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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We're a long way from a resolution to all this

by digby

Greg Sargent astutely notes that despite the fact that some Republicans are nodding slightly in the direction of becoming more that a little bit "troubled" by the latest news about Trump's potential criminality, it's entirely possible that it will make no difference:

In an interview with me, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.) — the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee — pointed out that establishing obstruction of justice requires demonstrating corrupt intent to obstruct, a high bar to clear. But more to the point, Schiff noted that, even if this were established, Republicans would then have the option of taking refuge in the argument that this should not override the election results — rather than conceding that their party’s president poses a serious enough threat to our democracy to warrant doing that.

“The more practical question is whether there is bipartisan recognition that the seriousness of that conduct warrants removal,” Schiff told me. He added that you could have “a sizable part of the country feel this is an effort to nullify the election by other means. That’s probably the most fundamental question of whether you’re meeting the standard of High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

“It’s been a constant refrain already by the president that the whole Russia investigation exists only because Democrats are mad about losing in the electoral college,” Schiff said. “Ultimately, the practical test for the Congress — and perhaps it is most pressing for the GOP members — is whether they think the conduct rises to the point that they can make the case back home that this is not about re-litigating the election; this is about a fundamental threat to our democracy.”

The wiggle room in proving obstruction of justice could end up meaning that, even if we come a lot closer to establishing that Trump did interfere in the manner reports have indicated, we could still genuinely fall short of proving his clear intent. More cynically, even if that standard is reasonably cleared, Republicans could take refuge in this murkiness and then buttress this position by arguing that we should not re-litigate the election simply due to Democratic sour grapes.

Remember, Trump has been assaulting our democracy on multiple fronts since the beginning, and Republicans have mostly looked the other way. There is an unfortunate tendency to cover these various stories as separate from one another, but Trump has abused his power in multiple ways that, ultimately, all trace back to the same autocratic impulse. In addition to the Russia affair, there’s also the unprecedented, middle-finger-brandishing lack of transparency around his tax returns, even as he backs tax reform that would deliver his family a massive windfall; the laughably substandard ethics arrangement for his businesses and the perpetuation of likely emoluments clause violations; and the continued use of diplomatic business to promote Mar-a-Lago and steer cash into his pockets.

All of these — taken along with the alleged interference in ongoing probes — add up to a level of autocratic, above-the-law contempt for our democracy that is larger than the sum of its parts. And Republicans have effectively shrugged off most of it for as long as possible. So it’s plausible that even if obstruction of justice were reasonably well established, they’d find a way to evade taking it to its logical conclusion.

“Up until this point, the Republican leadership have wanted to continue to prop up this president, and probably feel that their fortunes are tied to his,” Schiff said. “At the end of the day, the decision for the GOP leadership is: Are they devoted to the country and the Constitution, or are they more devoted to this president and their political fortunes?”

We are at the beginning of this scandal, not the end.

McCain said today that it's reached "Watergate level" proportions but he also said it's like a centipede dropping another shoe. If a centipede had shoes it would have a whole lot of them.