Trump Impeachment: A Week in Review (And Giuliani, Too)

Usually with all things Trump, where there’s smoke someone’s about to be fired – or quit – or something – but the past two weeks have been more like a forest fire with a single traceable cause: the on-boarding of Rudy Giuliani as President Trump’s attorney.  

In a series of stunning moves, Giuliani has, among other things, effectively confirmed that Trump lied when saying he didn’t know anything about the payment of $130,000 made late in the 2016 campaign to porn star Stormy Daniels in return for her silence.  Giuliani’s many and conflicting statements are too numerous to mention at this point – except to say that the process of detailing the multiple contradictions is certainly underway at Special Counsel Mueller’s office -- and at many other locations. 

Meanwhile, economic news has continued to be generally favorable to highly favorable -- the Dow Jones chart has gone from major peaks and valleys starting in late January of 2018 to a series of smaller but still noticeable sawtooth oscillations over the past six weeks – the overall increase since the inauguration is about 20%.  Unemployment has also dropped below 4% -- indicating labor shortages throughout the economy – but not necessarily much that will benefit unskilled, semi-skilled, or legacy-skilled workers.  Prospects remain for a summit meeting of President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, which could potentially result in some kind of murky, unenforceable agreement, but could also prove to be some kind of disaster.  The White House has announced that a final decision whether to end the Iran nuclear agreement will be presented tomorrow.  Trump’s overall approval rating appears to be on a small but steady upward course – seeming to indicate that his core base has become comfortably entrenched in their support of him under conditions of unprecedented chaos.  However, as the stock market has indicated since early January, there are limits to its level of tolerance for that chaos – a major development in the Mueller investigation, which could be anything from a damning final report to his firing -- could cause another shock to the market… as could other potential disruptions on the multiple fronts of confrontation the Trump administration has opened.

Trump’s new lawyer – Rudy Giuliani

CNN offers up a summary of what Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's new lawyer, has said, or revealed, or misspoke, since he came on board the Trump legal team shortly before a bombshell interview with FOX pundit Sean Hannity.  In that interview, Giuliani said that Trump knew about an arrangement whereby his attorney, Michael Cohen, paid porn star Stormy Daniels for her silence shortly before the 2016 election -- and was reimbursed through a monthly retainer arrangement.  Giuliani has also said Jared Kushner is "disposable" -- former FBI Director James Comey was fired because he "didn't clear Trump" -- North Korea leader Kim Jong Un would likely release three U.S. detainees in advance of his meeting with Trump -- and he was still getting up to speed on "the facts."  Many articles are being written trying to make analytical sense of what President Trump and Giuliani are doing – or might be doing – or think they’re doing – or something. 

In an ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos, Giuliani said he expects longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to cooperate with the Mueller Investigation, but added: "Michael Cohen doesn’t have any incriminating evidence on the president or himself."  Giuliani also said the President didn't have to comply with a subpoena from Mueller, and might invoke the 5th Amendment if he did testify.  "They don't have a case on collusion, they don't have obstruction," Giuliani said, and added rhetorically: "I'm going to walk him into a prosecution for perjury, like Martha Stewart did?"  James Comey was the Manhattan District Attorney who prosecuted Stewart.

The Mueller Investigation -- A former whistle-blower and a lawyer specializing in national security issues outline a "last resort" scenario in a NY Times op-ed: if President Trump fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Mueller -- or others at his office -- could become whistleblowers by delivering all their evidence -- paper copies and/or digital records -- to Congress, which is about a mile from their office.  Congress would then have physical possession of all the evidence from the investigation -- and could defend their control of it based on Constitutional separation-of-powers grounds.

Richard Painter’s U.S. Senate candidacy in Minnesota -- Time magazine reports former President G.W. Bush "Ethics Czar" and lifelong Republican Richard Painter is now both running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat -- and will be raising impeachment as a major issue in his campaign.  “We’re well past the point that we were when the House and Senate in 1973 … had hearings, real hearing with testimony, and we gotta get going on that,” Painter said.  He is seeking the seat recently resigned by Sen. Al Franken; the incumbent is former Lt. Governor Tina Smith, who is widely expected to win the DFL Convention endorsement before facing Painter in an August primary.  While Painter has said he would be happy to speak at that Convention, it doesn’t appear he is undertaking any serious effort to win endorsement from the delegates.  Painter had considered running as a Republican or an independent -- but decided that the independent route would run a risk of electing a Republican in a three-way race.  He has said he was “fed up” with the Republican Party.

Tom Steyer’s NeedToImpeach campaign -- California hedge fund billionaire and impeachment advocate Tom Steyer is bringing his impeachment campaign to events in Iowafrom May 8th through May 10th including town halls in Des Moines IA (5/8) and Cedar Rapids (5/10.) 

Essays on Impeachment topics

 Matthew Yglesias opines in Vox that Democrats face an impeachment dilemma: talking about and advocating it generally fires up their base -- but while President Trump's approval rating remains negative, polling shows most Americans also don't support his impeachment. Beyond that overall absence of any consensus for impeachment, talking about it appears to fire up President Trump's base as much or more as the Democratic base.  In an era where "going negative" is widely seen as the key to driving turnout and winning mid-term elections, this factual combination poses a dilemma for Democrats. Another piece to the puzzle is that even if Democrats win the House in 2018, an impeachment drive is seen as almost certainly futile, since the Constitution requires a two-thirds vote to convict in a Senate Trial.  Yglesias also points out that recent Democratic wins for open House seats -- and their Senate win in Alabama -- are not representative of most upcoming contests in 2018 -- which will include an incumbent running for re-election.  He concludes: "The crucial thing, both politically and substantively, is to be clear that impeachment is ultimately a question for Republicans, not for Democrats. Without GOP support, there’s no way to remove Trump from office..." and suggests: "What a Democratic majority can do — and what the current GOP majority has refused to do— is ensure meaningful oversight of the executive branch."

Jennifer Rubin suggests in a Washington Post opinion piece that even with sufficient Constitutional grounds for impeachment, it may be politically unwise to launch the process if the price of increased division is too great -- or if it would lead to "normalizing" impeachment in the future.  She suggests, as an example, that even if President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey with intent to disrupt the Russia investigation, unless that was part of a continuing pattern of obstructive behavior, it was, to paraphrase, not a good enough reason to impeach.  She does however suggest censure as an option under some circumstances, and also suggests if the evidence warrants it that all Republicans can and should insist President Trump must not be able to run for re-election in 2020.

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