Here’s how Trump will fight impeachment
Trump’s 100-plus tweet tsunami a couple of days before House Democrats unveiled their two articles of impeachment against him boiled down to the by-now standard Trump line: The whole business is a hoax, sham, vindictive Democratic hit job and, most importantly, can’t be proved. Seventeen witnesses and hundreds of pages of materials laid out a compelling case that Trump did exactly what the Democrats said: abused executive power and did a hatchet job, courtesy of the Ukraine, on potential Democratic opponent Joe Biden. Trump banks that this is hardly the iron-clad proof that will oust him.
He’s right. The Democrats have given him virtually the same playbook that he used to beat back the Mueller investigation. He won that fight, namely no charge of obstruction or anything else from Mueller, with his three-year relentless and ruthless ramming into the public and media lexicon the words and notions of “no collusion,” “witch hunt” and “hoax,” about the report.
The two articles of impeachment of Trump are long on inferential, circumstantial, and legal and Constitutional citing of what constitutes impeachable offenses. Unfortunately, that’s not the smoking-gun proof that Trump demanded Ukraine smear Biden for alleged family illicit business dealings involving the country. Strong inference is that Trump wanted exactly that, but that’s not the hard proof for a Senate conviction, even if the Senate was not tightly micromanaged by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s been almost as loud as Trump in ridiculing the impeachment push.
The only thing that will throw a wrench into this is a document or tape that implicates Trump in demanding a quid pro quo of aid for digging up dirt on Biden. Or, a White House official privy to and complicit in the Ukraine dealing would have to give direct testimony under oath that Trump did in fact demand the quid pro quo. Trump moved fast to make sure that didn’t happen by forbidding any White House staffer to testify before the two House impeachment inquiry committees. He refused all committee requests to turn over related documents, invoking executive privilege. He has the courts behind him on this. They have never upended the right of presidents to invoke executive privilege if they could make the case that release of documents would imperil national security or impede ongoing investigations — criminal or otherwise.
Trump has time on his side. There is no set timetable when the Senate must start calling witnesses, taking testimony, and combing through the impeachment documents. When McConnell finally decides to start Senate proceedings, Trump is not obliged to present any defense of his actions. This will open the door even wider for the McConnell and GOP senators to blast the impeachment articles as nothing more than unproven hearsay brought by vengeful Democrats. With only months to the presidential election, this ploy will almost certainly have much resonance with legions of voters who buy the Trump and the GOP line that it’s a Democratic hatchet job. It will also resonate with a lot more who think impeachment is a bad idea, especially in the handful of swing states.
Trump will milk that sentiment for all its worth. He’ll shout until his lungs give out to well-orchestrated rallies of his faithful that it’s a con job by Democrats and that they can’t prove that any law was broken, let alone anything that could rise to the high bar of high crimes and misdemeanors.
Trump tipped one more ploy that he’ll use. He’ll go into full campaign mode, repeatedly reminding voters that the economy is doing great and that he’s the one who made that happen. He’ll also have something he didn’t have much of in 2016, and that’s lot of campaign cash. He’ll use every penny of it to unleash attack after malicious attack on whichever Democrat emerges from the pack of contenders as his opponent. If that opponent is Biden, he can then endlessly finger-point to the Ukraine dealings as proof of Biden’s alleged corruption.
It will be the ultimate tailor-made distraction that Trump so dearly loves to deflect attention and criticism from his astoundingly corrupt administration.
Trump’s game plan to beat back impeachment is firmly in place. It worked with Mueller and there’s little reason to think it won’t work again.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.