The Mueller Report Aftermath - Sunday Political Brunch April 28, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – “It’s not over ‘til it’s over,” baseball legend Yogi Berra famously said. And that yardstick works in politics as well as sports. President Trump believes Special Counsel Robert Mueller gave him a clean bill of health on the issues of collusion and obstruction. While the former may be clear, the latter has lingering doubters. The legal battle may be over, but the political fight is already underway. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Impeach; Don’t Impeach” – The Democrats have a problem. Although they have a big majority in the House (where impeachment must originate), it is truly a party divided. Many Democrats want to begin impeachment articles against President Trump, but key leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi do not. The main argument against, is that while Democrats probably have the votes to impeach the president in the House, they have nowhere near the 67 votes in the Republican-controlled Senate to remove him from office. Plus, there’s an election in 18 months where voters can dispatch him from the White House if they wish. Impeachment may not be practical here.

“Elizabeth Warren Strategy” – On the other hand, campaigning for impeachment may offer a big plus for some candidates. One of the biggest backers of impeachment is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts, who is also running for president. She and Trump despise each other with a passion. "The accountability for the President lies through Congress. And that's the impeachment process," Warren said this week. Strategically this is a good issue for her. She can lobby hard for impeachment, even though she knows full-well it’s unlikely to ever happen. Since she’s in the Senate, she can nudge the House all she wants to start the process, with no real backlash. With 20 candidates in the race, each Democrat needs to find a way to stand out from the pack. This is Warren’s spot.

“The Bill Clinton Experience” – “Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it,” is a tried and true old saying. I’m not sure who originated it, but it’s money. In 1998, Republicans may have over-played their hand in impeaching President Clinton. While much of the public was outraged over Bill Clinton’s personal indiscretions, many people did not think it rose to removing him from office. Republicans pressed ahead, but it backfired as a campaign issue in the 1998 midterm election, where the party out of power in the White House usually gains seats in Congress. Instead, Republicans suffered a net loss of five seats, and the rank and file rebelled, forcing Gingrich to resign as House Speaker, and from his seat in the House.

“Now and Then” – Yes there are similarities to 1998 and 2019, but there are differences, too. In 1998, Republicans held both chambers of Congress. In 2019, the House is controlled by Democrats and the Senate by Republicans with a 53-47 margin. But remember, the Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to remove an impeached president from office. In 1999, only 45 Senators (all Republicans) voted to remove Bill Clinton from office for perjury, and 50 voted (again all Republican), to remove him for perjury. They came far short of 67, and my guess is the same shortage would occur for President Trump. Undoing an election by the people is a tough task to accomplish.

“Finding 67?” – Well if you couldn’t find 67 Senators to remove Bill Clinton in 1999, how do you find 67 this year? Assuming all 47 Democrats currently in the U.S. Senate vote to remove Trump from office, you still need 20 Republicans to join them. The task gets even tougher when Democrats start to jump ship, and one already has. "The Mueller Report did not go down the path of impeachment. After two years of some of the top lawmakers, and the Department of Justice investigating this for two years, did not find that type of a cause," Sen. Joe Manchin (D) West Virginia, said to me this week.

“Let’s Get to Work!” – One of the common mantras of Democrats during Bill Clinton’s impeachment was essentially, “We have far more serious work in Washington we need to attend to.” Fast forward to 2019 and a lot of Republicans are singing the same tune about focusing on issues that matter to people. "Increase jobs, get an infrastructure package, help with the drug crisis, all the things that we've worked on. But if we get off into this circus of impeachment hearings, I think would be counterproductive," Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, (R) West Virginia told me this week.

“Biden In” – The other big political news this week was the entrance of former Vice President Joe Biden into the presidential race in 2020. Biden announced his candidacy in a polished campaign video distributed online. Right now, polling indicates that Biden is the clear frontrunner among Democrats, but it’s early and polls could be very volatile with 20 candidates. Maybe I’m old-school when it comes to campaign kick-offs, but I think Biden should have had a big rally with live broadcasts on the cable networks and online. Announcing via video is akin to “phoning it in.” Look at 76, one of his biggest tasks will be to convince voters that he has the vigor and energy for not only the campaign, but for the grueling job of president. The video announcement is by no means a fatal mistake, but I think a seasoned pro with 44 years of public service as Biden has, the kick-off was met with a thud. We’ll see!

Impeachment, yes or no? Click the comment button and let me know your vote and why?

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV Stations serving West Virginia and the five surrounding states, and much of the Washington, D.C. media market. He hosts “Inside West Virginia Politics” every Sunday across the state network.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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