Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: New moves in the Russia probe as the case for impeachment grows

NY Times:

As the party prepares for a midterm election that could bring a fierce backlash against a historically unpopular president, Republicans are growing more alarmed that a difficult race could be made worse without some semblance of planning to avert more discord.

Some top party officials say they are worried that the political environment may prove punishing enough to cost Republicans control of the House.

But an organization that can fend off such a landslide does not appear in the offing. In a departure from every modern White House, Mr. Trump himself largely dictates whom to back and how to support his preferred candidates. Even before tensions between the president and Senate Republicans flared back up over Mr. Moore’s candidacy, there was little regular communication between West Wing officials and Republicans overseeing the 2018 races, Republicans say.



Generic House +15 D among col+ whites, +14 overall, +7 with indies alone. Can you spell ”wave”?

Andrew Prokop/Vox notes that maybe the Mueller investigation isn’t enough:

Preet Bharara has a different take on what Michael Flynn’s plea deal means for Trump

A former US attorney doesn’t think the light charge against Flynn necessarily means he’s singing like a bird to Mueller.

Bob Bauer/Lawfare:

It appears, then, that there is emerging a defense that a number of people told foolish lies, but nothing of more global significance. The president promoted this view specifically in another post-plea statement, by tweet: It was “a shame” that Flynn had lied to the FBI, “because his actions during the transition were lawful.” He ended the tweet: “There was nothing to hide!”

But perhaps there was. On a more comprehensive view, when examining the Flynn lies within the overall context of the stream of misrepresentations and known facts about the Russia relationship with Trump and his 2016 campaign, the Flynn episode is a good reason to expect intense, continuing investigative focus on the Russia connection. That is a more plausible ground for the lying, and the president’s involvement in it, than anxiety about the propriety, legality or political fallout from conversations with the Russians only weeks before taking office—and about issues on which his position was well known. The question of what has been generically called “collusion” is what has most concerned the president, what he has most vehemently challenged, and what would most motivate him to enlist others like Flynn in a program of concealments or falsehoods. It is useful in considering this possibility to once more recall the president’s dictation of the fallacious account of the Trump Tower campaign meeting with the Russian emissaries.

All of this activity to mislead or conceal may in the end prove futile. It is now Flynn’s turn to talk. Meanwhile, the president’s lawyers are quietly preparing for the worst, by arguing that even if there was collusion, it would not be a crime. The Flynn plea may move the case much closer to the moment when the president and his legal team will be required to test that theory in the real world conditions of a grand-jury room and then a court.



Independents, Democrats Not on Board With GOP Tax Plan

While the 29% of Americans favoring the current tax plan isn’t markedly different from the 39% who favored Reagan’s tax cut plan in 1986, today’s plan sparks much more disapproval, leaving fewer Americans uncertain about the plan. Further, intensity seems to be on the side of the opposition, with Democrats paying closer attention to news about the tax proposals and appearing more unified in their opposition to the plan than Republicans are in support of it.


Look who’s got an opinion! John Yoo and Saikrishna Prakash/NY Times:

Don’t Prosecute Trump. Impeach Him.

Unfortunately, the drama over the Flynn plea and White House tweeting continues to draw time and resources away from the Constitution’s one true answer for presidential corruption: impeachment and removal from office.

If Mr. Trump has truly impeded a valid investigation, Congress should turn to impeachment, which allows for the removal of a president for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Impeachment does not require the president to commit a crime, but instead, as Hamilton explained in Federalist 65, encompasses significant misdeeds, offenses that proceed from “the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.” Such offenses, he said, “are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

The House and Senate can make their own judgments — political as well as legal — about whether the Trump team’s involvement with the Russians or Mr. Trump’s comments to Mr. Comey fit this constitutional standard. Congress can begin this course of action by forming a special committee to investigate the Russia controversy and the Trump-Comey-Flynn affair, which could also find any predicate facts for a case of impeachment. If Congress believes that these events do not merit obstruction of justice or illegal conspiracy, it should go on the record with its judgment, too — a result Mr. Trump would welcome.

Congress should not wait on a special counsel to perform its most fundamental constitutional duty of investigating and, if necessary, removing a corrupt president.


Ezra Klein/Vox:

The case for normalizing impeachment

Impeaching an unfit president has consequences. But leaving one in office could be worse.

Seth Masket/Pacific Standard:


President Donald Trump’s main legacy will likely be a series of new laws and practices designed to prevent someone like him from abusing power or even obtaining it in the first place.

“How does he get away with it?,” I am often asked.

This is an important question that goes to some substantial structural features of the American system of government. Julia Azari dealt with some of this in a post over the summer, but I’d like to delve in a bit more here.

The first thing to note is that the federal government is not designed to mete out rewards and punishments to elected officials in a rapid fashion. As Azari noted, it has built in biases toward stability and a strong presidency. If you feel that the government is not working because Trump’s latest norm violation hasn’t resulted in impeachment or prison time in his first year in office, you are holding the government to a standard that neither it nor virtually any other democratic government has ever met.

What about the mid-term elections? Could those be used to punish Trump? That’s tricky.


Ron Brownstein/Atlantic:

An 11th-Hour Raid by the Wealthiest Baby Boomers

The Republican tax plan would stick young people with the bill, right as political influence is shifting to America’s diverse younger generations.

Republicans’ strength among older whites, particularly those without college degrees and outside major urban areas, has been central to the political gains that gave the GOP unified control of the White House and Congress—and the leverage to advance a tax bill. But the demographic foundation of that political dominance is eroding.

My generation are such sweethearts.

LA Times editorial board via Orlando Sentinel:

It’s worth remembering how congressional Republicans blocked all of the stimulus proposals Democrats made after the recession ended even though the economy was still stuck in low gear. Back then, they believed that budget deficits were a horrible, awful, no good thing. Now, not so much.

Under federal budget law, however, Congress can’t just run a bigger deficit. If the tax cuts go into effect as proposed, they could trigger automatic, across-the-board cuts in a wide range of federal mandatory spending, including a 4 percent cut in Medicare. GOP leaders say they won’t let that happen; a more likely result is that Congress will agree to waive the across-the-board cuts and let the deficit grow. That would raise a different set of problems. More of the federal budget would be consumed by debt payments, and the ever-larger borrowing could push up interest rates for everyone. Ultimately, the next generation would be left to foot the bill for this Congress’ irresponsibility. That’s some victory for the GOP.

Jonathan Turley/USA Today:

Trump personal lawyer John Dowd is facing the worst possible fate of a Beltway barrister. He is about to become a noun, verb and adjective. It is a lonesome position that Robert Bork found himself 30 years ago when blocked for the Supreme Court. Now nominees are often evaluated according to whether they are “Borkable” or likely “to be borked.” A Dowd may soon be the operative term for a legal action that is so self-destructive and stupid as to compromise not only a client but yourself. More specifically, it could be simply the shorthand for “death by tweet.”


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