Sunday, November 24, 2019

John Cassidy summarizes impeachment developments

New Yorker’s John Cassidy asks Where Does Impeachment Go From Here in his Sunday morning email column.

More hearings?

Schiff was calm, forensic, and articulate. Many Democrats regard Nadler as having less of a sure hand. The seventy-two-year-old has reportedly been consulting closely with Schiff and Pelosi, but he hasn’t yet given any public indication of how many hearings he will hold, or even whether his committee will confine itself to the Ukraine matter when it starts to draw up articles of impeachment. The Judiciary Committee is also looking into whether Trump obstructed justice during the Mueller investigation, and a court is expected to rule on Monday whether Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, will be forced to testify in that probe. There have been rumors that the Democrats might include a Mueller-related charge in the articles of impeachment, although pursuing that matter along with Ukraine could conceivably slow things down. Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn reported that “Democrats still haven’t made a final decision on whether to include any impeachment articles tied to the special counsel’s findings.”

On Friday, Schiff told the Los Angeles Times that the Intelligence Committee could conceivably hold more hearings as well. “We’re not foreclosing the possibility of additional depositions or hearings,” Schiff said, “But we’re also not willing to wait months and months and let them play rope-a-dope with us in the courts.” He added that the committee will now work “both tracks” of its Ukraine inquiry, continuing to investigate what happened while also “beginning to put our report together.”

What Trumpublicans want

… Although Graham and other close Trump allies initially called for the Senate to vote to dismiss any articles of impeachment as soon as they are sent to the upper chamber, without a trial, this idea ran into opposition from G.O.P. senators facing tough election races next year, and from Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate. That proposal now appears to have been dropped in favor of a short trial that would last a couple of weeks, or so. “The prospect of an abbreviated trial is viewed by several Senate Republicans as a favorable middle ground—substantial enough to give the proceedings credence without risking greater damage to Trump by dragging on too long,” the Washington Post reported.

It isn’t clear how Trump regards this prospect. In public, he is all bluster and braggadocio. On Friday, when he called into his favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends,” for a lengthy interview, he said, “Frankly, I want a trial.”…

Behind the scenes, however, Trump’s mood is reportedly much less upbeat. Citing sources close to him, the Washington Post wrote that he “is ’miserable’ about the impeachment inquiry and has pushed to dismiss the proceedings right away.” …

In addition to dismissing the damning evidence presented in the House hearings and trying to whip Fox News into line, Trump is reaching out to some Republican senators whose votes he may need in January. …

Investigating the investigators

Judging by what we have seen over the past couple of days, the other key element of the Trump-G.O.P. strategy will be diversion. For weeks now, the President and his allies have been hyping the upcoming release of a report from Michael Horowitz, the inspector general of the Justice Department, into the origins of the Mueller investigation. During his interview on “Fox & Friends,” on Friday, Trump said that Horowitz’s report would be “historic,” adding, “What you’re going to see, I predict, will perhaps be the biggest scandal in the history of our country.” Later on Friday, a number of major news organizations published reports about Horowitz’s findings based on briefings from unnamed U.S. officials.

These accounts said Horowitz had discovered that a low-level F.B.I. lawyer altered an e-mail that other F.B.I. officials used as part of their efforts to get a secret intelligence court to renew a wiretap order on Carter Page, a foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign. The Washington Post wrote that Horowitz has referred this finding to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation, and the lawyer, whose name is Kevin Clinesmith, is no longer working for the Bureau. Evidently, this was what Trump had been talking about. However, the news reports also said the inspector general’s report will debunk some of the broader conspiracy theories that Trump and his allies have been promoting. Horowitz concluded that the Page-wiretap application “still had a proper legal and factual basis, and, more broadly, that FBI officials did not act improperly in opening the Russia investigation,” according to the Post story. The Times wrote that Horowitz “made no finding of politically biased actions by top officials Mr. Trump has vilified like the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey; Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy who temporarily ran the bureau after the president fired Mr. Comey in 2017; and Peter Strzok, a former top counterintelligence agent.” This news won’t prevent Trump, and his supporters, from seizing on the Horowitz report and twisting its findings, of course. As the impeachment process continues, they will try anything to create a distraction.

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