House Democratic Leadership Must Find the Courage to Impeach

Have you heard? House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) will open impeachment hearings on June 10!

No, wait, that’s not right. Chairman Nadler will open hearings about impeachment on June 10. Apologies for the confusion; all this chickenshit is affecting my sinuses.

According to reports, Rep. Nadler’s proposed proceedings will begin with a hearing titled, “Lessons From the Mueller Report: Presidential Obstruction and Other Crimes.” This hearing will feature former White House counsel and central Watergate figure John Dean, who will presumably explain what we have already heard many times before: Rogue presidents are bad, obstruction of justice is bad, the rule of law is good, the Constitution is good. Also present will be former U.S. attorneys and sundry legal experts to further explain what we already know.

Another proposed hearing topic will be “President Trump’s Most Overt Acts of Obstruction.” This, like the hearing featuring Dean, will not include testimony from former special counsel Robert Mueller, because neither Nadler’s nor any other committee has subpoenaed Mueller to testify.

One could call this an odd choice, as Mueller’s viewpoint seems essential. Yes, everything he would say during a hearing can be found in the report, but most of the country has not read the report, so Mueller explaining what is contained in the report to a battery of television cameras would be highly salutary to the process.

It would also be nice to get a more detailed take from Mueller on Attorney General William Barr’s lie-sodden “summary” letter. Also, and not for nothing, Mueller spent just nine minutes on TV last week and sent Trump straight up a tree. A full day’s testimony, if not more, may serve to shake some further truths loose.

Mueller has made it clear that he would deeply prefer not to testify, but that is not his choice to make anymore. You can’t pull the pin on a hand grenade, hand it to someone else and split for the Poconos. Duty doesn’t work like that, and the special counsel’s duty is not yet done.

Speaking on Sunday with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina) stepped on the very cautious toes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) by stating Trump will be impeached “at some point,” a position he moonwalked back with alacrity after his impeachment-leery Democratic colleagues put vast daylight between themselves and his statement. “I’m probably farther away from impeachment than anybody in our caucus,” Rep. Clyburn averred on Monday night. Profiles in courage, baby.

What Clyburn let drop by accident, other committee chairs are saying on purpose. Budget Committee Chairman Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Kentucky) told MSNBC’s Ari Melber on Monday he believes impeachment is “inevitable.” The New York Times puts the number of pro-impeachment House Democrats at 56, up from 32 on May 23. As Politico reports, “The impeachment caucus has swelled.”

There is a reason for that. Brazen White House defiance of oversight and lawfully issued congressional subpoenas continues unabated.

“The Department of Justice has refused to abide by a judge’s order to make public transcripts of conversations between Michael Flynn and Russia’s former ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak,” Splinter News reported on Saturday. “The White House instructed Hope Hicks, a former aide to President Trump, and the ex-counsel’s chief of staff not to cooperate with a congressional subpoena for documents related to their White House service,” The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) announced on Monday that a contempt vote against Attorney General Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross would be held on Thursday if they did not comply with subpoenas pertaining to a proposed citizenship question in the 2020 census. This is all well and good, but the Trump administration cares as much about being held in contempt as it does about migrant children or the environment. In this White House, being held in contempt is a badge of honor.

The impeachment caucus in the House is going to keep growing because the Trump administration is not going to stop until Congress and the courts are rendered utterly irrelevant. The progressive left fears this and the Trump right embraces it, but everybody seems to know it. Everybody, that is, except Speaker Pelosi, her close allies and the dwindling number of House Democrats who think perching on a fence is the definition of leadership.

Rep. Clyburn told Jake Tapper that Congress must “effectively educate the public” before any impeachment hearings can begin. This is a dodge that stinks to highest heaven. While educating the public is a fine and necessary endeavor, the people will be just as educated by actual impeachment hearings as they will by these sham Mueller-less bullshit sessions proposed by Chairman Nadler.

A friend recently chastised me for my impatience. All this screaming about impeachment NOW is counterproductive, he said. Perhaps he is correct, but history will be the judge. In my opinion, we are bearing witness to a craven holding pattern by House Democratic leadership, who are hoping their constituents will find another bone to chew if they just wait it out.

I also know this: When there is no one screaming NOW, change has a way of happening never. Thirty years ago today, a solitary man in Tiananmen Square stood in front of a column of tanks trying to stop a massacre. We could use a dollop of that courage in our elected leaders. Now.