Adam Schiff Gives Democrats Unexpected Advice on Impeaching President Trump

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks after a closed meeting on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Last month, the New York Times ran a story that said the the GOP was going to use the possible, or rather probable, impeachment of President Trump an issue in the mid-terms.

As Republican leaders scramble to stave off a Democratic wave or at least mitigate their party’s losses in November, a strategy is emerging on the right for how to energize conservatives and drive a wedge between the anti-Trump left and moderate voters: warn that Democrats will immediately move to impeach President Trump if they capture the House.

What began last year as blaring political hyperbole on the right — the stuff of bold-lettered direct mail fund-raising pitches from little-known groups warning of a looming American “coup” — is now steadily drifting into the main currents of the 2018 message for Republicans.

But the mere fact that Republicans are talking by early spring about running on an impeachment threat reveals the depth of their challenge going into this fall’s election. The first midterm campaign of a new administration is typically difficult for the president’s party. But the tempestuous Mr. Trump has compounded the Republicans’ difficulties by generating an unending stream of made-for-TV controversies that overshadow their policy achievements and the health of the economy.

There are voices in the Republican Party who believe that it is too soon to sound the alarm, and that doing so will come off as overly panicked. Indeed, what is striking about the politics of impeachment is that both parties are divided over how to navigate the issue in the midterm campaign.

Polls show most voters are not supportive of impeachment at the moment, but if Mr. Trump were to fire the White House special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, the country would become about evenly divided on the question.

I think that is a fair assessment, though I think that firing Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller would have less impact today than it did 60 or even 30 days ago. Many Democrats are pushing impeachment in a big way but those with their eyes on the bigger prize, control of the House, are counselling caution. One of those is Adam Schiff. While Schiff is a complete partisan (NTTAWWT) and a pathological liar as well as a leaker of classified documents, he has enough common sense to see the danger of making 2018 a referendum on impeachment.

Yet, one of the most important lessons I learned during the Porteous case was that the legal standard for what constitutes a high crime or misdemeanor is less important than the practical and political standard that must be met in any impeachment case. And while that political standard cannot be easily or uniformly defined, I think in the present context it means the following: Was the president’s conduct so incompatible with the office he holds that Democratic and Republican members of Congress can make the case to their constituents that they were obligated to remove him?

If they cannot, if impeachment is seen by a substantial part of the country as merely an effort to nullify an election by other means, there will be no impeachment, no matter how high the crime or serious the misdemeanor.

This is a very high bar, and it should be. Impeachment is an extraordinary remedy, not to be entertained lightly, and in the case of a president, would mean putting the country through a deeply wrenching process. It is instead a remedy that must be considered soberly, mindful of the fact that removing a president from office should be the recourse for only the most serious transgressions.

Should the facts warrant impeachment, that case will be made more difficult politically if part of the country feels that removing Mr. Trump is the result that some of their fellow Americans were wishing for all along.

He’s said similar things on Fox News.

Two points to consider. The first and most obvious point is that Schiff is lying about Democrat intentions. If they get the House they will, without a shadow of a doubt, begin impeachment proceedings. Their base will accept nothing less. The second point is that polling shows him this is a third rail with a lot of people and Schiff would rather not energize them to turn out to vote in November.

Schiff is making a smart tactical move by taking his case to Fox and, presumably, to Trump’s base. Whether they believe him or not is questionable. But the GOP had better not take him at his word and act like impeachment is imminent because if the Democrats win, it will be and everyone will see that Schiff could give a fat rat’s patootie about appearances of overturning an election.

I’ve just joined Facebook. Drop by and join the fun there.