Everyone is talking about the latest bombshell report from The Washington Post. Five anonymous sources with knowledge of Robert Mueller’s independent Russian probe claim that President Trump is now being investigated for obstruction of justice.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that this is the top story of the day – Memeorandum has collected more than 50 news and commentary outlets that have addressed the story. And it is a development that can radically alter the political environment in the country, to the point where the impeachment question steps out of the daydreams of partisan Democrats … and enters the realm of possibility.
“The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation,” the Post writes.
The FBI was previously conducting a counter-intelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and collusion between Trump’s team and the Russian government. Impeachment was absolutely out of the question. But because obstruction of justice is a criminal charge, Mueller is now leading a criminal investigation into President Trump’s actions that began shortly after former FBI Director James Comey was fired.
From the Post:
The obstruction-of-justice investigation of the president began days after Comey was fired on May 9, according to people familiar with the matter. Mueller’s office has taken up that work, and the preliminary interviews scheduled with intelligence officials indicate that his team is actively pursuing potential witnesses inside and outside the government.
The interviews suggest that Mueller sees the question of attempted obstruction of justice as more than just a “he said, he said” dispute between the president and the fired FBI director, an official said.
Top administration officials to be questioned include Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, NSA chief Mike Rogers, and former NSA Deputy Administrator Richard Ledgett.
Law professor Alan Dershowitz says it is unlikely any investigation leads to a Trump’s indictment.
"The fact that Mueller is opening an investigation on obstruction doesn't answer the two basic questions,” Dershowitz told Newsmax. “One — can a president be indicted while sitting? And two — can a president be indicted for obstruction — which is simply doing his job being the head of the executive branch?"
"I think the answer to both of these questions is still going to be no and no."
A criminal indictment is a matter of law enforcement. As the chief executive, the president of the United States has the ultimate authority on matters of law enforcement. Therefore, he is within his constitutional right to refuse to indict himself. (That’s Dershowitz’s point.)
Separate from the law enforcement issue, however, is a political question – that of impeachment. If the investigation reveals that President Trump obstructed justice, the House of Representatives can initiate impeachment proceedings and, if the House votes to impeach the president, the U.S. Senate will hold a trial.
That the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would vote to begin impeachment proceedings against a president from their own party is almost unthinkable. Almost. With elections every two years, the House is the legislative body closest to the people. That means the House is most responsive to the political environment of the country. Popular sentiment seems to be drifting in support of impeachment for President Trump, with almost half of Americans supporting impeachment, if a recent survey from Public Policy Polling is to be believed.
If by this time next year the criminal investigation into President Trump has turned up evidence of obstruction, bet on House Republicans to keep one eye on President Trump’s approval ratings and the other on November elections. Is it beyond feckless Republicans, who have already betrayed the president’s campaign agenda, to turn on the president if there is evidence of wrongdoing … but public sentiment against the administration puts GOP congressional majorities in danger?
Should the Democratic Party retake the House of Representatives in 2018, it is all but guaranteed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi satiates the rabid Democratic base by holding a vote to impeach Trump. An impeachment trial in the Senate would also be politically advantageous for the Democrats, as they will vigorously campaign against any Republican senator who refuses to vote to convict the president. If impeachment doesn’t remove Trump from office after that, the 2020 election surely will.
Long story short: The news of this investigation is a disaster for the Trump administration and the Republican Party. Even under the best-case scenario for the administration, in which the investigation leads to absolutely nothing, the inevitable leaks of the probe’s developments will continue to distract from any accomplishments President Trump may have. Distract how? Look at the messaging from the president Thursday.
They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
By responding to the Washington Post report, President Trump invites discussion of the investigation rather than discussion of his policies. Notice how Thursday’s executive order on apprenticeships has been buried by coverage of the Mueller investigation?
There is only one way out for the president and the Republican Party — the political environment needs to change. And the surest way to achieve that is to rally the Republican majorities in Congress back to the fundamental issues of Trump’s winning presidential campaign.
Restore the filibuster in the Senate to break the Democrats’ obstruction. Pass a full repeal of Obamacare and free-market health care reforms. Get the economy growing again with big anti-regulatory bills like the REINS Act. Have Congress use its Article III powers to rein in the courts and bring national security back to the forefront.
Public opinion will respond favorably to good governance, and good governance will persuade voters to keep Republicans in power … and end the question of impeaching President Trump once and for all.
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Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.