Now that Special Counsel Mueller has spoken publicly about his findings, the time has come for a discussion about what know. While the understanding of what we know and don’t know might become clearer as we move forward, a number of facts have been pretty thoroughly established. For example, we know the Trump campaign courted assistance from a hostile foreign power, and we know that behavior did not rise to the level of a chargeable conspiracy. We also know that Trump obstructed justice so egregiously that his office is the only thing that saved him from being charged with multiple felonies. These things are known, and unchallenged in legitimate circles. And with no additional information of any kind, we have enough to form the strongest case for impeachment in American history. The second-best case is miles behind, yet even though two presidents have been impeached previously – and another certainly would have been if he hadn’t resigned first – today’s House seems to want nothing to do with it. I believe their reticence has to do with a misunderstanding of the certainties involved.
The argument against impeachment seems to hinge on a few key beliefs. The first is that impeaching the president, only to have the Senate acquit him, will grant him leverage in the next election, perhaps even enough to win. This argument is not without merit, as this is a real risk, but to believe it is the likely outcome, we must believe that after hours and hours of must-see testimony in the House, all of it painting a vivid and irrefutable picture of the most lawless president in American history, that every single Senator in the GOP will deny the obvious and abandon all reason just to back a president that virtually none of them ever wanted. We would also have to believe that the impeachment proceedings in totality would have less persuasive power than the president’s eventual exoneration narrative – that the American people would lift him up and re-elect him even after being forced to see him for precisely what he is, a two-bit mobster. It’s possible, but not nearly as likely as many claim today, and the price the GOP might pay for blind party loyalty could just as easily be a boon for Democrats at the polls. It all hinges on the strength of the case brought before the American people, and that case looks stronger and stronger with each passing millisecond.
But these are the certainties we know. They are not the certainties we have not yet considered. For example, we are certain that Trump will do anything, legal or otherwise, to save himself. He’ll lie, cheat, steal, weaponize his office and those under him, engage hostile foreign powers to aid him, perhaps even go to war. The only relevant certainty when it comes to predicting Trump’s behavior is that we can be certain that there is nothing he will not do. Those weighing the potential harm that might be done by a divisive impeachment process fail to recognize that this harm could pale in comparison to what might happen should we pass on impeachment and give Trump another year and a half to sow fear and hate with impunity. And let us not forget – at the start of the 2016 election cycle, democrats were pretty much in the same place they are now, roughly 10 points ahead of a buffoon, and certain that they have him right where they want him. The stage is set.
That said, the scariest certainties are yet to come. We know there is nothing Trump will not do to save himself, and there is no price the rest of us might have to pay that will matter to him at all. We know there are no less than 14 investigations into his criminality, and we can be nearly certain there are charges coming. What other certainties can we draw from what we know?
Would he manufacture an investigation into his opponent, perhaps even charge her with a crime at the most politically opportune moment? Might he start a war to get a bump in the polls? Could he re-establish his relationship with Russian hackers to help him leverage deep fakes and increasingly clever new forms of fake news? Will our media fall down the same rabbit hole they did in 2016, when they abandoned journalism for ratings? Could Congress and the American people really let all of this happen a second time?