With Trump and his gang doing everything they can to prevent the Democrats from using the Mueller Report to begin exposing to the American people the truth about Trump’s serious wrong-doing, there’s a need for a strategy to defeat this Trumpian obstructionism.
Let me propose one potentially valuable part of such a strategy – good hearings that can begin immediately.
The Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee would like to be conducting such hearings, to educate the American people about the present challenge we face because of the conduct of President Trump. They’d hoped to be moving ahead, beginning with the testimony first of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and second that of former White House Counsel Don McGahn.
For how long will Trump’s efforts succeed in blocking any such testimony? According to Neil Katyal – the man who wrote the special counsel regulations – the “optimistic” answer to that question — using the example of Nixon’s attempt to block release of the Watergate tapes — is that the bogus Trumpian obstacles would be removed by the Supreme Court in perhaps four months. If that’s the optimistic, “expedited” scenario, it’s still not good enough.
Fortunately, Nadler’s Democrats have a good way forward that Trump and Barr cannot delay.
Combining Two Ideas
I’ve been stewing about this problem a lot lately, and now two of the ideas I’ve stewed over have come together in an idea for a move the Democrats can make to defeat the Trumpian effort to obstruct Nadler’s Committee’s effort to present Trump’s wrong-doing to the public.
The first idea was that the House Judiciary Committee could
“bring in highly respected people of integrity — John Danforth, George Mitchell, Jimmy Carter, David Frum, Lawrence Tribe — to speak at hearings about the significance of Trump’s ongoing attack on the system of checks and balances. Have such respected figures talk to the American people about the dangers of a president who shows such repeated contempt for the law, and who is trampling on the very fundamental principle that the executive branch is answerable to the legislative branch.”
Their testimony would be entirely relevant to the needs of this dangerous moment, and I can imagine no basis on which Trump and Barr could even delay their testifying.
The second idea was that
“The Democrats should be trumpeting repeatedly a letter that has gathered more than 800 signatures from former U.S. Attorneys and Justice Department officials — Republican and Democratic, across several decades…”
In this letter, an extraordinary group of people (who might be called “The Voice of Integrity in the System of American Justice”) did something extraordinary: they came together in their many hundreds to deliver a message to the American people about the nature of their President and his wrong-doing.
These 800+ former justice officials, who have devoted their lives to the rule of law, declare in their letter that
“Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”
By implication, the message from this cream of the American world of Justice could be restated thus:
“The Mueller Report (even in its redacted form) shows us quite clearly – not a close call — that the President has committed multiple felonies that call for indictment. And since a ‘sitting President” can only be held accountable for his felonies by Congress, by implication, this President’s crimes call for Congress to impeach him.”
These two ideas combine to show how Nadler’s Committee could hold hearings now – hearings that Trump could not impede and that would accomplish much of what the Democrats had hoped to achieve with the (now delayed) testimony of Mueller and McGahn.
Bringing the “Voice of Integrity in American Justice” onto American TV
The other day, on TV, I heard one of those 800+ former officials in the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorneys interviewed. This gentleman had been appointed by President Reagan to one major position in the Justice system, and then to a still higher position by the first President Bush. In other words, in partisan terms, he’s a Republican. But more profoundly, he’s a believer in the Constitution and the rule of law. And it was very moving to hear him talk about the unacceptable and dangerous nature of the presidential conduct described in the Mueller Report.
There must be a whole gaggle of such decent Republicans who have signed that letter because they want the American people to recognize the threat to the rule of law and to the integrity of the constitutional order to which they have devoted their entire lives.
Hold nationally televised hearings featuring a selection of these people (plus perhaps other non-Republican signatories of special stature).
- They’ve read the Mueller Report, and they can testify to what it shows. They understand what Mueller’s team was trying to show Congress and the American people. And they have the professional expertise to tell Americans what Mueller would likely tell them if his testimony weren’t being blocked.
- Asked what evidence persuaded them that Trump had committed multiple felonies, they can even read passages from the Report. They could bring Don McGahn’s crucial testimony to life – even if the Judiciary Committee cannot yet get McGahn in front of the cameras to deliver that testimony publicly – and they can tell the public the significance of what McGahn reports.
- Asked why they, as Republicans, would sign such a letter, they can explain to the American people why the need to protect the nation against such presidential lawlessness is not a partisan issue, but an issue of American patriotism.
In other words, they can channel both Mueller and McGahn. They can, indirectly, expose how it is the congressional Republicans — not the Democrats – who are putting partisan considerations above the good of the nation.
And – so far as I can see – there is no way that the Trumpian obstructionists can prevent or delay their testimony.