The impeachment of Donald Trump is all of a sudden looking more like a probability – or maybe even an inevitability — rather than a possibility.
A new, specific, credible accusation of Trump’s involvement in a specific, criminal act is allowing Democrats and some media figures to go where they previously hesitated to go, despite a nearly two-year long drip-drip of corruption and criminality.
The sentencing memo for Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen filed on Friday by the U.S.Attorney’s Office in Manhattan accuses Trump of coordinating and directing two felony campaign finance violations.
Jerry Nadler, the New York Democrat who will take over the House Judiciary Committee in three and a half weeks – and therefore will make the decision about opening impeachment proceedings — said that Trump’s actions, if proven, easily qualify as high crimes and misdemeanors.
“Certainly, they would be impeachable offenses, because, even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office. That would be the — that would be an impeachable offense,” Nadler told Jake Tapper on CNN on Sunday.
That’s not quite the same as saying impeachment proceedings are imminent. “You don’t necessarily launch an impeachment against the president because he committed an impeachable offense. There are several things you have to look at,” Nadler said. “One, were there impeachable offenses committed, how many, et cetera? And, secondly, how important were they? Do they rise to the gravity where you should undertake an impeachment?”
But Nadler clearly thinks this is only the tip of the iceberg.
But the fact of the matter is that what we see from these indictments and charging statements is a much broader conspiracy against theAmerican people involving these payments, involving an attempt to influence the campaign improperly, with improper payments involving the Russians trying to get influence in the campaign, involving the president lying for an entire year about his ongoing business arrangements, business dealings with the Russians, involving obstruction of justice.
And unlike the last Congress, Nadler said, “The new Congress will not try to shield the president. We will try to get to the bottom of this, in order to serve the American people and to stop this massive conspiracy — this massive fraud on the American people.”
We have to look at these crimes, and what did the president know and when did he know about these crimes? You have to look at the Russian interference with the campaign, and what did the president know about that, and to what extent did he cooperate with that, if he did?
We have to look at his business dealings and his lying about that. We have to look at the fact that he surrounded himself with crooks. His campaign manager, his deputy campaign manager, his national security adviser, all of them, and a host, a bunch of other people, they all were meeting with the Russians. They all expressed interest in meeting again.
None of them reported it to the proper authorities. They have all been indicted for one crime or another. The president invent — created his own swamp and brought it to the White House. These are all very serious things.
Two other House Democrats were blunt. Rep. John Garamendi of California told CNN:”You might call it the opening days of an impeachment. We’re getting to that point now. We’re in this situation where high crimes and misdemeanors have occurred.
And Texas Rep.Joaquin Castro asked MSNBC: “When the evidence becomes so clear that you very likely have a criminal sitting in the Oval Office, what is the Congress left to do at that point?”
Former Richard Nixon lawyer and key Watergate figure John Dean said: “The House is going to have little choice the way this is going other than to start impeachment proceedings.”
And MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell said Friday night that “if history means anything in the Trump era, if precedent means anything in the Trump era, Donald Trump will be — must be — impeached because of the crimes prosecutors say he committed in the Michael Cohen case.”
Members of the elite political media, meanwhile, remain squeamish about the topic, refusing to take it too seriously. Some are asking a few questions about impeachment – but most are still treating it like a fringe idea.
They are certainly not treating it as the central organization principle for covering Trump from this point forward, as they ought to be.
For instance, the New York Times second-day story on Saturday didn’t really get around to the issue of impeachment until the 13th paragraph. And by Monday, mention of impeachment in the news columns was relegated to speculation that former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey was a possible contender for White House chief of staff because he “could help Mr. Trump in an impeachment fight.”
The prospect of impeachment did make it to No. 8 in the Associated Press’s list of “10 things to know for today”. And Reuters covered Nadler’s remarks. But good luck finding any real mention in Axios’s AM newsletter or Politico Playbook.
That’s not surprising. For journalists who have been covering Trump day in and day out as if he were almost normal — suppressing their entirely appropriate sense of outrage — it’s going to be hard to admit that all this time, he was committing flatly impeachable offenses, in plain sight, and they weren’t saying so.