On impeachment, Warren just stole the show from her dodging Democratic rivals – NBC News

On impeachment, Warren just stole the show from her dodging Democratic rivals - NBC News

From total exoneration to total bullsh**: Trump lingers on damning report

While most fellow 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls ducked and dived to find safe ground — and party elders solemnly warned against over-reach — Sen. Elizabeth Warren stepped boldly out into the open late Friday and called on the House to begin an impeachment process against President Donald Trump based on special counsel Robert Muellers report.

The Massachusetts senator and 2020 Democratic presidential contender slammed Trump for having “welcomed” the help of a “hostile” foreign government and having obstructed the probe into an attack on an American election.

“To ignore a Presidents repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country,” Warren tweeted. “The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.”

Weeks before anyone else could read the report, he tried to close the door on obstruction, implying falsely that Mueller meant to leave the decision to him. In a news conference on Thursday, Barr repeatedly said that Mueller had found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mueller, however, never examined the case through the lens of collusion, which isnt a term in criminal law: In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of collusion, the report says. Barr claimed that evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation. The report is overstuffed with evidence of corrupt motives.

It was a rare moment in a crowded and unsettled primary: A seized opportunity for a candidate to cut through the campaign trail cacophony and define the terms of a debate that will rage throughout the contest.

Once in office, Trump sought to thwart the investigation into what Russia had done. He believed — correctly, as it happens — that Russias actions cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory. The report says he may also have feared that what appears to be his advance notice of the WikiLeaks dumps of hacked Democratic emails and his campaigns now infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian emissaries offering dirt on Hillary Clinton could be seen as criminal activity by the President, his campaign, or his family. Further, although the President publicly stated during and after the election that he had no connection to Russia, his company was negotiating to build a Trump Tower Moscow throughout most of the campaign, a fact that could have hurt him politically if it got out.

With her party torn between its impulses — to avoid the potential political death spiral of a failed impeachment even though it may be popular with the energized base and to hold Trump accountable for what Democrats see as gross abuses — Warren framed pursuing House hearings as a matter of conscience.

He and his team have now given us the clearest picture yet of the murky events surrounding Trumps ascension. The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion, they wrote. The Trump campaign welcomed this interference, but, we now know, did not assist in it. Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

In other words, she sided with that base of core party supporters, defined its cause in moral terms and hollered the message from the mountaintop.

But most people arent going to read the nearly 500-page report. Republicans have already seized on Barrs words — and on the lack of criminal charges in a document that was never going to contain criminal charges — to claim total vindication for Trump. The presidents manifest disloyalty to the country in trying to halt an investigation into a foreign attack on an American election is, to the right, of no account. Nor are the counterintelligence implications of Muellers findings, which arent part of the report. In the eyes of the presidents supporters, his campaign did not participate in the criminal conspiracy that helped elect him, so no more needs to be said.

Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon. Hes worse

Thats classic Warren. And in a period when shes focused her campaign on serious policy proposals, it is a timely reminder to progressives that they like her politics, too.

It was probably naïve to think that Mueller could cut through such a thick web of falsity. But if anyone could have, it would have been him, the embodiment of a set of old-fashioned virtues that still ostensibly command bipartisan respect. Over the months of the investigation, he came to represent for many an ideal of manliness that rebuked Trumps insecure machismo. He was a war hero, Trump was a shirker. He was a public servant, Trump a venal con man. He was honest, Trump a liar. America doesnt have a Walter Cronkite anymore, a person whose word is trusted implicitly across the political spectrum. Mueller was as close as we were going to get.

“Not doubting her sincerity here but its also probably a very shrewd primary move to leap out front on this,” tweeted David Axelrod, who served as a top campaign and White House adviser to President Barack Obama.

A campaign official told NBC News Warren believed it was the right course of action after reading Muellers report during a flight home from the campaign trail Thursday. Nevertheless, she will remain focused on her policy platform, not impeachment, the official said.

This quickly became our new normal. Once Republicans realized the power they could amass by collaborating in Trumpian mendacity, most of them gleefully abandoned any sense of epistemological solidarity with their fellow Americans. Theres a reason gaslighting has become one of the most overused terms of the Trump era. And perhaps the biggest lie of all was that Muellers investigation, rather than the events that precipitated it, was the real scandal, an attempt to frame Trump rather than an effort to get to the bottom of an assault on our democracy.

And yet, calling for the removal of a president — especially when so many other Democrats are reluctant to do so (shortly before Warren issued her statement, fellow senator and 2020 hopeful Amy Klobuchar said, “I think youve seen all the senators are very cautious about talking about this because we would be the jury if there was any kind of an action brought over from the House”) — isnt a particularly forgettable act.

At the same time, the new administration unleashed on the public a degrading cacophony of lies, of the sort many of us associate with authoritarian countries like Russia. The day after the new president was sworn in, Sean Spicer, Trumps first press secretary, stood in the White House briefing room and insisted that the inauguration crowd had been unprecedented in size. This was terrifying, despite the petty stupidity of the untruth, because Americans were not yet used to being told to believe government diktats over the clear evidence of their senses.

Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has endorsed Warren, said the political left is outraged over the handling of the Mueller report by Attorney General William Barr and the response by the White House.

Most Democrats, conversely, have facts on their side, but not conviction. They are reluctant to begin an impeachment inquiry into Trump because majorities, in polls, dont support it, and there is no Republican buy-in. Whether or not this is politically wise, failing to impeach would be a grave abdication. If you want people to believe that the misdeeds enumerated in the Mueller report are serious, you have to act like it. To not even try to impeach Trump is to collaborate in the Trumpian fiction that he has done nothing impeachable.

Warrens move could help her capitalize on that energy at a time when several of her rivals have been garnering more attention — as well as bigger fundraising hauls and higher poll numbers — in the early months of the primary campaign.

Numerous commentators have said that the report reads like a road map for impeachment, and in a remotely functional country thats what it would be. Mueller makes it clear that because of the Office of Legal Counsels opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted, we determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes. Instead, the evidence is laid out for congressional action, or even for prosecutors to indict after Trump leaves office.

“If you think about the oxygen that is now in the room for the entire Russia-Mueller-impeachment swirl of stuff, for weeks or months, every time someone comes out publicly and agrees that we need to begin impeachment hearings, people will remember that Elizabeth Warren is the presidential candidate that got that started,” Green said.

While Green noted Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., introduced the House resolution that would be a likely vehicle for beginning impeachment hearings, Warrens status as a significant player in the primary will likely make her announcement a major marker if the House moves forward against the president.

ImagePresident Trump in Florida, hours after the release of the Mueller report.CreditCreditSarah Silbiger/The New York TimesIn 2017, a brilliant visual effects expert created a video montage called Its Mueller Time! Trump Administration Season Ending. Set to the crooning of the 1963 song From Russia With Love, it shows F.B.I. agents rounding up the central figures who brought us Donald Trumps presidency, culminating in Trump himself being led away with his hands behind his back.

At nearly the same time as Warren spoke out, fellow progressive Bernie Sanders, the polling leader among candidates currently in the race, waved off press questions about the Mueller report in South Carolina.

On Friday, Senator Elizabeth Warren took the lead among Democratic presidential candidates in calling for impeachment proceedings to begin. Others should follow her. Mueller has given us the truth of what Trump has done, and in that sense the hokey faith the Resistance put in him was not misplaced. But right now only a political fight can make that truth matter.

On Thursday, former Rep. Beto ORourke, D-Texas, who said during his Senate campaign last year against Ted Cruz that he would vote to impeach Trump, framed the question as one for Congress or the voters — rather than presidential candidates.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, said he was “pretty sure” Trump “deserves to be impeached” but deferred to Congress, while former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castor called it “perfectly reasonable” for lawmakers to begin impeachment proceedings.

Michelle Goldberg has been an Opinion columnist since 2017. She is the author of several books about politics, religion and women’s rights, and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2018 for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. @michelleinbklyn

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said on MSNBCs “All In with Chris Hayes” on Thursday that she wants to hear what Mueller has to say about his report before passing judgment on whether impeachment proceedings should begin — similar to the position of her fellow Californian, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, perhaps the most important player in any impeachment drama.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest A cardboard cutout of US attorney general William Barr is seen as protesters hold signs outside the White House. Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters So Trump has no compunction in violating every tacit convention that kept (most of) his predecessors in check. To take one example, presidents are meant to remain at arms length from the department of justice, allowing the attorney general to act with independence. Richard Nixon crossed that line, and eventually paid for it with his job. But its clear that Trump regards the attorney general as his personal lawyer, and Barr has been happy to play that role – spinning for Trump on Thursday as if he were a hack spokesman rather than the nations senior law officer. Earlier, Barr had briefed the White House on the Mueller reports contents, when all precedent commanded that he keep it confidential. Meanwhile, even as Barr bowdlerised his report, Mueller observed the very proprieties that Trump and Barr had trashed, and stayed dutifully silent.

The reticence of some Warrens rivals suggests her decision to walk point on the left flank of the impeachment front carries some risk, even if its a quick path to rally support from liberals.

It will not only put her squarely back in Trumps field of vision, but it also will expose her to friendly political fire from Democrats who believe pursuing his ouster is the surest way to ensure his re-election.

There is a fundamental mismatch here: Trump cutting every corner, trampling on every ethical guideline, while Mueller and those like him primly weigh up the legal niceties and nuances. They are thumbing through the rulebook of the monastery while in front of them a mafia don creates havoc. This is the authoritarian populists great strength, and not only in the US: they break all the rules, banking on the fact that their opponents will stick to them and be weaker as a result. It is the perennial villains advantage: they play dirty, knowing youll play nice. Theyre doing it again now, claiming exoneration when Mueller pointedly does not exonerate Trump of obstruction and when he has revealed so much that is, as the lawyers have it, lawful but awful.

Still, Warren, often cited as the heir to Edward M. Kennedy as the liberal lion of the Senate, has shown that her brand can be most compelling when a healthy dose of politics is mixed in with her substance.

Thats what happened when GOP senators cited the chambers rules to take away Warrens speaking privileges during a 2017 debate over Trumps nomination of Jeff Sessions to be attorney general. Warren had read from a letter criticizing Sessions that had been written by Coretta Scott King in 1986.

Read more The trouble is, while Democrats might have the votes to impeach Trump – that is, charge him – in the House, they do not have the two-thirds majority, 67 senators, they would need to convict him in the Senate, thereby removing him from office. Republicans are more tribal than they were in Nixons day: they have repeatedly shown that they will simply rally behind their leader, no matter what hes done. Trump would stay in office, just as Bill Clinton did in 1999. That near certain prospect of failure, coupled with the fact that impeachment would devour Democrats energies and consume their agenda when theyd rather be talking about jobs or healthcare, makes it politically unappealing.

Since Sessions was a member of the Senate at the time of the nomination fight, Warren was told she couldnt malign him under the rules. The Senate voted to prevent her from speaking again on Sessions nomination.

Now we know why. For the Mueller report is packed with damning proof that Trump and his team cheered on the sweeping and systematic Russian attempt to sway the 2016 presidential election, that they expected to benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, that they actively planned campaign strategy around each new release of emails hacked from Democrat headquarters by Russian intelligence, emails helpfully funnelled through WikiLeaks. (Mueller has the documents that show Julian Assange telling his acolytes as early as November 2015 that we believe it would be much better for GOP [the Republicans] to win.)

“She was warned. She was given an explanation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said afterward. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Read more The 448-page Mueller report, even in its redacted form – pockmarked with blacked-out names and passages – serves up enough ammunition to destroy this president, whether through impeachment proceedings this year or by denying him re-election in 2020. Its pages confirm one scandal after another, supplying the detailed, hard facts to vindicate the very claims that Trump breezily dismissed at the time as fake news. That Mueller did not take the final step – accusing the US president of both collusion with the Russians and obstruction of justice – tells its own story, which well come to. But it was hardly for lack of evidence.

Progressives quickly adopted McConnells disparaging phrase as a symbol for strong women. It was even condensed to “She Persisted” for the title of a bestselling book by Chelsea Clinton.

It remains to be seen whether Warrens impeachment call will give her a major boost. But there arent many opportunities to stand out from the crowd, and she took this one without hesitation.

And yet Mueller has not failed. He has handed Congress that revolver along with a full clip of ammunition, thereby giving the Democratic-controlled House a dilemma. Should it impeach Donald Trump on the basis of the evidence Mueller has set out? After all, the constitution demands action against a president guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, a category not confined to prosecutable felonies. Muellers report includes a heavy hint that it is Congresss task to apply our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.

Jonathan Allen is a Washington-based national political reporter for NBC News who focuses on the presidency.

Why, then, does Mueller not come out with it and charge Trump with obstruction? Part of the answer is that Mueller was swayed by the doctrine that says a sitting president cannot be indicted. Given that, we determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the president committed crimes. This is breathtaking logic, which amounts to: Because we knew we couldnt indict Trump for crimes, we made sure not to find any.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on Friday urged Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump, suggesting that the newly released Mueller report had laid out the groundwork for Congress to act.

But this is about more than a mere difference of personalities, with gangster Trump running rings around his boy-scout pursuers. Its about a difference in political culture. For the Trump presidency, exposed in all its ugliness in the Mueller report, is predicated on a willingness to shred the rules and norms that sustain liberal democracy – and it relies for its success on the unwillingness of liberal democracys guardians to do the same.

In a series of tweets, the presidential hopeful cited the report as evidence of obstruction of justice and collusion, adding that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had “put the next step in the hands of Congress.”

“The Mueller report lays out facts showing that a hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election to help Donald Trump and Donald Trump welcomed that help,” she said in one tweet. “Once elected, Donald Trump obstructed the investigation into that attack.”

On the contrary, the evidence is copious. No wonder Trumps hand-picked attorney general, William Barr, held on to the report so long, issuing only his own, highly selective four-page summary last month, a document that included not so much as a single full sentence from Muellers text, holding up instead a half-line here or a fragment there that might show the president in a favourable light.

Warren went on to cite the report, which was released in full, with redactions, on Thursday. In it, Mueller says that “Congress has the authority to prohibit a president’s corrupt use of his authority.”

The attorney general has protected his boss, and impeachment looks futile. But the Democrats still have a duty to act


Mueller’s report was released into Washington’s partisan scrum Thursday morning. It showed investigators did not find evidence of collusion between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and Russia – a conclusion reiterated by Attorney General Bill Barr last month and again in the run-up to the document release.

But the report did lay out an array of actions taken by the president that were examined as part of the investigation’s obstruction inquiry.

Democrats continue to insist that Barr’s summary last month misled the American people, and that the fuller report, even with its multitude of redactions, told a very different story.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., slammed Barr for what he said was an attempt “to put a positive spin for the president on the special counsel's findings.”

“If the special counsel, as he made clear, had found evidence exonerating the president, he would have said so. He did not. He left that issue to the Congress of the United States, and we will need to consider it,” Schiff said at a press conference Thursday.

Warren went a step further on Friday with her insistence that congressmen “do their constitutional duty.”

“That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.”

She feared that ignoring a president’s “repeated efforts to obstruct” justice would inflict “lasting damage” on American politics.

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