Despite an enormous amount of evidence that Donald Trump is guilty of a multitude of crimes and ethical transgressions — including numerous episodes of obstruction of justice, courting foreign interference in our elections, blatant disregard for the Emoluments Clause, campaign finance violations and more — Nancy Pelosi has steadfastly refused to consider impeaching the president.
The conventional wisdom among the political punditry has been to praise Pelosi for her foresight, accepting as fact the notion that impeaching Trump after the Mueller report was released would have somehow made him more popular or fired up his base. This despite the fact that a) his base is already fired up; b) there’s no evidence to support this; c) impeaching Bill Clinton didn’t actually hurt the Republicans, if you examine election results; and, perhaps most importantly, d) there are indeed consequences to inaction, which we’re seeing now.
Trump knows he’s not going to be impeached, and that is indeed a very, very bad thing. It gives him carte blanche: He can seek foreign assistance for his campaign in the next election (as he indicated to George Stephanopoulos he would do, and as Rudy Giuliani is openly doing in Ukraine); he can suppress testimony to Congress (Don McGahn, Corey Lewandowski, and others); he can disregard subpoenas, use the Justice Department as a club against his political enemies, hide potentially illicit financial affairs, cancel primaries, leave our election systems vulnerable and perhaps worse.
It should come as a surprise to no one that Trump would try to collude with a foreign power to get dirt on a political opponent. First off, he’s done it before; and secondly, he’s Trump.
This is only going to get worse. Pelosi’s egregious miscalculation could come back to haunt the Democrats (and our nation) in very serious ways, not just because the speaker has allowed the president to be above the law, but because Trump is now like an unleashed dog who knows that no matter who he bites or what he relieves himself on, there will be no consequences.
Unrestrained, what’s to stop him from using the FBI, IRS, and (as we’re seeing) even the EPA in ways that Nixon could’ve only dreamed of? What’s to prevent him from using the military to serve his own political ends? Does Nancy Pelosi really put it beyond Trump to start a major conflagration in order to save his own hide?
Trump is well aware of the fact that he needs to stay in office in order to avoid possible prosecution. He also knows that he’s going to be aided and abetted by Fox News and the various talking heads of right-wing media no matter what he does. “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” he once said. And, if it would help him even just a little, he’d be happy to oblige.
Rosenfeld lives on Long Island.