As Jim Geraghty wrote yesterday, get ready for the 1918 trench warfare of impeachment, where there’s lots of noise and damage but the lines barely move. The transcript of the call between Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky turned out to be mostly a letdown for the media and Democrats, but the whistleblower complaint will take more time to unwind. In the meantime, shots will continue to volley across no-man’s-land, such as Trump’s call for Adam Schiff to resign:
….sound horrible, an me sound guilty. HE WAS DESPERATE AND HE GOT CAUGHT. Adam Schiff therefore lied to Congress and attempted to defraud the American Public. He has been doing this for two years. I am calling for him to immediately resign from Congress based on this fraud!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2019
Er … Schiff’s performance yesterday at the House Intelligence Committee hearing was embarrassing enough, but it’s pretty clear that Schiff wasn’t claiming to have read the “exact transcribed version” of the call. In fact, that was Schiff’s problem — he couldn’t sell impeachment based on the transcript, which Democrats and the media had promised would contain explicit quid pro quos and demands for cooperation. Instead, Schiff had to claim that he could deduce Mafioso emanations from penumbras between the lines, while the media used ellipses to completely distort the meaning of the text.
But having Trump call on Schiff to resign over that grandstanding and mockery is somewhat akin to Don King telling people to pipe down and act maturely. In the first place, it’s not going to happen, which makes this kind of demand look silly and impotent. It’ll charge up Trump supporters for a day or so, who will also demand that Schiff resign, all of which will have all the impact of a letter to the editor. It’s a meaningless artillery bombardment across an unimportant stretch of land — call it Schiffville — that no one really wants. It won’t move the lines an iota.
But is there a shortcut to victory in this trench warfare? Trump wondered that aloud yesterday in a quick press avail:
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 27, 2019
“What … Democrats are doing to this country is a disgrace and it shouldn’t be allowed. There should be a way of stopping it, maybe legally through the courts,” Trump said upon returning from a trip to New York where he attended the U.N General Assembly.
It’s not the first time Trump has suggested that he’d go to court to stop an impeachment. In April, just after the Mueller report had been released, Trump went on Twitter to threaten to sue the House if they began impeachment proceedings:
The Mueller Report, despite being written by Angry Democrats and Trump Haters, and with unlimited money behind it ($35,000,000), didn’t lay a glove on me. I DID NOTHING WRONG. If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 24, 2019
Would that work? Naaah. At the time, I reviewed the relevant precedents, so feel free to check the above link. Basically, however, impeachment is a political process with the House’s full authority over it enshrined in the Constitution. There is no role for the judiciary on impeachment itself, although certainly they will resolve disputes over demands for evidence and testimony, as they do now.
Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions to trench warfare, either literal or figurative in a political sense. One side generally has to fatigue first, or somehow acquire enough strength to overwhelm the other in a frontal attack. Before that happens, though, expect a lot more rhetorical bombardments with little effect.