Banging

Because it's better than not banging at Hillary's headquarters.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Further Thoughts (Fantasies) About Impeachment




I'm pretty careful about how I use the term "impeachment." I'm being a little pedantic here, but I see it thrown around as a synonym for "removal from office." As I'm sure most of you reading this know, in the case of the President of the United States, "impeachment" refers to the House of Representatives casting a majority vote in favor of recommending to the Senate that the President be put on trial. This could result in exoneration, or censure, or conviction and removal from office. Removal from office requires a 2/3 vote in the Senate.

I've been nearly 100% sure that removal from office by the Senate would not happen. That would take all Democrats in both Houses, plus 25 Republicans in the House of Representatives and 19 in the Senate, plus agreements in different committees, to make that happen. But given some of the nutbaggery that Trump has piled on in the least couple of days, the smoke billowing from the relationship between Trump and Putin, and the fact that Ryan is having a difficult time getting what he wants despite having control of the White House and both Houses, I'm ready to concede it's not impossible.

The impeachment case would probably need to involve emoluments or something other than Russia, because I think Russia is a nonstarter in the House and Senate since McConnell and Ryan could be easily implicated for covering up that story.

So, I'll say there's a 3% likelihood of that scenario, a 10% possibility of death/incapacitation (he's not young and he's a walking coronary), a 15% chance of ragequitting, a 10% chance that the "deep state" will produce something so personally embarrassing that he can't show his face in Washington anymore,  and a 7% chance of my own fantasy scenario:

2. The Dems "lawyer up" and put together a case, against not just Trump and Pence, but Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, James Comey, and any other prominent Republican that was in any way complicit with Russia over the last year.
3. The Dems collaborate quietly with journalists who can make this case in a way that is both convincing to and understandable by the public, and prepare to have it plastered on the front page of every mainstream newspaper in the country (if I recall correctly, something like this happened with the Starr Report).
4. Before sending the case to the media, Democratic leadership and members of the intelligence community corner Republican leadership and present them with a deal. Republicans hand the Executive branch over to the Democrats, with a pre-agreed slate of Cabinet officials to be confirmed. The Republicans keep the Senate and House, but no new judicial nominees until after the 2018 election. No legislation or Executive Orders other than those necessary to keep the government going until 2019. No one other than Trump and Pence have to admit guilt, and Clinton pardons them both.

I'll also say there's a 5% chance of a scenario that we can't even imagine occurring to remove him from office. So, that leaves a 50-50 chance of making it through a full term (let's not even think about another).

There's a split among Democrats between whether a President Trump or a President Pence or Ryan would be preferable. I'm worried to some extent about Trump getting us into nuclear war, though it's beginning to feel like foreign leaders would rather laugh at Trump than fight the US as a whole and that the risk of mass deaths in the U.S. by destruction of the safety net (tens of thousands from the ACA alone, imagine Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, or TANF?). Also, the latter feels more likely to be permanent than our humiliation -- I think most countries see Trump as a fluke. Plus, say Trump were to be impeached/convicted in the first few months of his term, we risk McConnell and Ryan being seen as heroes (the press would ABSOLUTELY portray them that way), and we could end up with 11 1/2 years of a Pence Presidency propped up by the media.

My prerogative is to do whatever we can to slow down the Ryan agenda (I'm pleasantly surprised by that so far) while tying Trump as a millstone around the necks of the Republicans. So we need to simultaneously pit Trump against the rest of the Republicans while reminding the American people that the Republicans have backed him this far.

So, HOT TAKE... this might sound nuts, but bear with me:

If a realistic opening for impeachment does materialize, I'd like to suggest to the Democratic leadership that they enthusiastically provide enough votes for impeachment, but then surprisingly withhold the votes to convict.

Crazy, right? Not if you think about it this way:

Let's say that the Republicans in Congress and the press decide that say, the Chinese trademark issue is a bridge too far and that on March 1st they announce they're putting a case together against him. Between the fact that the Republicans can't seem to walk and chew gum at the same time and that Trump and Jeff Sessions would do the best they could to interfere, it could take six months or more to get to the impeachment vote. Soon, Trump would likely begin to stonewall Congress and refuse to communicate with them or sign anything that hits his desk (and they will never have a prayer of overriding a veto). 

The Ryan agenda has to be tabled here. The Dems promise enough votes to impeach immediately while spending those six months pillorying any Republican that defends Trump at all (at the beginning, that would probably be quite a few) and starting to recruit strong Dems for 2018 Congressional races by giving them the opportunity to run against not just their opponents, but against a further weakened (and probably further erratic) Trump, and start to create commercials with footage of those Republicans wavering and defending Trump.

At that point, we're at September 2017. In the same way the Clinton proceedings were held up until after the midterms in 1998, we're probably looking at Trump going to trial in mid-November 2017. On the Clinton timeline, the vote to convict would be in late February, 2018. For a whole year, we'd reduce the legislative damage to near zero, and there would be only eight months left until the midterms.

So here's the twist... the Senate needs 67 votes to convict; the impeachment vote probably won't happen until the Senate Republicans feel like they'll easily have more than half of their caucus comfortably voting to convict, though I'd bet 20 or so would never agree to it. So they're starting with 31 reliable Republican votes in November 2017 and the assumption that of course the Dems will give them at least 36 votes out of their caucus of 48. This is where we need Schumer to be really clever. In the lead up to the vote, he should leak something about Pence having involvement in or knowledge of Trump's dealings. Senate Dems then start to murmur increasingly noisily about the possibility of not voting to convict unless Pence is also on the docket. On the day of the vote, Schumer has just enough Democrats abstain to keep Trump in office.

In March 2018, the country would find itself with an unprecedentedly weakened GOP President who would likely go full Howard-Hughes recluse at Mar-a-Lago, complete with pee in jars (rather than beds) or spend his days plotting with Bannon on how to destroy Ryan and the other Congressional Republicans. Nothing would get done, and that would hold until the Republicans cry uncle and settle for something like my original scenario, or through 2 1/2 more tirade-filled (or urine-filled), vulnerable years in which the Democrats take back the House in 2018 (and Speaker Pelosi starts an investigation into Trump's Russia ties) and go hard against the White House and Senate in 2020. Who the heck could the Republicans nominate in 2020 after all that?

Of course, we're really still months away from Congressional Republicans being even close to holding such an investigation, and there's no way Schumer is devious enough to pull something like this. But if I were Senate Majority Leader (FSM forbid!), it's exactly what I would do.

How crazy/wrong am I? Am I making sense, or am I loopier than the Fontange Fuhrer? Drop comments below if you have thoughts.

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