Thursday, September 19, 2019

How the Corey Lewandowski circus makes impeachment even less likely Chris Cillizza

Updated 7:46 PM ET, Wed September 18, 2019
Corey Lewandowski, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, testifies to the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday, September 17, 2019, in Washington.

(CNN)Impeaching Donald Trump has always been a long shot. But never more so than after the debacle that was the House Judiciary Committee hearing featuring Corey Lewandowski on Tuesday.
From the start, the hearing, which was the first conducted under the rules of an impeachment investigation, was everything people hate about politics. Lewandowski, who ran President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign for a time, was a decidedly hostile witness. Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-New York, seemed flummoxed by Lewandowski's intransigence. The proceedings were stopped while someone provided Lewandowski a copy of the Mueller report. Ranking member Doug Collins, R-Georgia, claimed that there were serious ethics breaches occurring in Nadler's use of more than five minutes to question the witness. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, compared Lewandowski to a fish being gutted with a spoon.

It was a mess. A circus. Undignified. Unwatchable. (I get paid to watch, so I watched.) It was also a preview of what a full-blown effort to impeach Trump might look like -- and just how destructive, politically speaking, such an effort would be.
Start here: A majority of the Democratic House caucus -- 136 and counting -- are now on the record in support of beginning impeachment proceedings against Trump. But, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California continues to be firmly against the idea, insisting that trying to impeach Trump plays right into the President's hands -- especially given that there simply aren't the votes in the Republican-controlled Senate to remove the President even if he is impeached by the House.

Pelosi's stance is informed, at least in part, by polling that suggests a majority of Americans simply do not believe Trump should be impeached. A Monmouth University poll conducted last month showed that nearly 6 in 10 people oppose the impeachment and removal of Trump. That finding is broadly consistent with lots and lots of other polling data that shows that while Trump is not popular, neither is impeaching him.
The conundrum for Pelosi -- and the Democratic Party more broadly -- is also contained within that Monmouth poll: 72% of self-identified Democrats support impeachment and removal for Trump.
So, the public at large is clearly opposed to impeachment, but the party's liberal base wants it. And Pelosi has found herself stuck between Scylla and Charybdis.
Tuesday's disaster in the House Judiciary Committee almost certainly makes Pelosi's life a bit easier -- at least for the near future. No one -- not even the staunchest liberal who wanted Trump impeached the day after he was sworn in -- could look at what happened on Tuesday and think: "Oh yeah -- the American people will definitely react well to months and months of this sort of stuff on their TVs." Not. One. Person.

What the political impact of the circus that impeachment would be is difficult to predict exactly. But, what we know -- judging from Tuesday -- is that it would be a circus. Republicans would not play nice. They would obstruct and fight and engage in political point-scoring the likes of which we haven't seen since the last time the House tried to impeach a president back in the late 1990s.
In short: Impeachment proceedings would turn Washington into a blood bath for the next 14 months. And the blood would splatter on everyone -- Republican, Democrat, liberal, moderate and conservative. No one would be spared.

And, if past is prologue, that sort of pox on all of your houses could well serve the political interests of none other than Donald John Trump. Trump's greatest strength, politically speaking, is that he remains perceived as a political outsider despite the fact that he is, well, president. The more he can portray the coming election as an "us vs. them," where the "them" is Washington elites bent on doing whatever it takes to stop him from accomplishing his agenda for the American people, the better for his chances.

Remember this too: Given Trump's lowly job approval numbers, his only path to victory is by painting himself as the devil you know. You might not like him personally but you know what you are getting, goes that argument. The more down in the mud the Democrats -- and by extension, their eventual nominee -- get, the easier it is for Trump to make that case.
Tuesday's hearing was everything that people -- of all political stripes -- hate about Washington. That it turned -- and turned quickly -- into such a farce should give Democrats significant pause as they weigh whether or not to head down the impeachment road.

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