July 24, 2019 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Mueller Just Needs to Be Mueller
The case against Donald Trump won't fade after he testifies.
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Robert Mueller is set to testify on Capitol Hill this morning, and from what I can tell, the press has been wondering what he’ll say about his investigation into the Donald Trump campaign’s ties to Russian interference in 2016 and other high crimes.
Why all the wondering?
I don’t know.
We don’t need Mueller to tell us anything new. We need the former special counsel to say what his report says on TV for everyone to see with her own eyes, specifically that Trump committed crimes for which anyone who is not president would be convicted.
Do the Democrats have the guts to impeach? Or is the problem hubris?
We should expect him to say what he’s already said, and we should be satisfied with his saying it, because that’s what the House Democrats need if they are going to open an impeachment inquiry in the fall. The American people really do need to hear what Mueller has to say even if he’s said it already. The case against Trump isn’t going to fade afterward. It should pick up pace—if the House Democrats have the guts.
That’s still an open question.
It’s been months since the Democrats took the House yet we haven’t seen significant outcomes. This is in part because Trump has waged a war of total resistance, blocking the Democrats from accessing the people and documents they need to conduct oversight of the executive. This is also in part because the Democrats are conducting due diligence, legally and politically speaking. All of this takes time, months even.
Nancy Pelosi is not against impeachment, contrary to what her critics say. She has been clear that it’s on the table, and that if the facts compel it, impeachment is where the House is headed. This sounds good, this always sounds good, until you remember that the facts of Trump’s case are already pointing in the direction of impeachment, that they have been pointing that way since Mueller released his report in March.
Yet the House Speaker continues to resist opening an impeachment inquiry. An inquiry is not a vote to impeach. It’s a legal and political process by which a House panel conducts an investigation for the public’s benefit. The hold up, therefore, doesn’t make sense. Pelosi says she’s protecting vulnerable members, and there’s something to be said for that. But are they so vulnerable she can’t open an inquiry? That seems unlikely. For this reason, it’s an open question whether the Democrats have the guts.
But part of me worries the issue isn’t courage. Part of me worries it’s hubris.
When the time comes to pass spending legislation, this president nearly always gives Pelosi what she wants, which is more funding for her party’s top priorities. When he doesn’t, as when he shut down the government, he pays for it in the end. Trump didn’t bother testing her during the most recent round of negotiations. He caved instantly, agreeing to increase federal spending by $320 billion. At this point, Pelosi may have gotten more out of this president than Barack Obama got out of the Tea Party.
Pelosi has said Trump is good for the Democratic Party. In addition to giving in to her demands, on account of being a terrible deal-maker, Trump’s rank unfitness is fueling a Democratic Party renaissance, rebuilding it from the ground up, in ways not seen while Obama was president. Pelosi may be thinking that as long as Trump is in the White House, the party will glean fulsome benefits. From a purely partisan view, that’s a very good reason to put off an impeachment inquiry for as long as possible.
But at what point does partisan politics give way to the clear moral imperative to deal with Trump? Is Pelosi so confident that he will lose next year that she’s willing to put off making the call to impeach? I hope not. If this president loses—or rather as direct result of losing—the weeks between Election Day 2020 and Inauguration Day 2021 will be the most dangerous of our lifetimes. An election cannot prevent that.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.