Jonathan Bernstein /Bloomberg:
Impeachment is getting more likely
Fun while it lasted.
There are still plenty of unknowns.
But the president's attempts to conceal his conduct are ominous.
'm no lawyer, so I'll leave it to others to analyze the legal trouble that President Donald Trump and his associates appear to be in, based on what prosecutors have revealed recently. See summaries at Lawfare and Just Security , as well as my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Timothy L. O'Brien , who is always a must-read on Trump details.
But as far as the politics go, I can say that the case for impeachment and removal has become quite a bit stronger than it was a month ago, and at least somewhat more likely to happen. There are still plenty of unknowns, of course. But it's more likely.
It's true that special counsel Robert Mueller hasn't yet accused Trump of wrongdoing in the Russia scandal. Nor is it clear, according to the experts, that Trump broke the law in directing his former lawyer Michael Cohen to pay hush money to women so they wouldn't accuse him of affairs during the 2016 campaign. It turns out that directing Cohen to commit felonies — which prosecutors say Trump did, and almost surely have the evidence to prove — may not mean that Trump himself committed a crime.
So why is impeachment more likely?
Because the hush-money episode is ugly on its face, whether or not Trump broke the law. Because there's more and more evidence of improper behavior by Trump and his campaign with regard to Russia. And because it's now more obvious than ever that Trump has been lying about both. Remember: Impeachment is a political process, not a criminal one. If Congress thinks that what Trump and his associates did constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors,” then it doesn't matter if they technically violated the criminal code.
And that's why I think the recent revelations are such a big deal. It's now obvious that Trump had a strong motive for concealing the truth about his conduct, both with regard to Russia and to his affairs. That matters. Although the public evidence that Trump obstructed justice has always seemed pretty strong, it wasn't clear until recently that he was covering up anything significant. Until last week, Republicans could still plausibly argue that impeaching a president for attempting to derail an investigation he had no reason to fear would be ridiculous. Now that argument wouldn't pass the giggle test. Now, unless Mueller winds up undermining what appears to be a pretty strong obstruction case, it's going to be a lot harder for Democrats to ignore the evidence and for Republicans to deny it.
You may be thinking: What have the facts got to do with anything? Won't Democrats want to impeach him no matter what? And won't Republicans support him no matter what? I think that cynical view is actually naive. The facts won't determine everything, but they will be an important factor in what Congress decides to do. Not the only factor — there's public opinion, the president's broader strength or weakness, and, not least, the extent to which members of Congress still think they can trust Trump on some level. But if facts were totally irrelevant, George W. Bush and Barack Obama would presumably have been impeached, and that never came close to happening.
Again, I'm not predicting that impeachment is imminent, or that it will necessarily happen. Only that it's more likely now than it was a few weeks ago. And remember: We still don't know what Mueller is sitting on.
Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and policy. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published by Bloomberg Dic. 10, 2018. All comments posted and published on Petroleumworld, do not reflect either for or against the opinion expressed in the comment as an endorsement of Petroleumworld.
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