The other day I suggested the second bite at impeachment after Robert Mueller was running aground due to the news that a) the Ukrainians didn’t know American aid had been suspended when the president made his supposedly threatening phone call and b) House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff had lied about his involvement with the whistleblower charge. Both still stand, but developments on Thursday suggest that while Trump is hardly any closer to ultimately being removed from office by the Senate, he is now in greater danger than he was before of being impeached by the House.
By going onto the White House lawn and calling on the government of China to investigate his political rival Joe Biden’s son Hunter, Donald Trump has doubled down on a strategy to make it appear as though his use of the presidency to root out the supposed corruption of the former vice president is not only normal but acceptable. After all, if it had been OK once (in the Ukrainian case), it would be OK twice (in the China case)—maybe even more acceptable if you are one of the people who is either falling for or choosing to fall for the patently ludicrous idea that Trump cares a whit about such corruption.
But in this case, what’s sauce for the Republican defend-Trump-at-all-costs goose is also sauce for the impeach-Trump-any-way-you-can Democratic gander. The doubling down now gives Democrats two fronts on which to wage impeachment war on the grounds that the president is using the powers of his office for naked personal political gain.
If you don’t think that’s impeachable, that’s fine for you, but remember: The House of Representatives has a free hand to write up articles of impeachment in which it can define such actions as “high crimes” or “misdemeanors” and therefore worthy of impeachment. Trump is playing right into the hands of those who wish to see the next year dominated by this. So maybe people are right that he wants to be impeached. But if he does, he’s a fool.
One final point. Trump and his defenders have taken to calling what is going on a “coup.” That’s absurd. A coup is an extra-legal seizure of power. The rules governing impeachment and removal have been part and parcel of this country’s DNA since the Constitution was ratified. It is the very opposite of a coup. I know Trump says whatever he wants to say and has learned that there will always be a posse behind him no matter what. But removal following impeachment would be the literal opposite of a coup.