The impeachment of Donald Trump is a distinct possibility, worth considerable media attention. In fact, organizing all the coverage of the Trump presidency around the question of impeachability is arguably the best way to avoid normalizing it.
But some of the lamest political journalism these days consists of reporters self-importantly grilling Democratic leaders about whether impeachment is on the table or not.
Of course it’s on the table.
That’s not the interesting part.
The interesting part is why it’s not happening yet.
And while a significant subset of Democrats believe that impeachment proceedings are already overdue, there are two things to keep in mind:
1. Members of the Democratic leadership have consistently made it clear that they will wait until the move to impeach is bipartisan (and/or special counsel Robert Mueller’s finding include such astonishing lawlessness that they feel they have no choice); and
2. Impeachment in the House doesn’t get rid of Trump. You need two thirds of the Senate to remove him – which means a significant number of Republican votes.
So if journalists want to cover the drama of impeachment – and they should – the people they should be hounding for answers (on the Sunday morning shows, on the CNN panels, in the Capitol hallways, etc.) are Republican members of Congress.
How do they reconcile Trump’s behavior with the country’s need for honest, predictable leadership? How is indefinitely shutting down the government in line with a president’s obligations under the Constitution? How is Trump’s company making money from foreign governments not an unconstitutional emolument? How much corruption is simply too much? Are they good with an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal campaign-finance violation being president? How is [whatever Trump has just done] not an impeachable offense? What do they consider obstruction of justice? What do they think is impeachable?
The point is that Trump has committed any number of what could reasonably be considered impeachable offenses. So what needs to change is for at least some Republican to publicly acknowledge that.
The Democratic House will pursue oversight that may amount to a de facto impeachment inquiry, undoubtedly finding out more unsavory things about the Trump presidency. The Mueller investigation will at some point become less opaque.
So at what point will a significant number of non-suicidal Republicans break ranks from Trump and disown his profound dishonesty, corruption and contempt for the law?
That’s the exciting and important question. Start asking it now, and don’t stop.