I hope my nearest and dearest — the ones who are going crazy over this — have been listening to Julian Epstein who was with Ari Melber on MSNBC just now. Epstein, once legal counsel to the Democratic House Judiciary Committee, talked about what the Committee is doing, why it’s doing what it’s doing and how it’s proceeding effectively, i.e., building a careful and precise case to take to the court.
Epstein also made a strong point: even if the Judiciary Committee heads wanted to begin an official impeachment investigation, they don’t have the votes for it and such a defeat in that vote would be bad for them and would be celebrated by Trump.
My thinking: Nancy Pelosi understands how to count. She is counting what support for impeachment she has on the Committee and in the whole House. If, as is reported currently, less than 100 Democrats are backing impeachment, that vote would not be won. (There are 235 Democratic members in the House. A vote which would win virtually no Republicans — except maybe Amash — would require 218 Democrats to pass.)
Beyond that, Pelosi is talking to her members about what sort of response they’re getting when they are home doing town hall meetings. She knows she needs a majority of voters, as well as that majority in the House, to support an impeachment inquiry.
And more than all of that: if you think Pelosi is — as some rather hysterical pundits are having it — against impeachment, you have not been listening to her televised comments in various milieu. She has calmly, methodically and rationally destroyed Trump. The things she’s said have been radical. It seems clear to me she’s telling the country — and especially her members and voters — what is utterly criminal about Trump, what in his tenure and character make him impeachable.
She has made it clear she wants Trump out of office and she’s watching, waiting and counting support for how it will be taken care of.
By the way, I hope you’ve all heard what Ted Lieu said about the administration blanket claim for “absolute immunity” — “It’s not a thing.” All lawyers knowledgeable about government have agreed. The Trump administration lawyers can’t win such a claim in court and the courts will decide this quickly.
Here’s an early dialogue between one of Hope Hicks’ many, many lawyers and Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, as he questioned Hicks:
Chairman Nadler.And what about after the President took office? Was Mr.Lewandowski hired as an executive branch official?
Mr. Purpura.Objection. Mr.Chairman, I–
Chairman Nadler.It’s a matter of public record. Why would you object?
Mr. Purpura.Mr.Chairman, as we explained in Mr.Cipollone’s letter yesterday, as a matter of longstanding executive branch precedent in the Department of Justice practice and advice, as a former senior adviser to the President, Ms.Hicks may not be compelled to speak about events that occurred during her service as a senior adviser to the President. That question touched upon that area.
Chairman Nadler.With all due respect, that is absolute nonsense as a matter of law.
I think the House Committee Democrats neatly set up Hicks with such questions on matters in the public records. As Jerry pointed out, an objection was absurd. Do you not think a court will also find it absurd?
Here’s my own impression of this whole business. There are two sets of lawyers fighting this out — which is exactly what happens in any legal case. As an old friend of mine explained once in a different context, “They’re finding out how many guns they’ve got and how many guns we’ve got. The one who’s got the most guns is gonna win.”
The Trump gang has, in my semi-knowledgeable opinion, a really mediocre or worse bunch of lawyers. Very few guns. On the other hand, the lawyers on the House Judiciary Committee and the lawyers supporting and advising them are very, very smart. They know law and they know government.
I’d been surprised at the number of lawyers who are going publicly crazy over the lack of an impeachment announcement and have been so critical of the House committees facing this utterly lawless executive branch. But now I think I understand. There are two kinds of lawyers involved in this discussion. One group consists of revered law professors, constitutional scholars and private attorneys. The other group consists of lawyers who work in government and are or have been politicians and/or prosecutors.
The first group knows what is constitutionally, ethically and morally demanded.
The second group knows the complexity involved in a huge legal action which is inevitably entwined with a huge political action.