2018 is not 1998 and Trump is not Bill Clinton

2018 is not 1998 and Trump is not Bill Clinton

by digby

Jonathan Chait thinks Democrats should not impeach the president:

So what’s the point of all the investigation? The point is to establish legal accountability for the president. Well-functioning democracies don’t have criminal oligarchies running the country with legal impunity. The kind of deep systemic corruption Trump is implementing, in which establishing a political alliance with a ruling family is a key step in amassing and protecting wealth, depends on selective legal enforcement. More to the point, it requires business partners. Maybe Donald Trump can’t be hauled off to prison, but his partners can. And that prospect can scare off the collaborators Trump needs.

Second, and more to the point, even if Robert Mueller can’t kick Trump out of the White House directly and the Senate won’t, there’s a body of people who can: the 2020 electorate. And the Trump investigations are building a powerful case that will be brought to bear on that election.

Probably the most important indicator of public opinion with regard to the Mueller probe is a poll from last spring. It found that nearly three-fifths of the public is unaware that Mueller has uncovered any crimes at all. Mueller has already produced indictments or guilty pleas from eight Americans, with more obviously looming.

The breadth of Trump’s legal exposure exceeds that of any president in American history. It is so vast that it is hard to comprehend. Some, and possibly all, of the following appear to have colluded with Russia on behalf of the Trump campaign: Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Michael Cohen. Trump has been doing business with the criminal underworld in Russia and elsewhere for years, the secrets of which may be revealed by Mueller, or by House Democrats obtaining his tax returns. Federal prosecutors are investigating whether he violated campaign-finance laws by directing hush money to various mistresses. The state of New York is investigating the Trump Foundation for alleged misappropriation of funds and the Trump Organization for decades-long tax fraud. He is being sued for violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. He is also being sued for fraud.

And this is just the information we know so far, which has come out despite a Congress dedicated to protecting him from investigation, a benefit he will enjoy for only a few more weeks.

I agree that he's unlikely to be convicted in the Senate. Republicans are all accomplices in his crimes. But I have serious doubts that if the House pursued impeachment that it would blow back on them when you consider that Trump is extremely unpopular, his administration is a blazing dumpster fire in every way and the overwhelming amount of criminal behavior he's suspected of dwarfs anything we've ever seen before. In fact, it's entirely likely that it would actually blowback on Republicans for failing to do their duty.

Obviously, we don't know yet whether there is enough evidence to back an impeachment in the House. That's what the investigations will show. Democrats don't have to make that conclusion in advance. They should just follow the evidence. But they also shouldn't fight the last war and think that this will hurt them the way it hurt the GOP for impeaching Clinton. It's a very different situation.

Also, they ended up with the presidency in 2000 anyway, IIRC.  History isn't the greatest guide in these political times.