The House Democrats are frustrated, very frustrated.
They’ve gotten themselves entangled in procedural disputes with the Trump administration that no one particularly cares about and that might be litigated for a very long time.
A Washington Post report over the weekend spelled out how stymied Democrats feel and that they are considering, via the power of inherent contempt, fining or arresting people who are defying their subpoenas.
This is very unlikely to happen, obviously. A New York Times report a few days ago on the Democrats’ exasperation said they might consider having hearings with empty chairs. Oh, the drama.
Jerry Nadler, per the Times, “conceded that the White House strategy had thus far succeeded in tamping down energy around the Mueller report and investigations.”
This misstates the dynamic, though: It’s not so much President Trump as Nancy Pelosi who has succeeded in lowering the temperature around the Mueller report. By taking impeachment off the table, or at least pushing it off to some indeterminate point in the future, the speaker has denied Democrats their most consequential recourse and limited her caucus to staging a theatrical attempt to find facts that have already been found.
Robert Mueller spent two years hunting down every possible lead related to collusion and obstruction, with considerable powers and investigate resources at his disposal. He had more or less full cooperation from the White House, except he didn’t get to interview the president directly. Then he wrote everything down in a 400-plus page report that Bill Barr released to Congress to do with as it chooses.
Never has a House majority had so much work done for it and been so remarkably ungrateful about it.
The Democrats want to talk to Don McGahn, and maybe they will ultimately prevail in court to get his testimony, but what’s the point? McGahn talked extensively to Mueller, and surely everything remotely damaging is already in the report.
All of this, coupled with the obsessive focus on Bill Barr, is a gigantic misdirection, a simulacrum of action to substitute for the lack of anything real happening.
The Democrats are at their most pathetic begging Robert Mueller to testify. They obviously hope for compelling TV from his testimony, but after disgorging himself of an exhaustive report, what do they possibly think Mueller can tell them that he hasn’t already shared, except his opinions that he shouldn’t, as a prosecutor, be airing publicly?
Congress has the report, and now it is up to it to decide. But it doesn’t want to.
It’s too painful to admit that the Mueller report was a bust on Russia and that the obstruction material, while damaging to Trump, is hardly a slam dunk; that the public doesn’t support impeachment; that if the House goes through with it anyway, it will end with a whimper in the Senate; and that it’s better for Democrats to focus on beating Trump in 2020 than a forlorn impeachment.
So instead, Democrats make a show of getting to the bottom of matters that have been as thoroughly investigated as anything in our recent politics.
Perhaps Democrats will get so frustrated by Trump’s non-cooperation that they will end up impeaching him over that — which will surely make it the first time a House majority has impeached someone over its playacting to avoid impeachment.
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