Hillary to House Dems: Maybe stop grandstanding over impeachment


And if anyone knows this, it’s Hillary Clinton. She had a ringside seat to two impeachment efforts and perhaps more than a passing interest in a third. A year ago, she sat down with the Nixon Library for an interview to discuss her role in the House effort to investigate Richard Nixon, which led to his resignation in 1974, and the lessons she took from it. Politico captures Hillary’s advice to lawmakers who clearly haven’t adopted it — shut the hell up:

Hillary Clinton has a message for lawmakers contemplating impeachment: Steer clear of politics, don’t hold press conferences and avoid leaks.

“I think that it’s such a serious undertaking. Do not pursue it for trivial partisan political purposes. If it does fall to you while you’re in the House to examine abuses of power by the president, be as circumspect and careful as John Doar was,” Clinton said of the Judiciary Committee’s lead impeachment staffer, a Republican who served as a civil rights chief during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

“Restrain yourself from grandstanding and holding news conferences and playing to your base,” Clinton added. “This goes way beyond whose side is on you’re on or who’s on your side. And try to be faithful purveyors of the history and the solemnity of the process.”

Clinton pointed out that the investigation effort into Watergate was more bipartisan from the beginning, and that it dealt with certainties rather than legal theories. Doar drilled into the legal staffers, including Clinton, that they could not talk to the press nor even allow emotional reactions in public. In fact, she told her interviewers, the process was so focused on gathering evidence that staffers didn’t think ahead to whether it would result in impeachment.

“He said, ‘Don’t talk to anybody. Don’t make facial expressions. Don’t portray any opinion. We were there just to make a presentation to the members of the committee.’ So, it was a matter of honor that we would maintain the secrecy that was so critical for this, for this whole investigation,” she said. …

The no-leaking rule also went a long way, Clinton said, toward giving credibility to the House proceedings, which resulted in the Judiciary Committee’s passage of three articles of impeachment and Nixon’s resignation before the Senate could hold a trial.

Politico then dryly notes how much has changed:

It’s a very different story in 2019, where both Democratic and GOP committee aides coming from their respective partisan silos provide reporters with background updates about the status of the Trump impeachment debate. At the same time, panel leaders including Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, as well as rank-and-file lawmakers, frequently talk about the process on cable TV and social media.

It’s a very different story in a lot of ways. In the first place, Watergate involved actual crimes at the center of a conspiracy run by people who worked for Nixon. In the second place, Nixon committed clear acts of corruption and abuse of power in relation to the FBI, CIA, and IRS. In the third place, much of that was caught on tape, providing clear and objective evidence of the crimes, and not just rhetorical bantering over whether Oval Office venting that resulted in nothing equates to obstructive intent.

But yes, it also differs in the seriousness of the people involved in the investigation. Nadler and Schiff have been grandstanding over Russia collusion for over two years now, wildly overstating the case for political purposes. Both have claimed collusion had already been proven for months before Robert Mueller concluded that no evidence exists for it. In response, both Nadler and Schiff have become Olympic-class goalpost movers, shrieking over supposed obstruction and moral treason rather than acknowledge that they either were lying or ignorant the entire time.

It’s that lack of fundamental seriousness and fairness that has made impeachment a fringe political movement. It’s so clearly soaked in partisan bitterness over losing the 2016 election that even most Democratic voters think it’s a waste of time after the collapse of the Russia-collusion theory. Hillary Clinton’s advice was wise, especially since it was given in the middle of the Nadler/Schiff circus. Too bad Nadler, Schiff, and the rest of the House Democrat Hysterics didn’t take it.

Today’s the 45th anniversary of the only presidential resignation in US history, which was the unspoken catalyst for today’s Politico story. I remember this when it happened, but only dimly understood its historical import at that time. Richard Nixon’s strange V-for-victory salute as he boarded Marine One on the White House lawn may be better remembered, but this somber speech was the better valediction. As Nixon later remarked, it was “an admission of guilt” from a man struggling to retain as much dignity for himself and the office as possible — a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions for Nixon and the nation. As Hillary Clinton rightly advises, this isn’t a clown show for fundraising, or at least it shouldn’t be.

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