Political heat generated by House Democrats’ drive to impeach President Trump has ignited a war between the White House and Capitol Hill like nothing seen since Richard Nixon was levered out of office in 1974.
But unlike Nixon, Trump appears ready to fight to the bitter end.
Axios has labeled the president’s impeachment strategy “Trump’s burn-down-the-House plan.”
Trump may be “nervous” about the impeachment threat, Axios says, but he’s “throwing everything he has into this fight: refusing all cooperation, running ads to profit politically, and torching every person who stands in opposition to him.”
Trump is right to be nervous: according to the latest Washington Post-Schar School poll, a solid majority (58%) of Americans now endorse the impeachment inquiry — and almost half of all adults (49%) not only want him impeached, but for the House to call for removing him from office. Other surveys found similar numbers.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) said the polls mean “we’ve got him on the run at this point,” reports Politico.
“But Democrats acknowledge that they have for years failed to pin down Trump,” Politico says. “For every seemingly career-ending scandal of his presidency — including damning findings in the Mueller report, hush money payments to an adult-film actress and Playboy model and numerous accusations of self-dealing — public sentiment has barely budged.”
This time could be different. Many Americans appear to have been convinced by the Ukraine scandal — Trump pressuring the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on former vice president Joe Biden — that impeachment is the way forward.
In a letter Tuesday night, White House counsel Pat Cipollone announced that Trump won’t cooperate in any way with the impeachment inquiry, and denounced the House for pushing a “partisan and unconstitutional inquiry.”
The Washington Post’s James Hohmann points out that since impeachment was designed by writers of the Constitution to allow Congress to remove a president, it is “literally, by definition, a constitutional act.”
“This letter is bananas,” said Gregg Nunziata of Cipollone’s announcement. Nunziata, who has served as counsel for congressional Republicans, called the letter “A barely-lawyered temper tantrum. A middle finger to Congress and its oversight responsibilities. No member of Congress should accept it.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “signaled that Democrats were undeterred and would move ahead with their investigation,” says the Post.
“The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the President’s abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.”
“Still, blocking witnesses and ending any cooperation with the probe threatens to bog Democrats down, which could bring them political peril,” says Politico.
“A number of rank-and-file Democrats have warned that a long-drawn-out impeachment investigation carries risks for the party in a high-stakes election cycle when they’re trying to protect dozens of vulnerable incumbents. And Republicans clearly see an advantage to running out the clock.”
Federal judges have rebuked Trump for his refusal to hand over documents sought by House Democrats, including grand-jury materials used by former special counsel Bob Mueller for his report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election. As one judge put it: “This court is not prepared to roll back the tide of history.”
But the matter appears to be headed for the Supreme Court, which may have a different viewpoint on history’s tide.
“Perhaps Trump is counting on the five justices appointed by Republican presidents, including his picks Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, to protect him,” Hohmann writes for the Post. “When Nixon’s refusal to turn over White House tapes got to the high court in 1974, he lost unanimously in U.S. v. Nixon.”
But the times — and the high court — may have changed enough for the outcome to be different.
“Maybe Nixon was wrongly decided,” Kavanaugh once said, “heresy though it is to say so.”