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Are Dems bungling their impeachment strategy?

Are Dems bungling their impeachment strategy?

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories.

What’s happening

Democrats in the House of Representatives on Tuesday unveiled two articles of impeachment against President Trump. The articles — one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress — present their case for removing Trump from office based on evidence compiled in an investigation over the past couple of weeks into his actions involving Ukraine.

About an hour after releasing the articles, Democrats gathered for another press conference — this time to announce they would support the president’s proposed agreement with Canada and Mexico, known as the USMCA. The deal would add new rules on top of NAFTA, a free trade policy imposed in the early 1990s that Trump has called a “disaster.”

Why there’s debate

Conservative critics have consistently framed the impeachment inquiry as invalid and doomed from the start. But Democrats faced significant pushback from the left after Tuesday’s announcements. 

Much of the criticism was aimed at the timing of the two announcements, with many commentators saying that the impact of the impeachment announcement was weakened by the decision to unveil the USMCA agreement shortly afterward. Some progressives also argued that presenting just two articles of impeachment focused entirely on Ukraine (versus expanding the scope to include findings from the Mueller report) offers far too limited a response to what they see as a long list of abuses by the president. Democrats also delivered Trump a political win, some say, by signing on to a trade deal that allows him to claim to have delivered one of his signature campaign promises.

Others defended the Democratic strategy, by arguing that too broad of an impeachment would confuse voters, get bogged down in a procedural mire and play into the Republican critique that liberals were grasping for any excuse to impeach Trump. Signing on to the USMCA also shows that Democrats aren’t solely focused on impeachment, as the GOP has frequently claimed.

What’s next

The impeachment articles will be considered in the House Judiciary Committee before facing a vote in the full House as soon as next week. If, as expected, the vote passes, impeachment will then move to a trial in the Senate. At the close of the trial, two-thirds of senators would have to vote to convict for Trump to be removed from office.

With a conviction in the Repulican-controlled Senate unlikely, the ultimate impact of Democrats’ decision making may not be fully clear until the presidential election in November.

Perspectives

Poor strategy

Working with Trump on a trade deal legitimizes him

“House Dems were elected on a wave of anti-Trump sentiment and are now diligently working to ensure his reelection and send the message to the electorate that impeachment is just meaningless partisan theater.” — Atlantic columnist Adam Serwer

Democrats handed Trump a win at a moment when he should have been vulnerable

“Nothing more perfectly embodies the Democratic party than announcing articles of impeachment and a huge deal with the President on his single biggest priority on the same day.” — MSNBC host Chris Hayes

Democrats could have used the USMCA as leverage to secure the 2020 election

“Part of the rationale for impeachment, rightly, is to protect the election. There is legislation languishing in the Senate that would help in that regard, and that Dems could have demanded in a swap for Trump’s top agenda item. Instead, that legislation will continue to languish.” — Crooked Media editor in chief Brian Beutler

The trade deal boosts Trump’s argument for his handling of the economy

“The economy has remained hot, unemployment continues to drop and no Democrat has emerged as an obvious bet to defeat him. Trump now has a ready rebuttal to Democrats’ claim that he’s not the dealmaker he claimed to be.” — Politico

Leaving out the Mueller investigation makes the case for impeachment weaker

“An article for attempting to obstruct the investigation into Russian interference and his own campaign’s efforts to reap the benefits would establish a pattern. Not just with regard to Trump’s effort to extort Ukraine for the same purpose, but also with regard to Trump’s ongoing manipulation of government to cover up his willingness to conspire with and benefit from the corruption of our election last time.” — Greg Sargent, Washington Post

Democrats drowned out the impeachment news with the trade deal announcement

“I’m not saying that Democrats shouldn’t do their jobs and govern. But stepping on your own historic news, announcing this trade deal and handing Trump an unequivocal victory moments after you put forth articles of impeachment, seems to be failing the lessons of the Trump era.” — Rolling Stone writer Jamil Smith

Smart strategy

The trade deal could help Dems in key swing states

“It’s weird how confident so many blue state liberals on Twitter are that they know better what trade policy choices will help Democrats hold swing districts than the Democratic members who actually hold those districts do.” — New York magazine columnist Josh Barro

The deal is good for workers and won’t affect voters’ view of impeachment 

“Democrats have made it abundantly clear that they think Donald Trump is a bad president who ought to be sent packing from the Oval Office. I doubt a trade deal will significantly alter that perception among voters.” — Jordan Weissman, Slate

The trade deal shuts down one of the GOP’s main criticisms of impeachment

“I’m puzzled by the confusion over this. Apart from substance, the pure optics of this are good for Democrats. It undermines argument that they are obsessed with impeachment and not doing anything productive.” — Yahoo News Senior Political Correspondent Jon Ward

A limited impeachment is easier for voters to understand

“Historians will look back and wonder why the charges against Trump were so compact given the range of his misconduct. The answer is that Democrats determined, not that Trump hadn’t committed more impeachable acts, but that the public would be able to understand and focus on these two charges in particular.” — Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

A focused impeachment allows the process to move forward quickly

“The facts present an irrefutable case that the President committed impeachable offenses and a pattern of abuses that support an urgent approach.” — Michael D’Antonio, CNN

Focusing on Ukraine makes Democrats look measured in their impeachment approach

“Because the articles are not based on the Mueller report, Republicans will be hard-pressed to claim this is a two-year plot to impeach Trump. In fact, the Democrats effectively can say that they acted with forbearance in not pursuing impeachment based solely on the Mueller report; the straw that broke the camel’s back was the Ukraine incident.” — Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

An expansive inquiry would take up a lot of time without changing the result

“Democrats could spend months assembling the evidence to support a far-reaching bill of particulars against Trump…Yet the end result is likely to be the same, given the wall of GOP votes protecting the president.” — Jon Healy, Los Angeles Times

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Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP


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