Analysis by Reporting San Diego
May 17, 2017 (San Diego) When Senator John. McCain said that events in Washington are approaching Watergate level, he was speaking of impeachment. Congressman Justin Amash has also said that this scandal, could, if the evidence is there, lead to the impeachment of the President of the United States. Neither of them is a democrat, however, both have been critics of President Donald Trump. So their words deserve some temperance on our part.
However, the calls for a special prosecutor have started in the Republican Party. We will not list the Democrats. Their language is perhaps apocalyptic, but also politically charged, since they do have something to gain. When Representative Steve Knight, a Republican from California posted this on his official website, we knew something had changed:
Rep. Knight’s Statement on Russia
Washington, DC, May 16, 2017 | 0 comments
Representative Knight made the following statement regarding the Russian allegations:
“It is time for an investigation of Russia’s intervention in the U.S. Election. There is too much at stake at home and abroad to not take this step. There is so much conflicting information from many sources; Americans deserve the opportunity to learn the truth. As stated before, I continue to support any efforts done by the House Intelligence Committee and join many of my colleagues in supporting the assignment of a special prosecutor to take over the ongoing FBI investigation.”
Knight is nowhere close to any leadership position. He is a back bencher. Calling for a special prosecutor is a big deal, even with all the problems that these prosecutors have had over the years. There has been abuse and a lot of self-aggrandizement. Why after the Bill Clinton saga they lost quite a bit of favor in DC.
Knight is not alone. ABC 7 from Denver is reporting that three of the Republican state delegation are also calling for a special prosecutor.
Any reports of sensitive information being revealed to the Russians is concerning,” said Sen. Cory Gardner Tuesday. “We should always be cautious when discussing issues of national security with them—classified or not.”
This also was followed by Representative Doug Lamborn who said this:
“That said, I believe that it is important for the president to put a stop to the swirling media narratives around his actions by sharing the complete truth with the nation.”
Why does this matter? After all, these are backbenchers. It matters because it took backbenchers for the GOP to turn on Richard Nixon for their leadership to get it. Then, like now, there was a moment when these backbenchers realized that their political future was at stake.
There are differences from Watergate. Control of the Hill is firmly in the hands of Republicans. So Democrats speaking of a nation being tested, and a special prosecutor is little more than ripples in the water. Until Republicans realize their own political future is at risk, they will not turn on the White House.
We may very well be at that moment. The Hill is also reporting that Republicans are starting to talk about impeachment.
Republicans are beginning to talk of the possibility that President Trump could face impeachment after reports that he pressed ousted FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
While Republicans are choosing their words carefully, the fact that impeachment is even being mentioned is notable in Washington’s polarized political environment.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) on Wednesday said if the reports about Trump’s pressure on Comey are true, it would merit impeachment.
So we might have crossed that point when Republicans enter survival mode. The first signs of this came on May 10, when according to Politico, some House Republicans were starting to consider this as a necessity.
It is easy to be a cynic about the process. In theory, the Founding Fathers gave us that tool to remove an out of control executive. Whatever you think of Richard Nixon, that impeachment was far more of a political act than a legal one. So was the impeachment of Bill Clinton. The latter was even more obvious. Republicans wanted revenge for Nixon. In both cases, the other party controlled the House and the Senate.
In this case it would be a Republican House initiating the process. This is still is a political act, from a political class far more concerned about their political careers than the country, and will further divide the country. It is of note that some Republicans never abandoned Nixon. On a personal note, I met a Nixon supporter as late as 2001, who was convinced his impeachment was a media witch hunt, and that Nixon was the best president that the country ever had.
The same process will happen with Trump. Some people will be loyal to him until the end. However, it looks as the Congress is starting to turn on him. Survival is a very strong motivator. Regardless, the agenda that he ran on is now frozen.
There are things that came out of the impeachment of Richard Nixon that still affects us today. Roger Ailes, former head of FOX News, was a Nixon loyalist, and Fox started as a counter weight to the so called liberal media. Media deregulation, it could be argued, was a direct consequence of the impeachment. It is at that moment that some conservatives started to go into a bunker mentality, convinced that all institutions were out to get them.
The Clinton impeachment had a similar effect with Democrats. They started to suspect that Republicans and conservatives were out to get them and to discount all they had to say. In this case, it will be a Republican House, since Democrats will be there for votes, but they are the minority party. We have to wonder if this will help the country start to heal from a multigenerational divide that has only gotten worse over the years? Or will republicans take Trump down since he was never one of them? Or will this be just an exercise in self-preservation? The best case scenario is actually a combination.
Regardless, we are now in the depths of a scandal that will be historic, however, it turns out. It will also change the nature of the country.
Oh and a note on Russia. One of their objectives is to discredit western elections and democracy and to create chaos. This is exactly what is happening. However, an orderly transition of power will go against their message that democracy is fundamentally flawed. We may very well be going down that road.