Robert Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday was the very definition of anti-climax. After months of frantic build-up by the ‘Resistance’ (“At last, Mueller is going to nail Trump to the wall!”) Mueller merely noted — mildly, haltingly but rightly — that his report laid out evidence of obstruction of justice, and that is up to the House of Representatives to decide whether to use this evidence to impeach the president or not. This is precisely what we knew months ago. The report he released had already said all he had to say. His testimony was never going to add anything to this. Democratic leaders knew this, but they used the months of legal machinations that it took to secure his testimony as a craven way to avoid their responsibility for this decision a little longer. So we are now where we were before: does the House want to bring articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice in the ‘Russiagate’ case, or not? Mueller cannot and never could do this for them.
Of course, as I have noted here and elsewhere ad nauseam, I believe there are many other, more clear-cut grounds for impeachment that the House could bring right now, without any reference to Mueller’s investigation at all. This includes violations of emoluments clause, as Trump personally and directly enriches himself every day with money from foreign states and their bagmen at his resorts and hotels: a clear violation of the constitution. The Democrats decided instead to put all their eggs in Mueller’s basket. OK, fine. He made his investigation into what was ultimately a very small corner of Trump’s vast heap of high crimes and misdemeanors; and from this, he produced evidence to impeach on grounds of obstruction of justice, as Trump and his minions clearly tried to impede the investigation into a conspiracy with the Russians. (A conspiracy for which, he again noted, he found no evidence. But obstruction of an official investigation is still a serious crime in itself, whatever the veracity of the underlying cause for the investigation.)
So: will the House take the single egg of obstruction in Mueller’s basket (from which they once hoped to procure a cornucopia of conspiracy charges) — or not? I think we already have our answer. They could have used his report to initiate impeachment on these grounds long ago. His testimony added nothing to what they already had. (And they knew it wouldn’t.) The only real effect of the hearings was to prove what we already knew: that the Democrats are not as good at inquisitorial theater as the Republicans (“Benghazi!!!”).
Nancy Pelosi continues to insist that there can be no impeachment without charges so flagrant that even hardcore extremist Republicans will go along with them. And she knows — as we all do — that there will never be any charges, however flagrant or heinous, that will compel these extremists to support impeachment.** She has adopted a threshold for impeachment that she knows will not and cannot ever be reached. So there will be no impeachment of Trump by this House as long as Pelosi and her cohort are in charge. Not for obstruction; not for emoluments; not for anything.
Yet anything less than impeachment benefits Trump. Anything less than the formal, legal, relentless, daily, national hearings on his malfeasance that impeachment would produce benefits Trump. Yes, he knows, as we all know, that the Republican-led Senate will not vote to convict him. But it is undeniable that an impeachment process that would compel constant media attention to the careful, documented laying out of his crimes and misdemeanors would inflict heavy political damage and force the Trumpists to expend enormous amounts of time, energy, money and attention to fighting the charges. It would also be the right and dutiful thing to do, if that matters.
It doesn’t take any special insight to see this. It’s as plain as the scorching sun beating down on our burning world at midday. I can see it. You can see it. And it is certain that Nancy Pelosi and her cohorts can see it. So we come back to the same question that’s vexed our politics since the Democrats wrested back control of the House: why doesn’t Nancy Pelosi and her cohorts do anything about it?
And, tragically, we can only keep coming back to the same answer: because THEY DO NOT WANT TO. And so until our ‘Resistance’ recognizes this incontrovertible fact, we will continue on a course that seems more and more likely to end in Trump’s re-election — and the unimaginable horrors that will follow.
(**Just as there would never have been any Democratic support for impeaching Barack Obama for, say, colluding with Saudi Arabia to impose mass death, famine and other war crimes on Yemen.)