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Impeachment Moves Ahead

Rich Galen

Thursday December 12, 2019

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  • The House Judiciary Committee has published the Articles of Impeachment with which it is charging President Donald J. Trump.

  • The solemnity with which this process is moving forward on the Democratic side reminds me of third graders acting out the annual Christmas Pageant (when that was allowed). They look terribly serious as they muscle the styrofoam burro across the grammar school stage to the cardboard manger. But, you can tell they're giggling behind their fake beards.

  • The Republicans, on the other hand, have nothing. They are forced to defend a President who actually called members of the FBI "scum" at a rally this week in Pennsylvania.

  • That should be an impeachable offense all in itself.

  • The current Articles of Impeachment - of which there are two - were released by the Committee on Monday night. You can read an annotated copy of that version HERE via CNN.

  • The two articles are (1) Abuse of Power, and (2) Obstruction of Congress.

  • The Judiciary Committee is (as of this writing) "marking up" the resolution meaning it is open for Amendment.

  • Actually, on Wednesday night, each of the 41 Members is making an opening statement, suitable for framing, typically written by the Member's staff, filled with soaring rhetoric; biting sarcasm; or, both.

  • The general rule is the Members go in seniority order - alternating between Ds and Rs. The problem is, by the time you're halfway through all the good lines have already been spoken and you are reduced to repeating something that your press secretary (who wrote it) has already called her mom in Nebraska and read it to her.

  • Unlike a tax bill, which can run to hundreds of pages and tens of thousands of words, this resolution is relatively short - about eight pages and some 1,000 words.

  • The Committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday and vote on final language to send to the House Floor. That language will be whatever the Democrats want it to be. There are 41 Members of the Committee of whom 24 are Ds and the remaining 17 are Rs. Guess who wins the roll call votes.

  • As we like to say here in Our Nation's Capital: "Elections Matter."

  • I haven't seen a final schedule, but based on my long association with the rhythms of the House it is likely the full House will debate the Articles of Impeachment early next week and vote on them just before the Congress breaks for Christmas (fake beards, Styrofoam burros and all) and leaves it to the Senate to decide how to proceed in January.

  • While all that was going on, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard from the Inspector General of the Department of Justice on his 400+ page report on who screwed up what in the Russian investigation.

  • The IG, Michael E. Horowitz, testified that there were 17 instances of mistakes or malfeasance mostly in the process of getting what are known as FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrants.

  • Unlike a warrant to put a listening device in, say, a social club in Brooklyn to listen in on bad guys plotting which can be granted by any number of local, state, or federal magistrates, a warrant to listen in on the phone calls of an American talking to a foreigner must be granted by a special judge: A judge in the FISA court.

  • The issue at hand was a warrant (and three renewals) to tap a guy named Carter Page. Page was at best a mid-level guy in the Trump campaign but his history with the Russians led the FBI to decide he needed to be investigated. And investigated. And investigated. And investigated.

  • In order to get the renewals on the wiretap, FBI agents inflated the value of the intelligence provided by Christopher Steele (remember the "Steele Dossier?") even after they were pretty sure it was all, or mostly, crap.

  • That doesn't answer two questions:
    1. Whether or not there was ample reason for the FBI to open a case in the first place.
    Horowitz says there was, William Barr, the Attorney General, says "No."

    2. What any of this has to do with Trump's having committed High Crimes and Misdemeanors

    Nothing.

  • The impeachment train is being loaded up and will be pulling out of the station within a week. Then, after the holidays, we can place our bets on what will happen in the U.S. Senate.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the text of the Articles of Impeachment and to the USA Today coverage of the Inspector General's report.

    The Mullfoto is an electric car with a clever license plate.

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