Playing the Long Game on Donald Trump's Impeachment
Yesterday, both President Trump and the White House openly admitted that Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice. During an interview with Lester Holt, Trump said “”When I decided to [fire Comey], I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.”
He could not have said it anymore clearly, and if that weren’t enough, Sarah Huckabee Sanders — who had to undo everything she said the day before about the reasons behind Trump’s firing of James Comey when Trump contradicted them — also admitted to obstruction of justice, saying “We want this investigation to come to a conclusion, we want it to come to a conclusion with integrity, and we think that by removing Director Comey, we’ve taken steps to make that happen.”
Umm, the White House AND Trump keep admitting out loud that the FBI Director was fired because he was investigating the president. https://t.co/lbkWOxKJuW— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) May 12, 2017
All three elements of obstruction of justice have been met now: 1) There was an investigation; 2) The President knew there was an investigation; and he knowingly sought to impede the investigation.
We also learned from the NYTimes that a few days after he was sworn in, Donald Trump had dinner with James Comey and attempted to basically extract a loyalty pledge out of the Director of the FBI.
The conversation that night in January, Mr. Comey now believes, was a harbinger of his downfall this week as head of the F.B.I., according to two people who have heard his account of the dinner.
As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.
Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense.
Donald Trump told James Comey that he could only keep his job if he remained loyal to the President in the midst of an investigation into the President. That, again, is obvious obstruction of justice.
In fact, according to a source within the FBI, “the Russia investigation is considered to be “a crisis,” and “there is a whole lot of interfering.”
The good news is, the investigation is not going to end, and Acting Director Andrew McCabe — who contradicted much of what the White House had to say about the firing of James Comey — gave us confidence that the investigation would not only continue, but that it would do so independent of the President. I believe him. I also believe this is the case whoever the President gets to replace James Comey, because there are 36,000 employees within the FBI, and they are fiercely independent and pissed off.
That’s good, because obstruction of justice — even in a case where it is as open and obvious as it is here — is unfortunately not going to bring down the President. Not yet, anyway. Because not only must the House of Representatives approve Articles of Impeachment by a simple majority, but the two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict. In this political climate, that’s not going to happen, and Donald Trump knows it. The White House staff also knows it, via Politico:
Asked what the strategy was to get through the crisis, one senior administration official laughed and asked whether the reporter was “joking.” This official said aides weren’t as bothered as some might imagine because they had been through so many challenges — from Trump during the campaign saying he grabbed women by the genitals to the now infamous accusations about President Barack Obama ordered a “wire tap” on Trump Tower.
Another White House official said there is a “widespread recognition this was handled terribly but not a real sense that we can do much here.” This person said Trump remains convinced he made the right decision by firing Comey and that he handled it properly — “maybe even more than two days ago.”
It’s too early to bring impeachment proceedings, and ultimately, the best thing to do here is what we’re already doing: Raise hell. Ensure that Trump’s approval ratings remain in the toilet. Hope that Democrats in Congress fight like hell to ensure the investigation continues, that the Democrats take back the House and Senate in 2018, and that the FBI finds a true smoking gun. I am fairly certain there is one there, too, because everything that the President has done with regards to the Russian probe has been consistent with the actions of a guilty man.
Since Trump’s inauguration, the president and his team have asked the people probing his campaign about the status of those investigations, worked with allies involved in the probes to coordinate messaging, pressured investigators to limit the scope of their work and to wrap it up as quickly as possible, and repeatedly fired people involved in investigations of his administration.
“It’s highly suspicious that the President has now fired at least three people who were investigating his administration, especially in light of his pattern of undermining the ongoing Congressional investigations,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) told HuffPost in an email ― referring to Comey, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was reportedly investigating one of Trump’s Cabinet secretaries.
But it’s not enough to show that Trump’s actions have been consistent with guilt, someone has to prove it, and they must prove it with enough certainty that 20 or so Senate Republicans would be convinced enough to vote to convict — or more accurately, that the public is so convinced of it that 20 or so Republican vote to convict to save their seats. It’s the only way forward, but I am confident that it will happen, and so, I think, is the FBI: “FBI Agents are good at keeping their heads down and taking the evidence where it leads,” a source told CBS. I asked, “Even now” are they working at this? The response came back: “Yes, they are now.”
The FBI is 36,000 strong, and a hell of a lot smarter than Donald Trump. It may take a while, but if there is a smoking gun - and there almost certainly is — the FBI will uncover it.