Report: White House lawyers think House Dems might not impeach Trump after all


Total idiocy, although in their defense this may be something they’re putting out as a morale booster for Trump, not because they believe it themselves. Kellyanne Conway did something similar a few weeks ago. The president’s angry and depressed that he’s going to be impeached, so his staff is lifting his spirits by telling the public that it might not happen.

And hey — they’re right that impeachment must look worse to Pelosi today, given the polling, than it did a month ago.

But be that as it may, ain’t no way no how no chance that the Speaker who got ObamaCare passed is going to whiff on a vote this big. She never would have proceeded with the impeachment inquiry if she had reason to fear a cave-in in the end. Whatever arms need to be twisted, or broken, to get to 218 will be twisted or broken.

What’s idiotic about the scenario in which Democrats decide to stand down at this point is that it would cost them more politically to do that than to proceed as scheduled. The only way out is through. Liberals spent Wednesday morning and afternoon in raptures watching Gordon Sondland testify about a quid pro quo, shouting “GAME OVER” at their screens. Adam Schiff has been on the verge of tears at times during his closing statements at the hearings while inveighing against Trump’s attempt to sic Ukraine on the Democratic frontrunner. Not a single witness who testified over the past two weeks has delivered less than what Democrats expected of them. If there’s a publication or news outlet in lefty media that doesn’t think the case for impeaching Trump has been made, I’m unaware of it.

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All of which is to say, it would be the biggest debacle in recent political history for Pelosi to go through all this, produce evidence that her own party finds extremely compelling, and then lose the big impeachment vote. Trump and the GOP would experience schadenfreude strong enough to move tectonic plates. Republican senators would be miraculously spared an uncomfortable trial and an uncomfortable acquittal. Progressives would be incensed, completely demoralized that after testimony from Sondland and Fiona Hill and all the rest, Trump had not only escaped removal but didn’t even have to suffer the indignity of indictment by a Democratic majority in the House. The humiliation for Dems would be catastrophic. They’ll impeach Trump for that reason alone, simply to deliver on a de facto promise to their base. No matter how bad the polling is for them.

And make no mistake, that polling ain’t great:

Alas, for the Democrats, the promising numbers of late October and early November rapidly dissipated, and polling numbers have reverted to a level more consistent with long-term opinions on President Trump. In the latest Politico/Morning Consult poll, released on November 19, Independents opposed impeachment and removal from office 46% to 39%, a number close to the rolling averages of the last few weeks. It is notable that the poll was fielded after the first public impeachment hearings. Even the compelling testimony of witnesses like Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, failed to move the needle on public opinion. That doesn’t mean further hearings won’t energize greater opposition to Trump, but it’s a little hard to imagine more effective testimony than that offered by Yovanovitch and some of her Foreign Service colleagues…

The second factor is the view among Independents that impeachment reflects the agenda of the political establishment and the media. Regardless of what they think about Trump’s behavior, Independents see impeachment as a continuation of the partisan bickering and media excess that began even before his inauguration. By massive margins, Independents say that the impeachment issue is “more important to politicians than it is to me” (62% to 22%) and “more important to the media than it is to me” (61% to 23%). It is hard to read this as anything but a warning to the Democratic leadership and candidates: Stop talking about issues that matter to you, not to me.

Impeachment ranked last in importance among the 11 issues tested, with indies claiming by a two-to-one margin that they’re having trouble distinguishing all the different investigations happening in Washington. And remember that this is national polling; opinion in battleground states is almost always more favorable to Trump than national opinion is. Andrew Yang told CNN frankly yesterday that he thinks impeachment could hurt Democratic chances to retake the White House next year more than it’ll help. Checking FiveThirtyEight’s tracker of impeachment data today, I see that the share that supports impeaching/removing the president is now just 0.1 percent greater than the share that opposes doing so. One month ago today, that gap was five points.

And yet, for the reasons I gave above, there’s still no way they’re not going to impeach him at this late date. Maybe if they had decided not to hold public hearings they would have room to step back and say, “We’re putting this on the back burner for now but plan to revisit it again in the coming months. We need to hear from certain key witnesses like John Bolton anyway before we make any firm conclusions.” But after they’ve paraded Sondland and the rest, there’s no option except to formally rebuke Trump with impeachment and then let the political chips fall where they may. The one thing Pelosi has going for her here is, ironically, something that normally works to Trump’s advantage: Americans have the political attention span of goldfish now so any irritation they feel at Democrats over impeachment circa February of next year is destined to be buried beneath an avalanche of 10,000 other can-you-believe-this-sh*t news stories by November. Odds are robust that there’ll be some other Trump scandal between now and then too, maybe even more egregious than the Ukraine thing. If there is, voters who are peeved at Dems at the moment for impeaching might look back through that prism and think “Maybe they had a point.”

So no, there’s no chance they don’t impeach. But there is a real and growing chance that *opposition* to impeachment in Congress will be bipartisan whereas support for it will not. That was already the case with the House vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry; two Dems from districts that voted for Trump in 2016 broke ranks and joined the GOP in voting no. I’d argue that among several hundred Republican members of the House and Senate, there are only three right now who are a real risk to vote against the president. That’d be Romney, Murkowski, and Francis Rooney. And even if Romney and Murkowski switch sides, every Democrat in the Senate could vote with them to remove Trump and there’d still be a bare majority of 51 voting *not* to remove. Even the talking point that Democrats are hoping to have, that majorities in both chambers ended up supporting removal, is unlikely now.

In lieu of an exit question, here’s one of the most important Republican “no” votes on impeachment so far, Will Hurd, giving his reasoning on “Firing Line.” His “bad but not impeachable” speech during yesterday’s hearing was effective. His emphasis here on Zelensky claiming he didn’t feel pressured is pure drivel, not just because Hurd’s well aware of how much leverage the U.S. has over Ukraine but because he was in the room when Laura Cooper testified that the Ukrainians were asking about the military aid on the very day Trump asked Zelensky about the Bidens and CrowdStrike during their phone call in July.

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