Mueller’s Exit and an Impeachment Alternative

Trying to overturn an election would be too divisive. Congress should censure Trump instead.

If Justice Department guidelines had been otherwise—if federal charges could be brought against a sitting president—would Mr. Mueller have recommended them? That’s the question. Instead we get “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” Oh.

Independent counsel Ken Starr wasn’t so shy with Bill Clinton: His 1998 report outlined to Congress 11 possible grounds for impeachment.

I’m sure Mr. Mueller was trying to demonstrate probity. But it looked to me like a loss of nerve. You can have probity plus clarity, and clarity was what was needed.

The spirit of impeachment is now given a boost.

It is still a terrible idea.

It is a grave matter to overturn an election result. Why more cuttingly divide an already divided country? There is no argument that impeachment would enhance America’s position in the world, and no reason to believe it would not have some negative impact on the economy, meaning jobs. The presidential election is in 2020. What is gained from devoting the coming year to an effort that will fail in the Senate? There’s no reason to believe the public is for it. It won’t move the needle—those who like President Trump, like him; those who do not, do not; everyone already knows what they think. For Democrats it could backfire, alienating moderates and rousing those of the president’s supporters who care little for him personally but appreciate his policy achievements, such as his appointment of judges. Why rouse their wrath? If Mr. Trump is acquitted he will pose as the innocent but unstoppable victor over a witch hunt led by a liberal elite.

At this point, could Democrats even do it? Impeachment is “a heavy lift,” as Chris Matthews said on MSNBC the other day. It takes time and focus to organize it politically and legally, to get the committee chairmen on board and investigators mobilized.

House GOP Removes Steve King From Panels Following Comments on White Supremacy

Steve King was stripped of his committee assignments by fellow Republicans for questioning what was wrong with white supremacy in the U.S., and House Democrats took steps to admonish him.

House Republican leaders made the decision Monday night. He had previously sat on the Judiciary panel and Agriculture Committee, an important position for an Iowan.

Mr. King said his words were taken out of context in a newspaper interview, and argued that he was defending western civilization and not white supremacy or nationalism.

“Leader McCarthy’s decision to remove me from committees is a political decision that ignores the truth,” Mr. King said in a statement.

In an article published last week, the New York Times reported Mr. King said in an interview that he supports legal immigrants who fully assimilate to “ ‘the culture of America’ based on values brought to the United States by whites from Europe.”

White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King said in the newspaper interview. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

Two resolutions introduced separately by Democratic Reps. Bobby Rush of Illinois and Tim Ryan of Ohio would censure the lawmaker for the comments he made in the recent interview questioning why “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” are considered offensive. Mr. Rush’s resolution would censure Mr. King for previous comments as well.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Democratic leadership decided Monday night to move forward with a resolution by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D., S.C.) that would formally disapprove of Mr. King’s comments, but at a lower level than censure. The vote is likely Tuesday, a Democratic leadership aide said.

If one of the censure resolutions is passed by a simple majority, Mr. King would be forced to present himself at the front of the House Chamber for the pronouncement of the censure, which would be read out loud by Mrs. Pelosi.

Mr. King has a long history of criticizing immigrants and supporting white supremacists. His latest comments come as the new Democratic majority is focused on President Trump’s comments about immigrants.

“It’s perpetuating this division in the country that we don’t need,” said Mr. Ryan. “We need to start healing our country. He’s done it enough times, in enough places, that I feel like it rises to the level of the House having to address it.

Mr. King was re-elected in November to a ninth term in his toughest fight in his stronghold Republican district, after top donors dropped him and Democrats put up a formidable opponent. He has already drawn a 2020 primary challenger, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, who cited Mr. King’s “caustic nature” as a reason for his run.

Twenty-three members of the House have been censured for various forms of misconduct, including for using insulting language on the floor, assaulting other members and financial improprieties. No lawmaker has been censured for comments made to a newspaper.

Pelosi says there is ‘interest’ in House in acting against Rep. Steve King

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday left open the possibility of House action to punish Rep. Steve King over his history of inflammatory remarks as the Iowa Republican’s recent defense of white nationalism created a firestorm.

King, who won a ninth term in Congress in November, lamented in an interview with the New York Times that the term had become a pejorative one.

White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said in the interview, which was published Thursday.

King later issued a statement and addressed the issue in a speech on the House floor Friday in which he sought to walk back his remarks. He said he rejects “those labels and the evil ideology that they define” and proclaimed himself “simply a Nationalist.”

A number of Democrats are calling on House leaders to consider a resolution to censure King, a vote that would put Republicans on record.

.. King’s interview prompted a rebuke from Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican in the House, who said in a tweet Thursday morning, “These comments are abhorrent and racist and should have no place in our national discourse.”

She was soon followed by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who told reporters in a pen-and-pad that it was “offensive to try to legitimize those terms.” But Scalise also praised King’s later statement.

“I think it was important that he rejected that kind of evil, because that’s what it is. It’s evil ideology,” Scalise said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also issued a statement Thursday evening in which he sharply criticized King’s comments to the Times.

“Everything about white supremacy and white nationalism goes against who we are as a nation,” McCarthy said. “Steve’s language is reckless, wrong, and has no place in our society. The Declaration of Independence states that ‘all men are created equal.’ That is a fact. It is self-evident.”

Both McCarthy and Scalise were silent in October when asked for comment on incendiary remarks King had made then. At the time, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), then the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was the only member of House GOP leadership to rebuke King. (Cheney had not yet been elected to her position as conference chair.)

Democrats and the Losing Politics of Contempt

Democrats didn’t lose for lack of political talent, campaign financing and organization or enthusiasm among their base. They lost because of their brand.

.. Democrats may think the brand is all about diversity, inclusion and fairness. But for millions of Americans, the brand is also about contempt — intellectual contempt of the kind Nimzowitsch exuded for his opponent

.. Contemporary liberalism now expresses itself chiefly in the language of self-affirmation and moral censure: of being the party of the higher-minded; of affixing the suffix “phobe” to millions of people who don’t appreciate being described as bigots.

.. It’s why a political strategy by Democrats that seeks to turn every local race into a referendum on Trump is likely to fail.

.. One temptation Democrats would be smart to avoid is to see Ossoff’s loss as evidence that the party needs to move further left, on the theory that not enough of the base showed up to vote.

.. And nominating more progressive candidates isn’t likely to solve the contempt problem, at least with voters not yet in sync with progressive orthodoxies on coal, guns or gender-neutral bathrooms.

.. Speaking of the 42nd president, many are the charges that can be laid at his feet, but contempt for half of all Americans was never one of them.