there are other options.” Pelosi was asked about it in her presser today too. Quote: “Impeach or nothing — it’s not that. It’s a path that is producing results and gathering information.”
She’ll get back to you. In the meantime, please enjoy some complimentary heavy breathing about a “constitutional crisis” instead.
Are there other options besides impeachment if Democrats are serious about this? Here’s one, I guess:
Among the options they are considering is to bundle contempt citations for multiple Trump administration officials into one overarching package that could be referred to the Federal District Court here, in much the way Congress looked to the courts to compel President Richard M. Nixon to turn over tape recordings of his Oval Office conversations. Nixon’s refusal to do so prompted impeachment proceedings…
Mr. Cummings also said Democrats should consider “inherent contempt” — the congressional power, last used in the 1930s, to jail officials who defy subpoenas. Mr. Connolly, who leads an oversight subcommittee, agreed.
“We should be putting people in jail,” Mr. Connolly said.
Would throwing Bill Barr and Don McGahn in a dungeon be considered more or less draconian than impeachment by most of the public? We’ve reached a point of such relentless partisan rancor that I’m not sure impeachment would be viewed as that extraordinary a development; imprisoning cabinet officials definitely would. If nothing else, it’d be hard to reconcile the crocodile tears that were shed in 2016 over Trumpers chanting “Lock her up” about a political opponent with literally jailing the Attorney General of the United States for making the sort of executive privilege claim that every presidential administration eventually ends up making.
Keith Whittington, a Princeton professor who’s writing a book on constitutional crises, knows a stunt when he sees one:
[Nadler] feels the need to elevate a relatively routine dispute over the scope of executive privilege into the last gasp of democracy. Only if the House gains access to the last few sentences under redaction in the Mueller report can America be spared the collapse of the republic and the ascension of a “monarchy.” Only if Attorney General William Barr can be cross-examined by committee staff in a public hearing will we be able to avoid Donald Trump making “himself a king.” Someone has been watching too much Game of Thrones.
Politicians have become incentivized to declare constitutional crises because it enhances their own importance as saviors and demonizes their opponents as illegitimate. The rhetoric of constitutional crisis attempts to short-circuit routine constitutional processes and justify extraordinary and extraconstitutional responses. Donald Trump has played this game as well.
Andrew Napolitano is right, I think. It’s a real constitutional crisis once one branch or the other starts disobeying court orders. Until then it’s two co-equal branches asserting their constitutional prerogatives.