House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wasn’t far off the mark when she said President Donald Trump “is making lawlessness a virtue.”
His brazen flout of nearly every legal and political convention in the books in everything from his borderline tax evasion to playing footsie with Russian leader Vladimir Putin up to including even more borderline possible election tampering is well documented.
Now there’s the borderline 2020 presidential election tampering with Joe Biden the target using the Ukraine president as his political hit man. That was enough to move Pelosi off the dime on impeachment and authorize a house “inquiry” on it. Now an inquiry is one thing. Bringing actual articles of impeachment for the full House of Representatives to consider is something else entirely.
Pelosi still hedges her bets on that. Every time the progressive Democrats screamed at her in the past to bring impeachment charges against Trump, she said no.
There was good reason why; a reason Trump underscored when he couldn’t wait to tweet that any talk of impeachment related to Biden and the Ukraine is just another Democratic “witchhunt.” If impeachment charges are ever formally brought against him in the House, Trump would latch on to this for all it’s worth as his ticket back to the White House in 2020.
It would fire up his base by allowing him to go into full-blown victim mode. He would wail that he’s being hectored, harassed and tormented by vindictive, sour grape Democrats still fuming that he won the presidency, and determined to wreak their revenge on him.
There is some talk that Trump privately doesn’t want the taint of being only the third president impeached on his head as the 2020 presidential campaign gathers steam. That’s why he railed long and loud about Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry and quickly and uncharacteristically agreed to release the whistleblower’s complaint to congressional committees and a transcript of the call he made to the Ukraine president.
A close reading of the transcript doesn’t actually provide any smoking gun proof that Trump demanded the Ukraine leader smear Biden for alleged family illicit business dealings involving the country. But there is strong inference knowing everything we know about Trump that he wanted exactly that.
Another possible worry is the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell beat Trump to the draw in ripping the Democrat’s impeachment cry with the stock charge that it’s politically motivated. But McConnell did slightly break from Trump with the vague promise to look into the Ukraine-Trump dealing.
Expect nothing to come of this, just like nothing would ever likely come of any chance the Republican-controlled Senate would ever convict Trump if a House impeachment move ever got to it.
Pelosi knows that and so does Trump. And here’s where the risk of pushing impeachment still comes in.
Polls show that there are a lot of people that buy the Trump and the Republican line that it’s a Democratic hatchet job to get him. There are also a lot of Americans who think that impeachment is a bad idea.
Polls also show that independents who will be a big factor in the presidential election for the most part don’t like the idea even though a lot of them don’t like Trump, either.
Impeachment will be almost exclusively a Democratic show in the House since almost no House Republican would ever back the effort. So, if it’s a strictly hard-nosed political partisan effort, it comes off as nothing more than a stunt, or at best an empty gesture done purely to satisfy hopped up progressive Democrats.
Pelosi, though, bets that the Ukraine furor changes the game for Democrats who hail from districts that are anything but loaded with progressives. They were the ones who put the brakes all this time on any call for impeachment.
They read the tea leaves that say that a lot of moderate voters in their districts aren’t thrilled about the idea of impeaching Trump. That could spell possible political peril. A big, partisan politically charged impeachment fight could give the Republicans an opening to take back some of those seats lost in 2018.
Pelosi now says the Ukraine scandal has taken that peril off the table and that moderate Democrats in the swing districts are on board at least for the inquiry. There’s relatively little risk in that.
However, again, a dragged out impeachment battle is another matter coming a year out from the election.
If that happened, barring any solid proof that Trump actually conspired with the Ukrainian president to sabotage Biden, the likely winner in an impeachment battle would be Trump.
He would have months to spin the spiteful, hateful, and vindictive Democrats line to inflame his base. It would be the ultimate tailor-made distraction that Trump so dearly loves to deflect any attention and criticism from his bumbling, incompetent and astoundingly corrupt administration.
Pelosi and the Democrats, then, must tread carefully on this. Impeaching Trump is risky business.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of The Impeachment of President Trump? (Amazon Kindle). He also is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.