Together, those pieces lay out what are the three basic options for House Democrats:
1. Wait, and beat him. That’s the case Tomasky makes. “While impeachment is clearly a valid exercise of power, so is another method of removal, also prescribed by the Constitution: an election,” he writes. Beating Trump in 2020, Tomasky explains, would have more legitimacy among his supporters and also “do more long-term damage to the Republican Party.”
2. Impeachment now. The House of Representatives, Appelbaum writes, “must immediately open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, and bring the debate out of the court of public opinion and into Congress, where it belongs.” He argues that impeachment will increase the chances that Republicans eventually abandon Trump, by focusing attention on his misdeeds.
3. Wait, because it increases the chances of removal. This third option — the one I prefer and that Democratic leaders seem to be pursuing — falls in between the two others.
I’m not comfortable with Tomasky’s idea of waiting until 2020 (although I agree with him about the benefits of doing so), because I think it ignores all the potential damage Trump could do over the next two years as president. And I’m not persuaded by Appelbaum’s case that the start ofimpeachment hearings will sway Republicans. Given the current political polarization, I think impeachment is more likely to unite Republicans behind Trump. The process will inevitably focus the public on the actions of House Democrats like Nancy Pelosi. Faced with a choice between Team Trump and Team Pelosi, Republican voters and senators would choose the president.
Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor, and Joshua Matz also make this argument in a forthcoming epilogue to the paperback edition of “To End a Presidency,” their book about impeachment: “The president wins — and everyone else loses — when the main framework for evaluating his conduct is whether it will trigger impeachment. By battling on that terrain, [Trump] preemptively sets aside most standards by which a democracy should judge its leader. He also invigorates his base by turning every dispute into a referendum on his continued tenure in office.” I think that House Democrats should instead hold a series of hearings to uncover and highlight Trump’s illegal and unconstitutional behavior, especially his corruption, shady business practices and violation of campaign-finance law. Hearings like those — combined, at some point, with more findings from Robert Mueller — seem like they would have the best chance of cutting into Trump’s support from Republican voters and ultimately members of Congress. If that happens, impeachment would have a better chance at success.
Bottom line: Russia is the growing threat to the United States, according to the intelligence community. If the president says Russia is no threat, well, he doesn’t read U.S. intelligence reports, least of all this one. This report is a sign that Trump is losing control of his government. Don’t take it from me. Listen to the insiders.
Americans might soon learn what, if anything, special counsel Robert Mueller has found out about potential collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. But there’s one Trump-Moscow link where the emerging evidence is already as damning as it is disturbing. During much, if not all, of Trump’s campaign he sought to enrich himself by pursuing a luxury hotel-condominium-office deal in Russia known as Trump Tower Moscow. And as a candidate, Trump repeatedly misled or lied to voters about his business with Russia. “I have nothing to do with Russia,” he told reporters in July 2016. “I don’t deal there,” he said during the Oct. 9 presidential debate.
Court filings by Mueller in November make clear that negotiations led by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen continued through at least June 2016. Cohen lied about this to Congress to “give the false impression that the Moscow Project ended before ‘the Iowa caucus and … the very first primary,’ ” according to the filings. You have to wonder what the fallout would have been if those negotiations had been exposed before Trump debated his Republican primary opponents or Hillary Clinton. The electorate certainly was robbed of knowing about this crucial information at a time when:
►There were news reports that Russia was interfering in the election.
►Trump was expressing praise and admiration for President Vladimir Putin, even as he was insulting hundreds of other people, places and things on Twitter.
►The candidate said that, as president, he would consider easing sanctions placed against Russia for its violent seizure of Crimea.
►Trump was questioning America’s continued role in NATO, a bulwark against Russian aggression that Putin has historically despised.
►A plank in the GOP platform regarding U.S. support for Ukraine was watered down.
►Trump challenged Moscow to release Democratic emails that Russians were reported to have hacked.
But whether Trump was pursuing the arrangement until he clinched the Republican nomination, or right up until he was elected president, isn’t the main point. What matters is that a presidential candidate was secretly negotiating a major business deal with a major U.S. adversary — an extraordinary conflict of interest that was concealed from voters.
The chair of the House Judiciary Committee will ask the acting head of the Justice Department about his communications with the White House in the wake of BuzzFeed News’ report that President Trump directed his personal lawyer to lie to Congress. Committee chair Jerry Nadler has told acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker that he will be asked about whether he discussed the report, or the decision by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller to issue a statement disputing it, at a hearing on Feb. 8. “If so, with whom?” Nadler told Whitaker he plans to ask, in a letter dated Tuesday. “What was discussed?” BuzzFeed News reported on Thursday that Donald Trump directed Michael Cohen, his longtime personal attorney, to lie to Congress about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to the House and Senate Intelligence committees about when the planned deal ended. Mueller has previously noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project concluded in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.” Cohen’s lawyers have said in court filings that he acted out of “fierce loyalty” to Trump. “[T]he conduct was intended to benefit Client-1, in accordance with Client-1’s directives,” they wrote. On Friday, Mueller issued a rare statement, saying, “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.” BuzzFeed News stands by its story and the two law enforcement sources who informed it.
Nadler says he is providing Whitaker with the questions in advance so that he can determine whether Trump will invoke executive privilege, which would prevent Whitaker from talking about certain conversations he has had with the president. “Short of a direct and appropriate invocation of executive privilege, I will expect you to answer these questions fully and to the best of your knowledge,” Nadler says. “Similarly, I would view with considerable skepticism any effort to decline to answer on the basis that the inquiry is related to an ongoing criminal investigation.” The committee could resort to the “compulsory process,” meaning a subpoena, if Whitaker doesn’t fully answer questions, Nadler says. Nadler has already vowed to examine Trump’s actions as they relate to Cohen’s false testimony following the report by BuzzFeed News. “We know that the President has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction,” Nadler tweeted Friday. “Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime. The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work.” Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have also vowed to investigate the revelations.
Donald Trump convinced his most trusted confidantes to lie to law enforcement for him, one national security expert argued — and did so repeatedly. Independent journalist Marcy Wheeler wrote in The New Republic Wednesday about the controversial BuzzFeed News report about Trump ordering his “fixer” Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. Wheeler wrote that it was “the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia,” there were several times prior when the president did just that. She noted that in September 2017, The New York Times reported that Trump had White House aide Stephen Miller draft a memo about why he fired former FBI director James Comey earlier that year — while they were at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey. “The letter cited comments Comey had made about the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election,” Wheeler wrote. “White House counsel Don McGahn later massaged those references in Comey’s actual termination letter, to suggest that Comey was being fired for a different reason (though Trump would admit that the Russia investigation was the actual cause days later on television).” “Given that McGahn’s letter was sent to the FBI director,” she added, “it amounted to a lie to the bureau.”
She cited the 2018 Times report that the president dictated a response about the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 that claimed the meeting was about Russian adoption — an excuse that’s since been proven false. Wheeler added that Trump and Don Jr. both insisted that there was “no follow-up” to the meeting — a claim the president’s eldest son repeated in his sworn Congressional testimony. It was also later proven as a lie by Rod Goldstone, the British publicist who set the meeting up. “Trump Organization lawyers urged Rob Goldstone, who set up the meeting, to endorse the claim,” Wheeler wrote. “They did this even though they had to have known it wasn’t true. Indeed, less than a week after Trump’s lawyers tried to get Goldstone to back him up, Trump’s assistant forwarded Goldstone an email he sent her the prior year, showing it to be false.” “The record indicates that Trump decides what lie is going to be told,” she concluded, “and the people around him, indirectly or otherwise, do what they need to sustain it, even if it includes lying to Congress, the FBI, and Mueller’s team.”