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Democrats are shirking their duty and giving Donald Trump victory

History would not have celebrated Richard the Fainthearted or Catherine the Cautious. It recognizes leaders with the courage to meet boldly the challenges of their times. So far, Democrats have lacked the fortitude to rein in a president who threatens our constitutional order. The House Democrats need to open an impeachment investigation, which holds to account a president who cannot be shamed or embarrassed but fiercely protects his power and his brand. Absent impeachment, timid Democrats will be empowering Donald Trump and handing him reelection in 2020.

The redacted report of special counsel Robert Mueller considered the crimes of conspiracy and coordination with the Russians and obstruction of justice. It cleared the president of the first crime but not of the second. Indeed, the disposition of the obstruction charge rests with the House of Representatives, not with Attorney General William Barr, who is a political appointee of the president under investigation. Moreover, the potentially impeachable offenses of Trump are not limited to just statutory crimes.

{mosads}The Constitution grants the House the sole authority for impeachment. It is not the responsibility of the chamber to divine whether or not the Senate might vote to convict him. Articles of impeachment would automatically trigger a public trial in the Senate. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who has a fidelity to the law, would preside rather than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The House prosecutors would present their case against Trump and compel his lawyers to defend him with credible evidence rather than political spin.

The Mueller report established a case against Trump for obstruction of justice that is stronger than the case that led nearly every Republican in the House to impeach Bill Clinton. The obstruction case of Trump involves much more serious matters than covering up a private consensual affair. Independent of the special counsel, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have implicated Trump in two felonies for violating campaign finance laws, which are in place to avoid the corruption of our elections.

By failing to divest his business interests, Trump has also likely violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits a president, without authorization from Congress, from taking anything of value from foreign governments or their entities. Although the redacted report did not consider whether the president was compromised by the Russians, there is still enough circumstantial evidence to warrant investigation.

Furthermore, allegations of financial misdeeds by Trump that certainly merit investigation include money laundering, tax evasion, insurance fraud, illegal use of his charitable foundation to advance his presidential campaign, and the corruption of his inaugural committee. Like Richard Nixon, Trump may have also abused his presidential powers, through his assault on the Justice Department, Congress, the courts, and the press.

Only through the impeachment process can Congress check his defiance of the House subpoenas for documents and witnesses. Even if Congress prevails in court, Trump could follow the lead of Andrew Jackson, who purportedly responded to an adverse Supreme Court decision by saying, “Chief Justice Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.” The House could emulate the Judiciary Committee during Watergate and adopt articles of impeachment based on defiance of lawful subpoenas.

Although political calculation should not override responsibilities under the Constitution, the Democrats have misread both the aftermath of the Clinton impeachment and their prospects to win back the presidency. The Clinton impeachment cost the Republicans a few House seats but gave them the much greater prize of the presidency. In an election that George Bush won by 537 votes in Florida, the scandal blunted the vote for Al Gore and kept Clinton on the shelf as the best campaigner for the Democrats.

According to the “Keys to the White House,” my prediction system that correctly forecasted the Trump win in 2016, the president is headed for another victory next year. The system predicts a Trump win unless six of 13 key factors turn against him. The president is down by only the three keys of Republican losses in the midterm elections, the lack of a foreign policy success, and his limited appeal to voters. An impeachment and trial would cost the president a fourth key of scandal and expose him to losing another key that presents a serious roadblock to his renomination. Other potential negative keys include a charismatic Democratic challenger, a significant foreign policy disaster, or a recession during the election year.

Impeachment was established not as a catastrophic contingency, but as a peaceful and legal means for removing a rogue leader without resorting to revolution or assassination. As Benjamin Franklin himself declared, “It would be the best way, therefore, to provide in the Constitution for the regular punishment of the executive when his misconduct should deserve it, and for his honorable acquittal when he should be unjustly accused.”

Allan Lichtman is an election forecaster and distinguished professor of history at American University. Follow him on Twitter @AllanLichtman.

Tags Democrats Donald Trump Election President Robert Mueller William Barr

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