How Impeachment is Gift to the DNC… and the GOP

Trump has committed a lot of impeachable offenses. He’s profited from the presidency, put children in concentration camps (where some died), obstructed justice, various other things documented at length in the Mueller report, and a litany of other crimes, including sexual assault. For years now, and to the displeasure of much of the Democratic base, Nancy Pelosi didn’t seek impeachment. This was because (as she’s said repeatedly) it’s effectively impossible for impeachment to remove the president because of the Senate. It takes a bipartisan consensus to impeach and remove, it takes two-thirds of the Senate. Trump would have to be abandoned by the GOP, who would themselves be abandoning their most hard-core base. Nothing about this calculus or the Senate has changed since last week, so why has a whistleblower complaint about Ukraine finally put Pelosi over the edge? Why is she beginning impeachment at a time when it can’t really hurt Trump’s reelection bid?

After all that has happened, why is this particular Biden business more important than voting interference, human rights abuses, tampering with the DoJ, and all the myriad displaced laws and norms Trump kicks on Twitter just about every damn day? I know that a lot of people want this impeachment, have wanted it for years, and probably don’t care about the specifics of why it’s finally happening, they’re just reasonably cheering that something is finally happening at all. But it matters why, and the timing matters. Because this isn’t good timing for using the impeachment process to defeat Trump in the election.

This is about Joe Biden, not Trump. And it’s such a gift! Just as he’s beginning to trail Warren in the polls, here comes a Trump gaff that could keep him in the news, fighting Trump, for months. He won’t need to take on the more left ideas of the party (very much in line with what Pelosi also doesn’t want to take on) and we will all be glued to our screens watching the administration dodge being called to testify about Joe Biden, good ol’ Uncle Joe, and the Biden family. All we will hear until impeachment is over is Trump vs Biden, and then the house will vote to impeach. Trump will be the third president, after Johnson and Clinton, to be impeached. At which point, the affair moves to… Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell will not allow Trump to be removed, it would be suicide for the GOP, and considering how many of the MAGA Trump types like shooting the hell out of people, possibly literally for some elected Republicans.

The wonky-Ukraine-issue impeachment accomplishes two things: Firstly, it sucks the air out of the news cycle for everything but impeachment. This is a gift to the corporatists, unreconstructed Birchers, and kill-the-government types who have been fighting to destroy NOAA, National Parks, NIH, HHS, FCC, SEC, EFTC, the Department of Labor and so many other bits of the federal government they don’t want to exist anymore. With all eyes on impeachment, nothing else is likely to get air in the denuded American media landscape of 2019.

That is not, cannot, be Pelosi’s goal, that’s merely a side affect. The thing impeachment right now accomplishes, and in my estimation the only reason for Pelosi to choose this to be what triggers a doomed-to-fail impeachment process is that it puts The DNC and the moderate Democrats’ favorite septuagenarian in the spotlight, just has his campaign begins to falter, and Warren’s is picking up. The timing is terrible for the election — but it’s great for the primaries. The DNC, and the speaker, have their candidate, voters be damned. Whether he will be a good president, or will be able to beat Trump at all, is immaterial. This tactic is likely to work. All of our media will be Joe vs Donald, potentially right up to January.

In the meantime the governmental nihilists will be hard at work tearing everything they can down before the election, just in case Biden wins. The least America’s media, professional and social, can do is pay special attention to the little things that will turn out to be big things: labor rights, civil rights, environmental protection, consumer protection, public health, and so on. They are what will be getting gutted while you’re all getting hyperbolically angry about how the administration’s staff keeps getting away with ignoring requests from Congress. The most we can all do is keep a real primary race going, but that just got damn hard.

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81 replies
  1. MollyG says:

    I disagree. This is not good for Biden since it puts the focus on his and his sons dealings. Even if they did nothing wrong it will still make home look bad and feed the conspiracy nuts.

    There is a simpler answer. This scandal is simple to understand, the facts are not in dispute, and it not related to policy. It is a streight forward abuse of power for political gain and illegal withholding of Congressionally approved funds.

    • William Bennett says:

      I tend to agree with your assessment: it’s simple to understand, and beyond that it’s a case of Trump using presidential authority (and his DOJ) to engage a foreign power to attack a political enemy. Enemy in question this time happens to be a presidential candidate from the other party, but is there any pol who’s going to feel safe against this kind of thing if he gets away with it? Any pol who can look at this and not see him or herself in the target hairs? I could be wrong but I think there’s a “This time it’s personal” aspect. Note the Senate going unanimous on demanding the full whistleblower report.

  2. yastreblyansky says:

    I think it’s extremely useful to take this perspective and ask about the timing, and I agree that the thing is unsettlingly “good for Biden” at the moment, but I don’t think that’s especially important in the long run or what Pelosi has in mind. Remember that this is not the whole of the impeachment case; all six committees are looking to come up with charges, and courts have to rule on subpoenas before that, with ruling on the first subpoena (McGahn’s, from May) not expected till November. It’s just going to take quite a while, and the discussion of the Ukraine issue will die down, and the actual impeachment proceeding and Senate trial won’t be ready until after it’s clear who the Democratic candidate is going to be. At that point (not long before conventions) it will be good for the election no matter who the Dem is. If Pelosi has really been strategizing about timing, that’s what she’s been aiming for.

  3. bcarmel says:

    Please give this a rest. Our republic is in danger. I ask all well meaning citizens to get behind containing the monarch. We can speculate about who likes which Pres candidate at another time.

    I, for one, am behind Biden being free from fabricated charges from a foreign power influenced by a protection racket. I will probably not vote for him in the primary.

  4. Rugger9 says:

    This assumes that the inquiry will suck all of the air out of the political discourse. Depending upon what comes up, it could be more likely Individual-1 will do something to get back in the spotlight in a somewhat more “noble” way. The scare quotes are intentional since I expect it to be some military action vs. Iran like Shrub did in Iraq with all of the flag-waving glory and how we will need to “stay the course”.

    The DNC, sure, but depending on what comes out, probably not the GOP. Biden for his part probably will not make it to Super Tuesday because of the continuing gaffe generation since it calls into question how senile he is getting.

  5. Molly Pitcher says:

    If anything, Impeachment makes it less likely that Joe Biden has any chance of being the Democratic candidate. He has already shown himself to not be up to the rigors of face to face debate any longer. He has continued his verbal gaffes and statements which show him to be stuck in a previous century. His steady decline in the polls proves that.

    There is nothing about the smell of Hunter Biden’s involvement in Ukraine that helps Joe Biden. He is a lovely man who has had great heartbreak and risen above it to commit his life to his country, but his optimum time to be President has past. Nothing about Impeachment changes that reality.

    What Impeachment does is to renew the country’s resolve to preserve the Constitution and the rule of law, both of which have been under assault since Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist, Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell and the rest of the slimy Republican Party decided to subvert democracy for their own power and financial aggrandizement.

    You are welcome to your opinion about the cabal of Democrats who have masterminded a coup of the 2020 election to get Joe in office. I think it is ridiculous. You are welcome to mew about the inability to run a perfect progressive candidate who will magically cure all the worlds ills in the first 100 days of their Presidency. But I choose to work for the best available person who is not Trump. And then continue to work to improve the situation, again and again.

    I am not willing to sacrifice the good for the perfect. Look how well that turned out in 2016.

    • Bri2k says:

      Recent polling done since this story broke shows Warren gaining on Biden, so your analysis is solid. Not only does this scorch Trump but it singes Biden as well given the part of the story about VP Biden asking the Ukraine to drop any investigations into his son.

      • P J Evans says:

        Did Biden actually do that? Because all the indications I’ve seen are that he was pressuring them to get an honest prosecutor general. (And the investigations found nothing at all on Biden’s son.)

        • Drew says:

          Insofar as I can tell, Biden’s actions with regard to the prosecutor in Ukraine were not about protecting his son, but about addressing a problem with Ukrainian corruption that had bipartisan and international recognition and support.

          THAT SAID, this whole thing does turn attention to how Hunter Biden is basically a sleazebag profiting from his association with his father (even though he didn’t go so far as to get his father to USE his influence, just that Hunter was glad to get money from whatever scheme and using his name for that was great with him). This doesn’t mean Joe Biden did anything wrong, or that he’s responsible for all the stuff any of his kids might do. However, I don’t see this helping Biden’s candidacy since it points up how he’s long been passively involved in the establishment world of “go along to get along” -Warren’s anti-corruption message benefits more IMHO.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        Please provide a citation for your statement that Biden asked the Ukrainians to stop investigating his son. I do not recall reading that.

      • Silence Hand says:

        There is zero indication that Biden did any such thing. The whole point of Trump’s squeezing Ukraine’s leadership was to pressure them to gin up an “investigation”. You’re parroting right wing talking points here. Stop it.

        • William Bennett says:

          Zero evidence of it, but that’s the shorthand version they’re pushing and the Noose Media loving nothing more than a shorthand version of anything.

  6. BobCon says:

    I don’t really buy this,

    I certainly buy the major imbalance that this is the tipping point for Pelosi, as opposed to Trump’s abuse of power with his immigration obsession, or his financial crimes.

    But I think it is greatly overselling the ability of Pelosi, the DNC, the establishment Dems, however you frame it, to jump on an issue, make a plan, and take decisive action. That sounds too much like people asserting a multidimensional chess playing ability to Trump.

    I think what we’re seeing is a bias toward responding to an attack on Biden that we wouldn’t see if the target was Booker or Bernie or Buttigieg (just choosing B names for alliteration purposes).

    I’m also seeing this happen against a backdrop ongoing erosion of Pelosi’s no-impeachment stance, something that has been happening for months. If we had been seeing the same poll results but with pro-impeachment votes much lower, this simply doesn’t happen.

    I can certainly see this being an effort by Pelosi to coopt a movement before she’s left behind. But I think it is a big stretch to see much vision behind it, or much muscle.

    • Bri2k says:

      I guess bmaz is off since he usually kills any kind of tinfoil hattery.

      And no, I won’t be joining this author’s Patreon either.

      But I will kick Ms Wheeler et. al. some coin at the next opportunity.

      • Silence Hand says:

        Uh, if my observations have taught me anything, bmaz speaks for bmaz. Don’t assume that mantle. It won’t fit.

  7. Jim says:

    This seems a little tinfoil-hatty to me. The DNI refused to carry out his mandated duties regarding a whistle blower report at the instruction of the executive branch, and the subsequent summary *released by the executive(!)* clearly shows the purported attempt at collusion did indeed take place. I think Pelosi’s hand was forced by circumstance, not by any Democratic conspiracy to make Biden the nominee. Hell, he’s fading out pretty badly no matter what happens with Trump.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your second user name. Please also use a more differentiated username as we have several ‘Jim’ community members. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • Silence Hand says:

      I don’t take that Norton is suggesting an organized Biden conspiracy, merely that this case rises above all the other CLEARLY impeachable offenses for Pelosi et al. (DNC establishment) because it directly involves Trump’s enlisting a foreign power to fabricate dirt on his “main” election adversary. Dismissing her argument as “tinfoil hatty” disregards the need to play “one of these things is not like the others” with the Trump-Ukraine affair.

      I do not agree that it’s all about cementing Biden as anointed candidate, but I don’t think you can dismiss Norton’s media analysis on this. Effectively, the affair puts “Biden vs Trump” into the center ring. Whose names will be on the radio and teevee? Biden’s strong polling against Trump has thus far been his main argument, and he’s faded when questions shift to real-life policy.

      I note that above you treated Biden-Ukraine as something more than a Trump-driven fabrication. There’s no justification for propagating such right-wing nonsense.

      • Silence Hand says:

        Just realized I conflated you with “Bri2k”, who also referenced tin foil headwear. My comment about repeating right wing canards applies to that user.

  8. AndrewOH says:

    So you’d have the House not follow the only course of action they have available to them because of the Political “timing?” Yes the timing stinks, but this is a clear Article 2 affront. I agree this becomes the gift that gives on giving, the whole news cycle round. Trumpers can cry “Witch Hunt” that much louder while ignoring the CLEARLY documented misdeeds (yet again) probably getting more supporters to the polls. Democrats have been long waiting and this is just further proof, and Moderates will have to decide; will they show up and vote this chaos out of office in 2020 or 4 more years of it just to keep this Reality TV Show going!

    There’s no choice but to move forward here and do so smartly and keep the talking points and reasons sharp and exact. While the President’s Press Corps, Fox and Friends does everything to try and divert, defend and deflect the Democrats need to be clear and concise; he violated the law and Constitution and must be removed from office. Period. The off to the Senate where everyone will have to state, on the record their beliefs. And when you see Lindsey Sham stand up and deflect that’s expected, but Susan Collins, Martha McSally; what are they going to say?

    I don’t think the Democrats and DNC “timed” this to help Biden, that’s just a possible side effect. But frankly I don’t think this helps his case at all as he’ll keep putting his foot in his mouth, gaff after gaff and I think people will grow tired of all this and look for an adult in the room.

    If we’d had transcripts of the Trump Tower conversations of 2016 that depict what we’re seeing now, would that have not triggered Impeachment when the Muller report was released? Even better if this came out before the election but… This is too far, documented and couldn’t be ignored. And that’s just what we know so far, can’t wait to see the complete complaint which apparently includes even more concerns (time will tell).

    Thanks for all you do and keep up the great work!

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your second user name. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I don’t read Norton’s comment to mean don’t launch an impeachment inquiry. Frankly, given how long these things take, no delay is helpful.

      I do read her as saying voters will need to actively compensate for unintended consequences, specifically the behavior of the corporate MSM. I think she is also saying don’t assume that a change of tactics equals a change in heart, either by establishment Dems or Trump.

      As has often been said, watch what they do – Trump, Pelosi, et al. – not what they say.

  9. Rita says:

    I think the benefit (if, any) to Biden is ancillary. It sure doesn’t help Biden to reinvigorate allegations against his son and him. Personally, it turns me off that his son took that board position while Biden was VP. I would prefer that there not even be the appearance of impropriety.

    The political calculation by Speaker Pelosi has to be that, if Trump can pull this crap against Biden, he can and will pull it against any political opponent.

    And, yes, impeachment does suck the oxygen out of all other issues. However, as long as Trump is able to careen the Ship of State down the path to oligarchy, those issues will receive no traction.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The strategy Norton outlines makes Joe a victim, the preferred role for the crowd pleaser. It also energizes him and concentrates the mind, because the attack is so personal. He could use it. That’s even more true when the attacks are undeserved.

      Being so emotional, it tends to drown out thinking that might lead voters to choose another candidate. “C’mon Dover! Move your bloomin’ arse!” becomes the dominant feeling.

    • William Bennett says:

      > The political calculation by Speaker Pelosi has to be that, if Trump can pull this crap against Biden, he can and will pull it against any political opponent.

      Same thought I had, expressed elsewhere in the thread. And not just Pelosi but any politician can see themselves in those crosshairs. I think it hits them all closer to home, irrespective of party, which may be where the sense that this is the momentum-changing opening comes from. The Constitution relies on each branch having a self-interest in asserting its prerogatives against the others—the “balance of powers” rests on those most reliable of principles, self-regard and self-interest—and those things are being ground into the dirt with the series of sneeringly contemptuous Trumpite testimonies we’ve been seeing. If it takes something like this for that self-regard to finally kick in, well, so be it.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Biden’s campaign is faltering, and there are several months and a lot of fundraising to do before the first primary. His momentum is going down the tubes, including his vaunted popularity with people of color, owing to his long association with Barack Obama.

    OTOH, Elizabeth Warren’s momentum and fundraising are snowballing. That’s not good arithmetic for establishment Democrats. They want power, but not if it requires changing existing power structures, and mega-donor based party funding, to get it.

    Sadly, Norton is correct about the simplistic horse race storylines the MSM is addicted to. It does its best to squeeze out others. That makes it hard for candidates outside their tight narrative.

    What her analysis does not consider is Warren’s grass roots campaigning. She is like the rock band that eschews the big studios and monopolized radio broadcasters. Her campaign is built on live concerts, and sticking around to thank everyone who came. Those who want a candidate besides SafeHands Joe will need to adopt her methods if they want her as their nominee.

    • Rayne says:

      Oh eoh, I don’t think you understand Biden’s popularity with black Americans let alone women, the largest single voting bloc. It’s not about Barack Obama per se. It’s that Biden is the devil they know and can live with.

      Biden’s lifelong gaffe-ination, his old-school soft misogyny, bias about sexual identity, his stifling old-fashioned comity toward GOP members, his familiar and equally old-school racism, are now getting the airing they’ve long needed without Obama to hide behind.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I agree with your second paragraph, which was the basis for my comment. Recent polls show Warren’s lower level of support rising, and Biden’s high-level of support dropping.

        • posaune says:

          I read somewhere on the toobz that it’s the young adult (18-30) black americans that are pushing their parents to “let go of Biden.” Good for them.

        • debbie smith says:

          Wholeheartedly agree.

          Biden’s long past his sell date. And I’m a boomer.

          [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your second user name. Thanks. /~Rayne]

        • BobCon says:

          Clinton was far ahead of Obama among older African Americans at first in 2015. It’s not a demographic like the evangelicals. Substance matters.

  11. Savage Librarian says:

    MSNBC Andrea Mitchell just had a GOP consultant on who said a Senator said if the vote could be secret, 30 Republican senators would vote FOR impeachment. Looks like Kamala Harris is scoring points again for her interrogation of Barr. And Warren is doing very well. So, sorry, Quinn, I’m not convinced by what you’ve said. BTW, did you put my comment from the previous post in perpetual moderation? It was about a dozen Republicans having seen and discussed the “transcript” before it was made public.

    • Rayne says:

      Hey SL, I don’t see any older post by you in the moderation bin. Might have been eaten by network burp? Please try to repost if you still have the comment text handy. Thanks.

      • Savage Librarian says:

        Thanks for both your comments (here & there.) It made it through. Must have been the link, like you suggested.

    • P J Evans says:

      Apparently there’s a “Burr group” that are somewhat shocked by what’s in that “transcript”, and a “Meadows group” that want to go after Biden because – squirrel!

  12. Vicks says:

    I’m not so sure.
    I think voters like the “idea” of Biden but I think the more they see of him the more disappointed they are and will continue to be.
    He’s just not good at this type of stuff, especially on the fly, I’m not sure how under these circumstances it would be helpful to his campaign to have Nacy set up a giant stage to expose this?
    Also against your argument of this being a pro-Biden action is there is also a good chance that any progress made in the impeachment process will lessen the value of Biden’s “electability” allowing voters to take a more serious look at other candidates.
    I think Biden is a good man, and I believe he is doing what he and others feel is best for the country, but I have to admit that I feel the same cringe watching him as I do watching a favorite but aging athlete who refuses to acknowledge that the previous season should have been the last.

  13. Quinn Norton says:

    Ok, lots of feelings here, which I expected tbh. Here’s the thing: prove me wrong. Not in an internet fight kind of way, but in a keeping the investigations of administration going and having a meaningful primary way. I want to be wrong. I am sad to think the way I do. I want to say, “Wow that turned out better than I thought it would. Whoops! I’ll try to de better next time.” Right now I see these two outcomes, letting the administration run amok, and pushing the primary in Biden’s favor as what’s going to happen. The weakest part of my message is attributing the timing to Dem politics, but they’ve always worked to get their old guys in, so yeah I’m suspicious there. Don’t play kill the messenger, just try to make me wrong.

    (Edited: system ate an earlier change, sorry.)

    • Jenny says:

      Quinn Norton, thank you for your perspective. With a for profit president who is insecure, immature and insensitive plus highly unpredictable and always looking for a fight, anything is possible. The impeachment inquiry will be a test and strength of our constitution and institutions. At this point, I have come to expect the unexpected unexpectedly.

    • BobCon says:

      I would caution to be careful of binaries. There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of possibilites. The timeline goes a lot farther than today.

      My big problem with the analysis is that it is far too constricted — for example, arguing that impeachment follows the narrow path established in the Constitution. We don’t even know yet what path it will follow, or what the outcomes of twists and turns will be. It’s not out of the question, for example, that the House follows up the first impeachment measure with a second.

      Good analysis looks hard for excluded middles and multiple dimensions, and only reduces paths much later in the process.

      And I realize this is coming off harsher than it should. I recognize that this is a good faith attempt to put a framework around a really challenging situation.

      • RWood says:


        I’ve been looking for the Occam’s Razor explanation to Pelosi finally pulling the trigger on impeachment. Its not as easy as one would think.

        If she is weak (and I believe she is), she would wait until she had the most loaded gun she could possibly hope for. A nuke of the highest yield if-you-will.

        With the Ukraine issue she has it. It implicates not only trump, but Pence and Barr as well. Its a nice little corruption package with multiple charges for each of them. Its not a one-time gift either, but more of a subscription. It supplies her with enough ammunition to last well into the election cycle.

        Her being third in line is also an issue. She can’t appear to be gunning for the oval.

        The simple answer may be that this was just too good of an opportunity to pass up.

        • bmaz says:

          Baloney. Being third in line is no conflict whatsoever. That is complete bunk. Do you remember all the howling about Gingrich while Clinton was being impeached? No? Of course not. Do you remember that being argued about Carl Albert during the Nixon impeachment? No? Of course not.

          As to Pelosi, she was adamantly and relentlessly against any movement on impeachment until the last 48 hours, when the wave over took her. She still does not personally want it, and is doing her best to make sure it is as limited and weak as possibly imaginable.

        • Silence Hand says:

          Pelosi seems to reflexively oppose anything she can’t fully control. At some point that grip becomes brittle.

          Not everything is inside baseball, dammit.

        • RWood says:

          Being third in line may mean nothing to you and me, but it might with the voters, so I think its something that has to be considered when you are SOH and faced with a problem like trump.

          As for the rest, I’ve been on-board with your view of her and her dereliction-of-duty since the beginning. I fully expect her to limit the scope and stack the deck with her people. It’ll be another not-lose strategy rather than the win-at-all-costs that’s required.

          How she hopes to maintain that narrow focus is beyond me though. With a guy like trump it can’t help but get broader the more they investigate.

          Anyone starting a pool on the number of articles?

        • Kool Moe says:

          I’ve been (mostly silently) in agreement too; Pelosi is negligent…but I was trying to remain hopeful that, indeed ‘self impeach’ actually seemed to be happening – just day after day, Trump just shows how terribly corrupt he is…
          So finally something to kick butts into gear.
          I’m a little distressed that the inquiry may be limited to just the Ukraine issue…but hey, just…freakin’ do something.
          But I hope they pull in all the other crimes and present the huge package. I really fail to see how this President is at all respected.

          Thank you for the post, Quinn. I do think this will singe Biden more than help. I hope to see Warren continue to rise. I’ve no doubt the Senate will continue to slash and burn whatever they can at quickening pace. I do empathize with the frustrated place from which the piece is inspired.

  14. PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

    Cable news likes to distill complex issues into spats between individuals so I can certainly see Biden getting a lot of free airtime responding to R gas lighting. That repetition alone is valuable to him. Sadly I’m starting to think those who repeat the same term over and over again on mass media are more likely to wedge those concepts in our mass subconscious.

    Drawing attention away from other abuses? Yes and no… Propublica, mojo, splc, aclu etc have all been documenting abuses and fraud that again, are simply ignored, by most cable news talking heads. Or not enough of the nation cares about them to remember for more than three days!

    I don’t trust Pelosi’s motives, but the Dems are much less likely to fall in line behind a leaders unified message. They will stumble and sprawl over each other’s feet if they try, and eventually get sick of it.

    • Quinn Norton says:

      I hope you’re right about the Dems… I’ve been disappointed a lot more times than happily surprised. As far as the great work being done by ProPublica et al, this is what I’m afraid will get left on the floor, it already gets left on the floor far too often in an era of political whiplashes and tweeted policy.

      • Silence Hand says:

        All the more reason to keep hammering at the “other stuff” that isn’t impeachment. It’s a hard lesson, but if I’ve learned one thing it’s that you gotta (repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat) x N .

  15. viget says:


    As bmaz predicted, Politico is reporting that the “impeachment inquiry” will be narrowed to only apply to the Ukraine stuff, such that expedited articles of impeachment could be voted out.

    I don’t understand the logic in this. Honestly, will the Senate vote to convict? The only thing I can think of is that this Ukraine thing was all Trump’s idea and has just his and his loyalists’ fingerprints on it, whereas everything else implicates loads of other people such as McConnell, Mnuchin, Pompeo, other various GOP congresscritters, etc.

    • P J Evans says:

      I hope Politico is wrong.
      But the Ukraine stuff is going to expand, no matter what Pelosi wants. It’s now involving Barr, the OLC, and the whistle-blower’s complaint, and who-knows-what-else will turn up.

    • PSWebster says:

      Not the way I read it: from the Politico article: ““This has clarity and understanding in the eyes of the American people,” Pelosi told her leadership team, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting. “If we do articles, then we can include other things.”

      There are a lot of other things seemingly too difficult for many to parse. The Ukraine thing is easy to see. Mueller is steeped in complexity.

      Anyway: it is all over the news: TRUMP. IMPEACHMENT. All over the news, all over the world. I was watching Latin news at lunch and it was plastered all over the screen.

      “I am fucked now” Trump said when this was pointed out to him in the Mueller Report. Trump is fucked. Nixon quit to avoid impeachment. I suppose Trump will resist as much as possible Gaslighting with his advocates of complicity.

      So remember: Trump does not get the Peace prize; he gets the impeachment label. His presidency: one of three to wear this dishonor. Good work, Donald; this is your permanent record.

      • BobCon says:

        She definitely wants this done quickly; I suspect events and horse trading among Democratic constituencies will open the inquiry somewhat.

        I think the problem with Pelosi’s thinking is the idea that Trump is somehow constrained in what he did and what he will do. That’s nuts, and it will lead to getting caught flat footed again.

        She’s also assuming the Democratic nominee will want this over fast. That is not a good assumption, and is much more likely to blow up in her face than she thinks.

  16. The Hang Nail says:

    This does not benefit Biden. Trump released the memorandum (“transcript”) because it was another way to focus on a potential Biden scandal. It’s the memorandum equivalent of chanting “Lock her up” at a rally. Thus tainted a large swath will only see Biden as a corrupt figure much like Clinton. I already had a meme run through my Facebook theme linking Biden to Ukrainian cash.

    Regardless of Trump’s strategy the Democrats are right to go for impeachment. There is no need for hyperbole. Just a well-laid out articulation of ALL of Trump’s crimes, lies, gaffes and so on. Then, a simple up or down vote. The Senate will keep Trump on as predicted and life will go on but history will know the Democrats as the responsible ones. They may keep losing elections but that’s ok. With Trump pulling moves like this they would lose anyway.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your second user name. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • Silence Hand says:

      It benefits Biden by making all coverage Biden v. Trump. We’re talking about a primary electorate here. There is no such thing as bad publicity, at least at this stage.

      I don’t think Norton’s point here is that it’s not right for Dems to go for impeachment. It’s about trying to understand what will happen when the oxygen gets sucked out of the room.

      • timbo says:

        I was going to make this a main point here but I’ll just mention this in a sub-thread instead…

        Trump plays “big-cheese” politics. In this, there is only room for one big cheese at a time. In the upcoming impeachment hearings in the House, Trump will be the big-cheese and Biden will be the little cheese. This benefits Trump politically. Immensely. As long as he isn’t actually convicted in the Senate.

        Trump will maintain higher viewer ratings than Biden throughout the entire proceedings. That’s the main point. All other points are not important in Trump’s calculations.

        • Silence Hand says:

          I think that’s right on target. I’ll have to ask my Wisconsin friends about the cheese theory, and there’s certainly been a pre-Ukraine-a-Lago line of discussion about impeachment creating a Trump Show that plays to his strengths.

          This time may be different because he’s caught in flagrante. But I suspect that the dynamic you mention will be in play, creating a TRUMP v biden show.

          I’m curious to see how Warren v Biden plays out from here.

        • timbo says:

          No. This is not different, other than the DP is actually trying to shake off their stupor and begin to support the Constitution finally, rather than hiding from their duty.

          And what you should be more interested in is how Trump vs the Constitution plays out. Biden is a footnote here. The case here is that ANY of us could be subjected to Trump’s extortion of intel from foreign leaders to effect each and everyone of us. It’s not about Joe Biden, it’s about all of us, that we, The People, are now considered to be fair game for Trump and his cronies to attack and manipulate, and using foreign powers to do so.

  17. Silence Hand says:

    First off, it’s awesome to read pixels here by Quinn Norton, who has indeed seen C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannheuser Gate. I’m emerging from lurkerhood to give a “Huzzah for Emptywheel!” I’m hoping we see more of Quinn’s vivid and thought-provoking writing here.

    That’s not to say I agree with her apparent point that l’Affaire Ukraine pushed impeachment over the transom because Biden. Trump is basically caught red-handed enlisting a foreign power to investigate/prosecute a US citizen (and adversary). For everything else, things came out drip-drip-drip, allowing Trump and his media circus managed to grind down our collective sensitivity to the point where his GOP allies could (at least in theory) stand up and defend him in public. Now, however, the pain involved in publicly defending him has jumped a quantum level. In terms of political calculus, Pelosi et al. must now figure that it’s time to make the GOP go through those gyrations.

    Moreover, it’s important to note how narrowly Pelosi was hanging onto her “no impeachment” position. With this latest flagrant abuse of office, it’s become clear that the Constitutional remedy would be rendered toothless if not pursued now. Moreover, arguing against it would essentially be arguing that you’re just too weak. Not a good look.

    Anointing Biden, though, is certainly a two-fer – intended or not. The media will enter horse-race mode, as EoH has pointed out, and this is really the only place where Uncle Joe has anything like an argument (although an increasingly narrow one). Moreover, it’s crucial not to ignore “other stuff” happening – after all, it’s an old capitalist maxim that “when there’s blood on the streets, buy property”. Norton’s points here on both issues – chiefly a media analysis one – should not be neglected.

    • mb says:

      While “rendering constitutional remedy toothless” is probably true, I think Pelosi’s rationale for caving is more pedestrian. Her main job description includes protecting vulnerable members of her caucus (mainly the freshmen/women who won in 2018 in Trump districts), when the 7 of them published that WaPo op-ed on Monday, and the more timid ones started following their lead, then her need to “protect” them vanished, and her political calculus as fence-sitter tipped her over to impeachment. Not that those other reasons aren’t valid – they are – but she’s a die-hard pragmatist in service to her perceived agenda (that’s an insult, by the way).

    • Fran of the North says:

      SH, good opening reference. My only question is whose attack ships are on fire? The evil empire, or the insurgents?

      One of Trump’s & the GOP’s signature strengths is the ability to get out in front of bad news and shape the discussion before the electorate really has been read into the facts. Take for example the release of Ukrainian funds when the news of the WB report came out. The hammering of both Biden’s and the complete misrepresentation of the timing of the removal of the prosecutor. The release of the ‘transcript’ today.

      All designed to be simple messages. “How could we have been using the funds as leverage? We gave it to them.” “But Biden!” “There’s neither a quid nor a pro quo.”

      It is incumbent on the Dems to control the message and get the information out first, before it can be spun.

      If not, all those moments …will be lost, like tears in the rain.

      • Silence Hand says:

        Fran, all I can say for certain is it’s debris floating off Orion’s shoulder. We’ll know more once this shakes out, but you’re right – the shit has been hitting the fan for a long while now, and the GOP’s apparent entire raison d’etre these days is to influence the direction it’s blowing. The hope is that this affair is so beyond the pale that the game won’t work this time – after all, how is this defensible? – but active counterspin is definitely needed. I don’t fully understand the asymmetries at play, though (see also: IOKIYAR).

        @mb, I agree that there’s some expectation for Pelosi to do things that are not in her job description or well-ossified political nature. At some point her control-freakishness becomes a dereliction of duty to the Republic AND bad strategy though. She’s clearly lagging behind the wave here, and still working to control its course.

        At this point, I get Pelosi’s small-ball tactical rationale for restricting the scope of impeachment. GOPers are gonna have to put up or shut up, and defend Trump from SOMETHING. The Mueller investigation, while far more damning, is more abstruse and subject to smoke and mirrors defense; Ukraine-a-Lago is more “in flagrante” and fits neatly in a sapphire-hard bullet point. Like if Trump were sent up for complex white-collar campaign finance, tax, and financial shenanigans, and possession of child porn. You can bet none of his flunkies in congress want to get up and defend child porn.

        But I don’t think this is really what’s at play. Now is not the time for clever tactics and small ball. Someone’s attack ships will be derelict, charred hulks drifting through space; history will not be kind to them.

        • Re entry says:

          Cold fish, that’s what my ex calls me.
          What cannot be lost sight of is election security, the interference that will be run will make 2016 look like kindergarten.
          Thank you EW, y’all are helping me cope

  18. Frank Probst says:

    I think it’s happening now because the dam starting breaking as news about the whistleblower leaked out. And I think it DEFINITELY would’ve happed today, with the release of the not-really-a-transcript. I think most of us here think that a formal impeachment inquiry (as opposed to the current not-really-an-impeachment-inquiry we’re having) should have been opened months ago. But I also think that the window for opening one was closing as the Presidential race heats up.

    As to whether or not this helps or hurts Biden, I think it’s going to hurt him. He’s just not mentally nimble enough to smack down all of the ridiculous allegations that are going to be thrown at him. I think we’re going to see something similar to John Kerry’s failure to forcefully respond to the GOP mocking his Purple Hearts. He’s going to look weak by not being able to defend himself. When he hears something as stupid as “When will Joe Biden release the ‘transcripts’ of HIS conversations with the Ukraine?”, the correct response should be, “I would welcome the release of those transcripts, but you’ll have to ask President Trump for them, because I’m a private citizen now, so I don’t have copies of them, and I couldn’t declassify them even if I did.” And then at every next interaction with the press, he can ask, “Has President Trump released the ‘transcripts’ of my conversations with the Ukraine yet? Has anyone asked him what’s taking him so long?”

    (And before anyone argues that this would set a horrible precedent in terms of both diplomacy and national security, I would say that it is already a near certainty that those memos are going to be reviewed and selectively declassified.)

  19. William Bennett says:

    I guess what most bugs me about this analysis is that it shades over into the “Don’t you see that this is just a distraction from [fill in my outrage issue]!!!” trope, and in the age of Trump it doesn’t matter what issue you fill in the blank, every outrage is a distraction from every other outrage, so it all zeros out. Somewhere you gotta pick one and try to do something about it.

    Also there’s a lot of tension between this critique and the one BMAZ has been vociferating about lo these many months, that the obligation to impeach in defense of the rule of law is a sacred duty and Pelosi’s failure to do it is almost as damaging to the Constitutional order as anything Trump has done himself or whatever. He’s pretty strident about that. It may not be the issue we wanted or that should have already brought us to this point, but it definitely qualifies for the job in terms of blatant abuse of power. So here we are.

  20. timbo says:

    To make these impeachment proceeding work successfully, the House needs to create a folk-hero of some sort. Biden ain’t it. Someone who will have more star power than Trump… Reinvigorating the Sargeant at Arms might do it… maybe get us keen on following the Sargeant at Arms on TV… as they walk down Pennsylvania avenue with a compulsive subpoena to appear before the House committee(s) in hand…

    Anyone else got any ideas for creating a folk-hero to upstage the more self-important players? The country needs a folk-hero to take on the privileged and self-important, to make our Constitution and the People’s House shine again…

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Does the Sargeant at Arms have a whistle? Maybe somebody could compose “The March of the Whistleblowers.” I read that the WH staff are worried more are coming forward. They sound like folk heroes to me. Also, Kyle Cheney at Politico says the House count has reached 218 for inquiry.

    • timbo says:

      To follow up on my own post…

      The People need a hero and a win here somewhere, anywhere. And better yet… everywhere. Right now, we’ve got a lot of beer and circus garbage going on and we’re not getting much else. The seriousness of the abuses of power here need to have heroes to take this on… to catch the imagination and fire that has been so lacking in the belly of our government for way too long.

      The best thing Pelosi and her crowd could do for us is create a hero of the Sargeant-of-Arms, a person empowered by the Congress to take on people who believe themselves above the law. You want TV points, the biggest mind share in the media? Have the Sargeant march down Pennsylvania Ave. Watch the high and mighty cower, suddenly disappearing from the streets of our capital city, at the notion that the Sargeant at Arms is coming to compel them to appear in the People’s House, in a hostile environment, to explain how it is that they can’t seem to respect the most basic precepts of national security and simple principles of the Constitution itself, let alone respect their oaths of office, etc, etc. Oh, to be a vid crew following long, lovingly capturing that knock on the door and the presentation of a subpoena that can’t be argued away by the sycophants at the DoJ and the OLC. Oh, to watch those toadies have to hop to a tune that they no longer can hum along to… live on television. Think of the ratings! And, oh think what will be the same thing under a completely different regime…

      For that is where this is headed, either we get a folk hero that supports the House, Congress, and the rule of law and supports our Constitution, or we get a man, an ape like Trump doing this for his own jollies. And believe me, he wants to be the person shooting someone on 5th avenue and getting away with it. He’s already bragged he could. Now the question is how we will prevent him from doing so.

  21. Mitch Neher says:

    Perpetual dissatisfaction with each and every last thing last thing under the Sun will never become a virtue.

  22. Mitch Neher says:

    Trump [pointing his finger at the camera while biting his lower lip]:

    “If only Grandma Nancy had impeached me in a timely manner, I never would’ve had that phone call with that man, Ms. Zelensky.”

  23. d4v1d says:

    Why now? because what is now patently clear is that 2020 is not going to be a free and fair election. Mueller was about the past. This is about the future. Will there be a conclusive trial? Of course not. Will an impeachment ‘process’ throw sand in the gears of the trumpian ratfcuking machine? Of course. The lights are on this time,

    A new byline but not promising in my estimation. I expect (and almost always get) more from this website.

  24. Wm. Boyce says:

    OK, so no one seems to have seen what came up in my Microsoft newsfeed:

    “The tax whistleblower, meanwhile, went straight to Congress ― specifically to the House Ways and Means Committee, which had sued the Trump administration for refusing to provide copies of the president’s tax returns in response to a formal request. Democrats say they need Trump’s returns to make sure the IRS properly enforces tax laws against the president.”

    The investigation of Trump’s tax returns also has a whistleblower, who has alleged improprieties within the IRS in regards to Trump’s tax returns.

    Huff Post:


    He has plenty to worry about, I don’t think the Dems quite know how to handle a crime boss,…yet.

    [** All this stuff in the brackets above after the question mark had been part of the URL you shared; it’s tracking code. It counts you, identifies you, then it identifies whoever clicked on it and where they came from. Please cut tracking off URLs when pasting them into comments to protect community members’ privacy. Thanks. /~Rayne

    • timbo says:

      Yes, how is it that the IRS thing wouldn’t be part of the impeachment inquiry? Again, there are credible claims and evidence, patterns in fact, that should make this part of the inquiry. In fact, based on what we know so far, it is almost impossible to imagine that the current scandal is not somehow connected through many ways to the previous and other ongoing ones.

  25. R.S. says:

    1) I agree with the blog post author that impeachment may help to diminish the media attention paid to the rush towards some dystopic cross between Christian fascism and the return of the Gilded Age which is being undertaken quickly (and somewhat incompetently) by Trump’s executive branch and more slowly (but more skillfully) by Trump’s federal bench appointees.

    However this has been going on for nearly three years since Trump was inaugurated and about six months since the end of the Mueller probe. Does the author genuinely believe that impeachment will hasten or exacerbate these trends in any substantial way? (Really??)

    2) Next, reasonable folks can disagree about whether impeachment helps or hurts Biden’s faltering nomination chances. I happen to be in the camp that it will likely make no difference to the seemingly unstoppable rise of Warren, and I have yet to see any evidence to the contrary. Anecdotal evidence (for what it may be worth) suggests that our primary/caucus electorate can walk and chew gum at the same time, and remains focused like a laser on their candidate choices.

    2*) In case it matters, I have also seen no evidence that “the DNC” favors Biden, and even less evidence that “the DNC” has put its thumb on the scale. (I am reminded of the widely-held view that “the DNC” successfully “rigged” the nomination for HRC in 2016, despite the fact that Bernie only got 43% of the vote in what was effectively a two-candidate contest. I am waiting to see any evidence that “the DNC” successfully convinced or coerced four million more voters to pull the lever for Hillary. To be brutally frank, I regard this “rigging” argument as a conspiracy theory. Anyone who thought Hillary was a bad choice should be *exclusively* blaming those of us who voted for her.)

    3) Finally: enough is enough. Trump will only get worse if he’s let off the hook (as we have seen throughout the course of his business and political careers). How many more criminal and constitutionally abhorrent activities shall House Democrats permit him to revel in, without taking any substantive action?

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