Is this enough to defuse the impeachment bomb that’s about to go off? At least temporarily?
….You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call. No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo! This is nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2019
It was smart to throw Democrats a bone so soon after John Lewis declared his support for impeachment, with the caucus almost at the point of no return. An innocent-sounding transcript might be enough to give Democrats who are wary of impeachment reason to put the brakes on and insist that Pelosi go slow.
Which is what she’s inclined to do anyway, per Axios — if she can get away with it.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi could give her support to an impeachment inquiry against President Trump after meetings with House Democrats this afternoon, though it’s unclear whether she’ll say so publicly, Democratic congressional aides tell Axios.
Behind the scenes: Pelosi has told friends that impeachment now feels unavoidable, according to someone who discussed it with her last night. She hates the politics of it, but has succumbed to the inevitability, the source says…
One key factor driving Pelosi’s thinking is that the White House so far has refused to turn over the whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s actions — something it is required by law to do.
Trump knows that Pelosi is set to speak this afternoon after meeting with her leadership and that there’s no going back once she declares publicly that impeachment time has come. He’s giving her an off-ramp by releasing the transcript. If she moves ahead by threatening impeachment anyway because he hasn’t also turned over the whistleblower complaint, it’ll look like she’s behaving rashly, insisting on being adversarial at a moment when Trump is in the process of meeting her demands. If she doesn’t move ahead by threatening impeachment, the hardcore anti-Trumpers in her caucus like AOC will be mad. They’re already of suspicious of Pelosi’s allergy to impeachment and they seemed to have finally overcome her resistance with this Ukraine matter. Now here’s Trump waving a limited hangout at her in hopes that she’ll take it and back off for awhile. (Axios notes that Congress is about to take two weeks off, which itself will slow the drive to impeach.) What does she do this afternoon?
Things are moving fast, so let’s get this up now while we wait for reaction from Democrats. Stand by for updates.
Update: An interesting bit on Trump’s favorite show this morning:
Steve Doocy: "If the president said 'I will give you the money but you've got to investigate Joe Biden,' that is really off-the-rails wrong. But if it's something else, you know, it would be nice to know what it is." pic.twitter.com/wWpuLqeRUT
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) September 24, 2019
I suspect Steve Doocy has been reliably informed that at no point in the call did Trump threaten to withhold the military aid from Ukraine if they refused to investigate Biden. That’s what all of the reporting says too: Not a single story about Trump’s conversation with Zelensky that I’ve seen has claimed that the president *explicitly* mentioned the aid. Fox is trying to set the terms of the debate here in a Trump-friendly way — unless the president brought up the aid, he hasn’t done anything wrong. Which, of course, Democrats deny: Simply requesting an investigation of Biden by a foreign government is impeachable, they insist, whether or not consequences were explicitly threatened.
Update: Well, here you go. Pelosi won’t call off the dogs just because Trump offered her the transcript. WaPo headline: “House Speaker Pelosi to announce formal impeachment inquiry of Trump.”
A growing number of House Democrats are backing an impeachment inquiry as momentum shifts in the Democratic caucus.
Democratic officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly, said she would back the step.
Is an impeachment “inquiry” a half-step? That’s what Nadler has been calling his investigative process too. It’s not a commitment to impeach, rather a commitment to gather facts which you have reason to believe may lead to impeachment. Which I suppose is what Democrats are doing already by demanding the transcript and whistleblower complaint.
Update: Schumer is stressing this afternoon that the transcript alone won’t cut it. They want the complaint too.
SCHUMER, now: We need the complaint. We need the complaint.
Releasing the transcript of the phone call is not enough.
And will we see the entire transcript declassified or just some? pic.twitter.com/eE178dWapO
— Lisa Desjardins (@LisaDNews) September 24, 2019
Update: Maybe Schumer and Pelosi won’t need that whistleblower complaint after all. If you believe Adam Schiff, the whistleblower’s ready to speak to Democrats directly.
We have been informed by the whistleblower’s counsel that their client would like to speak to our committee and has requested guidance from the Acting DNI as to how to do so.
We‘re in touch with counsel and look forward to the whistleblower’s testimony as soon as this week.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) September 24, 2019
Update: Like I said re: the Doocy clip, Democrats aren’t pinning their impeachment argument on whether Trump tried to extort Zelensky with military aid or not. Their claim is that asking a foreign leader to investigate a domestic U.S. opponent was itself an impeachable offense, full stop. The element of using military aid as leverage makes the offense worse, but it’s still an offense even without that part.
Pelosi at Atlantic Festival: "There is no requirement there be a quid pro quo in the conversation. If the President brings up he wants them to investigate something about his political opponent, that is self-evident that it is not right.”
— Haley Byrd (@byrdinator) September 24, 2019
Update: A tweet from John McCain’s former speechwriter, Mark Salter. Some Never Trumpers are gung ho for impeachment and always have been, others were reluctant but have come around lately. Salter’s in group two.
Until now, I thought it a mistake that wouldn’t remove him from office and would help his re-election. But if he gets away with this blatant corruption with no worse sanction than outraged editorials, the damage he’s done to government ethics and the rule of law will outlive him. https://t.co/PO7qte8Jxu
— Mark Salter (@MarkSalter55) September 21, 2019
Update: Here’s Rubio previewing the Senate Republican line on all of this. It was bad, but not everything that’s bad is a high crime or misdemeanor.
Sen. Marco Rubio: "It is possible to do something that is wrong and not be an impeachable offense and people are throwing that term around so loosely it's lost all meaning." pic.twitter.com/BTHQyySFGq
— The Hill (@thehill) September 24, 2019
Update: Ross Douthat floats four reasons why Trump might want to be impeached. (1) Impeachment is likely to be unpopular. (2) It gives him a reason to highlight the hypocrisy of his opponents, contrasting his “overt abuses of power” with the “soft corruption” of his enemies in the establishment, as Douthat puts it. (3) He’ll enjoy watching the Rubios of the world half-heartedly make excuses for him, a reminder that all Republican officials serve him now. And (4) there’s nothing Trump loves more than a media circus with himself at the center. Insofar as it doesn’t overlap with his first reason, I’d add (5) that Trump doesn’t have a lot to run on policy-wise next fall and will relish the siege mentality impeachment provokes among righties as an easy way to generate turnout. He’s been picking fights with the Squad and warning about the socialist conquest of the Democratic Party to give Republicans another “Flight 93 election” argument to show up next fall. Impeachment might help with that.
But honestly? I don’t think it’ll matter much either way. Nothing ever really does when it comes to Trump. Approval of him goes up a few points and then down a few points but it always reverts to 43-44 percent or so because everyone but everyone has a strong opinion of him pro or con that’s more or less invulnerable to facts. If impeachment ends up hurting him, I think it’ll be by adding further mass to the load of cumulative day-to-day political drama that Americans have to carry during the Trump presidency. Some might go in the booth next fall and decide that they can’t stomach another four years at the circus, which will be reason enough to try the Democrat this time. Although obviously that logic depends upon which Democrat is the nominee. It’s much easier to say “Let’s try Sleepy Joe” than “Let’s try the Elizabeth Warren agenda.”
Update: Here’s Biden adding to the pressure. Either fork over the whistleblower complaint, he says to Trump, or accept the consequences of impeachment.
Joe Biden says Congress has "no choice" but to pursue impeachment if Trump "continues to obstruct Congress": "The president should stop stonewalling this investigation and all the other investigations into his alleged wrongdoing" https://t.co/mIjad275p5 pic.twitter.com/TG1IewwzWG
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 24, 2019