Say, did you hear about the Democratic effort to impeach President Trump? No… not that one. That’s old news by now. I’m talking about the new one. This time the alleged high crime and/or misdemeanor would be starting a war with Iran without congressional approval. The mastermind behind this latest brainstorm is California Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, bringing up the suggestion during an interview on MSNBC. (How appropriate.) As our friend Jim Gereghty points out over at National Review, even if Khanna can get a significant number of his Democratic colleagues to go along with this scheme, it’s unlikely to make any difference in the long run.
Congressman Ro Khanna (D., Calif.) declared on MSNBC today that any further military action ordered by the president that is not sanctioned by Congress is a “potentially impeachable offense.” Somehow, I don’t think that will be much of a deterrent to the president.
And here we see the unintended consequence of the Democrats’ decision to move forward with impeachment with no support across party lines. President Trump has already been impeached on two counts; there’s not much difference about adding a third. Democrats in the House of Representatives can impeach the president every month if they like. Perhaps they will.
How seriously the rest of the Democrats take this idea will depend largely on a couple of factors. First of all, unless Trump starts directing additional military strikes – particularly aiming at the interior of Iran itself – there likely won’t be much of an appetite for this scheme. And even if he does, Congress has long since abdicated its sole power of declaring war. On top of that, the War Powers Act of 1973 is the closest they ever came to reining in the President’s power in such matters and it’s full of loopholes.
The act does say that the President can’t take us to war without the “consent” of Congress. But in cases of a “national emergency”, he (or she) doesn’t even have to notify Congress until 48 hours after the first strike. And said “emergency” specifically includes cases where there’s been “an attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”
So the long and the short of this is that if Iran launches some sort of retaliatory strike that hits any of our troops or any of our “possessions” in Iraq (an ally), Trump is already in the clear to launch an offensive. Then he tosses it back into the lap of Congress and dares the House Democrats to forbid him the power to stand up to the Iranian offensive. How do you suppose that’s going to play in the heartland?
It’s also unlikely that Khanna will generate much support for a second bite at the impeachment apple among Democrats because most of them seem to be suffering from impeachment exhaustion. Of course, Khanna has been pushing for impeachment pretty much since Trump was elected. He’s the one who suggested that the House should simply skip the second phase of the previous impeachment hearings and move straight to a vote.
The other factor to consider is the likelihood that the current impeachment trial may kick into gear just as several Democratic Senators need to be in Iowa and New Hampshire for the primaries. Another round of impeachment action could result in a second trial even deeper into the nomination process, leaving Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar on the bench when they need to be out on the campaign trail. I somehow expect that the Dem leadership won’t be thrilled with the prospect of going through this entire dance again.