With the Impeachment Train now leaving the station and gathering speed, it may seem futile to push for another option — censure. But making the argument early may burnish censure’s appeal if the impeachment process stalls or derails — which early signs indicate it will.
Given the instigating event — Donald Trump’s phone call with the new Ukraine president asking a “favor” (that Ukraine investigate the business dealings of the son of Trump’s likely 2020 Democratic rival, Joe Biden), while putting U.S. military aid to Ukraine on hold — and given the partisan lines already being drawn, the high crime and misdemeanor required to impeach will be hard to prove.
While Democrats see wrongdoing and abuse of power, further imperiling our democracy — Trump demanding a quid pro quo for his own political gain, in exchange for nearly $400 million in military aid Ukraine badly needs in its war with Russia — Republicans see no explicit quid pro quo, claiming it “an absolute joke” (a voter) and a “nothing-burger” of a call (Sen. Lindsey Graham), a call based on the “hearsay” of a “partisan” whistleblower (memo here). Should the Democratic-controlled House draw up articles of impeachment, the Republican-controlled Senate will not likely change this tune, even despite new reporting of the machinations of Trump’s minions — personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — to secure Ukraine’s commitment to investigate the Bidens, among Trump’s other political aims.
Ahead lies the Slough of Obstruction: Administration figures said they will defy House subpoenas, meaning court delays, and now the White House says it will not cooperate in the inquiry, launching a strategy of “stall, obfuscate, attack, repeat,” per the Associated Press; in response the Democrats will cite obstruction of justice. And the hearings process itself, if we get there: When the New York Times, after declaring impeachment “the only option,” editorialized about lines of inquiry — to determine which White House and State Department staff listened in on Trump’s call, and who received a readout of the call, and who were involved in the “lock down” of the record — this heart sank: Who said what to whom and when — what would any of it mean, would any of it matter?