For now, Democrats need to investigate but not impeach

For now, Democrats need to investigate but not impeach
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The aftermath of the report by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE presents Democrats in Congress with a political paradox bordering on a moral dilemma. The political paradox is that impeaching President TrumpDonald John TrumpBooker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Booker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Trump says Democrats are handing out subpoenas 'like they're cookies' MORE, especially without a conviction in the Republican Senate, will likely alienate the very centrist voters that Democrats need to retain their majority in the House, win the Senate, and retake the White House in 2020. Ultimately, impeaching Trump may end up reelecting Trump.

The moral dilemma is whether Democrats may be letting the president off the hook if he did commit certain crimes. This latter sentiment is certainly not held exclusively by partisan Democrats. More than 650 former federal prosecutors who had worked in bipartisan administrations signed onto a statement asserting that the findings of the special counsel “would have produced obstruction charges” against Trump if he were not president.

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The more that has emerged since the release of the Mueller report, the murkier things seem. Democrats have only one option to continue to investigate and seek the facts fairly. Dropping constitutional oversight responsibility to investigate would be an abdication of power. Charging into impeachment proceedings without sufficient public support and established impeachable offenses would be a partisan overreach.

That is why investigations by the House Judiciary Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Committee on Oversight and Government, and others should continue. Whether the president is a Republican or a Democrat, when there is as much smoke as there appears to be now, Congress has a responsibility to clear the air.

House Republicans made that case throughout the Obama administration when they launched investigations that spanned their majority. Remember Fast and Furious, Solyndra, Benghazi, alleged IRS targeting, and more? If the argument was valid then, why is it invalid now with the shift in power?

Meanwhile, Democrats need to let swing voters in battleground states know how they are fighting for them, and not just against Trump. For these voters, it is not Mueller, it is Medicare. Democrats should highlight their work to lower prescription drug prices, fight for paycheck fairness, reform gerrymandering, and strengthen ethics. They should also engage the president on the $2 trillion infrastructure plan he himself has favored.

Legislative oversight without partisan overreach while fighting for critical priorities requires finesse and balance. The challenge for Democrats in Congress is balancing electoral realities with constitutional responsibility.

Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelIs America headed toward war? Is America headed toward war? Campaign dads fit fatherhood between presidential speeches MORE represented New York in Congress for 16 years and served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now the director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. You can find him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.