Don’t Count on Impeachment from Republicans

The resignation of Mike Flynn from his position as National Security Director after the briefest stint of anyone ever to hold the job, with the various missteps by President Trump and his minions in explaining the situation to the public, have left many persons openly discussing the possibility of impeaching Trump.

The bad news: don’t hold your breath. The obvious historical precedent suggests that the Republicans will not impeach the Donald.

Discussing the possibility of impeaching Trump is entirely reasonable and condign. The gravamen of the complaint against Flynn is that, at a minimum, he talked to the Russian ambassador to the United States at some length before Trump took office, which may have constituted a violation of federal law by itself, then lied to Vice President Pence about those conversations.

We now know that the FBI recorded Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador, and that acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned someone in the administration that Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russians because he had lied to Pence. We found out recently — happy Valentine’s Day! — that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials have been tracking extensive communications between members of Trump’s presidential campaign and other Trump associates, on one hand, and various Russian government figures, on the other, for more than a year. At least one report suggests that the notorious Steele dossier, which a British former intelligence officer compiled about the information Russians had accumulated about the Donald, contains the claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin offered Trump an 11 billion dollar bribe in the form of a stake in the Russian oil company Rosneft in return for lifting the sanctions President Obama imposed on Russia for its actions in Ukraine and Crimea.

At the moment, such allegations remain entirely unproven, but they are entirely consistent with what else we know about the Donald, and the entire situation merits much more investigation, however unlikely that is under the currently Republican leadership in Congress. Any such investigation seems, at the moment, highly likely to reveal any number of actions that would amply justify impeaching the Donald.

The response of Republicans in the House of Representatives during the impeachment of Richard Nixon strongly suggests, however, that no amount of evidence will persuade the current crop to pursue impeachment of Donald Trump. The Constitution gives the House “the sole power of impeachment.” No other body can do it. His cabinet officers can declare Trump unfit to serve and hand the powers of “acting President” to Pence under the 25th amendment to the Constitution.

But, in 1974, President Nixon pursued to the Supreme Court his attempt to stop the special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation from seeing transcripts of his recorded Oval Office conversations. He lost: the Court ordered him to turn the transcripts over. He offered up a partial version of the documents, but even that portion contained overwhelming evidence that Nixon had ordered the cover up of his 1972 presidential campaign’s participation in the break in at the Watergate Hotel.

Despite the availability of clear evidence of Nixon’s guilt, most of the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted against the articles of impeachment.

Party loyalty is the Republicans’ only strength. It seemed to work for them during the Obama administration, when they uniformly opposed anything Obama suggested, no matter how sane and reasonable. At the moment, it seems highly unlikely that they will break ranks and decide to impeach a Republican President, no matter the evidence of his crimes.

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