Trump is child caught with hand in cookie jar
BERKELEY — Donald Trump will almost certainly be impeached in the House, possibly as soon as Thanksgiving. The odds are rising that he’ll be convicted in the Senate.
There are two important questions, and the answers to both are becoming more obvious to more Americans every day.
The first is whether asking a foreign power to dig up dirt on a political opponent is an impeachable offense. The answer is indubitably yes.
When the framers of the Constitution gave Congress the power to impeach a president, one of the high crimes they had in mind was acceding to what Alexander Hamilton called “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” James Madison argued for impeachment lest a president “betray his trust to foreign powers.”
The second question is whether Trump did this. The answer is also an unqualified yes. In the published version of his phone conversation with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump asks for the “favor” of digging up dirt on Joe Biden.
Everything Trump has tried to do to divert attention from these two facts is further undermining his case and his credibility.
He’s been acting like the spoiled child who gets caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar — denying his hand was there, blaming the person who caught him, blaming the cookie jar, blaming the cookie, throwing a tantrum, daring his parents to do anything about it.
Trump denies he ever asked Zelenskiy for help, claiming it’s all hearsay. He blames the whistleblower. He likens the witnesses who informed the whistleblower to “spies.” He blames it on a “political hack job.” He accuses Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the person now in charge of the investigation, of “treason.” He calls it a “coup” and suggests that if he’s removed from office there will be a civil war. Trump dares the political system to stop him by publicly calling on China to help dig up dirt on Biden’s son.
Trump’s off-the-wall accusations, tantrums and defiance illustrate the need for parental control. Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are the adults, somber and restrained. The more Trump is the out-of-control child, the more they look like responsible parents.
A majority of Americans now support his impeachment.
Trump refuses to allow any administration official to appear before the House committees considering impeachment. No matter, because Congress doesn’t need more evidence. The cookie is in plain sight. Everyone has seen Trump’s hand in the jar.
House Democrats will vote to impeach, but will Senate Republicans vote to convict? Until now that seemed implausible. Democrats hold 47 Senate seats. If they all vote to convict, 20 Republicans would have to join them in order to have the necessary two-thirds of the Senate.
What was implausible is now possible. If the vote were held in secret, says Republican strategist Mike Murphy, 30 Republicans would vote for impeachment. Former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake puts the likely number at 35.
Will they go public? There are 23 Republican senators up for re-election next fall. Most are from red states that support Trump. But in a few months they’ll be safe from primary challenges. They’ll be free to vote him out.
Others — Susan Collins of Maine, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio, for example — are from purple states where they’ll be challenged by a Democrat and will have every incentive to vote Trump out. Trump has no leverage over long-serving senators planning to retire, such as Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.
Meanwhile, Trump is losing support among responsible Senate Republicans such as Mitt Romney of Utah, who calls Trump’s actions “troubling in the extreme”; Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, who urges colleagues not to “circle the wagons”: and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina, who vows to “get to the bottom” of what happened.
Trump remains hugely popular among Republican voters, but most of them care more about the economy than about Trump, and the economy is slowing — in large part because of Trump’s trade wars.
The manufacturing sector is contracting. Spending on warehouses, offices and factories is falling. Agriculture is taking a big hit. A fifth of the economy is effectively in recession. In September, wage growth slowed to its weakest pace in more than a year.
It’s still unlikely Trump will be pushed out of office before the 2020 election, but the odds are rising by the day. And Trump knows it, which is causing him to behave more like a wild child who deserves to be impeached.
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Robert Reich’s latest book is “The Common Good,” and his newest documentary is “Saving Capitalism.”