Dems Torn over How to Play Post-Mueller Political Hand

‘Pelosi will try to drag this out on a low simmer through 2020…’

Dems Torn over How to Play Post-Mueller Political Hand

AFP / Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, seen here in Dublin, Ireland on April 17, 2019, has sought to tamp down movements within her Democratic caucus to begin impeachment proceedings against US President Donald Trump

(Michael Mathes, AFP) Seething after the long-touted Mueller report failed to yield their desired political results, Democrats now face a dilemma.

The party, which controls the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives by just under 40 seats, is now divided over whether to pursue impeachment of President Donald Trump or attempt to oust him at the ballot box in 2020.

Either way, the plan is for the House to continue its drawn-out “fishing expedition” investigations of the president in order to hinder him from fulfilling his ambitious first-term agenda, which is heavily focused on containing the crisis at the U.S.–Mexico Border.

Many on the Left have denied the thousands of illegal immigrants flooding the U.S. constitute a major problem and have tried to block Trump from funding his promised border wall.

Trump’s approval rating slid in some national polls after release of the Russia investigation report, but with history as their guide, Democrats are torn over triggering impeachment proceedings that risk muddling their electoral message.

The opposition party—then the Republicans—was roundly repudiated in the 1998 election for the perception that their investigation into the Oval Office trysts of then-President Bill Clinton had taken on a strictly political nature.

Several Democratic committee leaders set the stage for accusations of partisanship in the Russia investigation by declaring, well before the report had been submitted to Attorney General William Barr, that they would continue to investigate regardless of its findings.

While special counsel Robert Mueller‘s report released last week cleared Trump of the collusion allegations that had long been pushed by the Left, many Democrats have clung to its unflattering portrait of the president, hoping to find some justification for their claims that he is unfit for office.

Pointing to obscure footnotes of legal discussions and the fact that Mueller withheld forming his own judgment on the question of whether Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey constituted obstruction of justice, some impeachment hawks have maintained that Mueller laced his report with dog-whistles exhorting them to file articles against the president.

However, such a step would be unlikely to result in removal of the president given the Senate’s GOP majority, and it would surely become a focal point of the 2020 race, potentially mobilizing Trump supporters who felt their democratically elected leader was under attack.

“I see no good outcome for the Democrats from impeachment,” Christopher Arterton, a political professor emeritus at George Washington University, told AFP.

“That turns Trump into a victim… and I think that not only energizes his base but it’s attractive to the group of 20 percent that are basically in the middle and undecided so far about their presidential vote.”

The explosive inter-party debate has pitted Democrats against one another at a time when the party might be better served by unifying ahead of a battle against Trump next year. Publicly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tried pumping the brakes on impeachment talk.

House Will Have to Vote on Impeachment, Despite Pelosi’s Opposition

Al Green/IMAGE: C-SPAN

However, House radicals like Reps. Al Green of Texas and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan have vowed to continue their efforts regardless.

More Americans oppose rather than support impeaching Trump. Just 34 percent back the process compared with 48 percent opposed, according to a Morning Consult poll.

The survey also shows Trump’s job approval rating dropping five points following release of Mueller’s report, to 39 percent of voters against 57 percent who disapprove, the lowest-ever rating of his presidency.

Some Democrats seeing the presidential nomination next year have cautioned Congress against obsessing over Trump’s impeachment instead of judging the president on his first term and addressing significant issues like health care.

“I worry that works to Trump’s advantage” if the focus is on impeachment, said candidate Bernie Sanders.

But in the wake of Mueller’s findings, at least five of the 20 Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, have publicly called for impeachment proceedings.

Warren argued that the question should not be whether the process creates partisan advantage, but whether it meets the constitutional bar of high crimes and misdemeanors.

“This is not about politics. This is about principle,” she said.

‘A Low Simmer’

That Warren and Sanders, two of the party’s progressive messengers, are on opposite sides of the divide crystalizes the impeachment dilemma facing Democrats.

Clearly the party is eager to reap the benefits of the Mueller Report’s more salacious revelations, including Trump calling then-White House counsel Don McGahn in 2017 to direct him to order Mueller’s firing.

While impeachment advocates have described as textbook obstruction of justice, the fact that Trump’s advisers did not act on the order poses a problem for the case, particularly since there was no actual crime underlying the investigation.

Echoing her earlier calls to avoid impeachment without a clear bipartisan consensus, Pelosi told her caucus Monday that she wants to move forward with ongoing congressional investigations.

That could offer a potential wellspring of negative headlines for committee chairs like Rep. Adam Schiff of California, Jerrold Nadler of New York and Elijah Cummings of Maryland to leak to sympathetic and sensationalist media outlets during the campaign.

Dem Committees Promise "Transparency" When Issuing Subpoenas

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (second from left), flanked by House committee chairs Elijah Cummings, Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff / IMAGE: Senate Democrats via Youtube

Ironically, those like Nadler and Pelosi who were present for the Bill Clinton investigation and hearings find themselves now holding the ball.

“We all firmly agree that we should proceed down a path of finding the truth,” Pelosi wrote Monday in a letter to colleagues.

“It is also important to know that the facts regarding holding the President accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings,” she added.

On cue, Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, announced he was subpoenaing McGahn to testify in their investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice.

“Pelosi will try to drag this out on a low simmer through 2020,” tweeted Ross Garber, a veteran impeachment lawyer.

“She wants to focus on key elections issues and not on what the House Dems are doing or not doing about impeachment.”

Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.