Newsletter: Make the Republicans vote on impeachment

Donald Trump
President Trump talks with reporters outside the White House on May 30.
(Evan Vucci / AP)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, June 1, 2019. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

In a just world, President Trump’s recklessness and lawless behavior would have led to impeachment hearings long before now. But in our world, the debate on impeachment centers not on the president’s impeachable offenses but on the political implications of holding Trump accountable. Meanwhile, the president who once bragged about being able to shoot someone in public without losing any support looks increasingly prescient.

But in an op-ed article, James Reston Jr. points out that the Democrats have yet to use their most formidable weapon against Trump: actual impeachment hearings. According to Reston, the Democrats’ strategy of “investigate, investigate, investigate” won’t win over Republicans as effectively as impeachment, and the final days of Richard M. Nixon’s presidency prove that:

What happened in Washington in the summer of 1974 is a template for what could and perhaps should happen in the summer of 2019. The behavior of Republicans back then holds important lessons for the current situation. [U.S. Rep. Lawrence] Hogan and his like-minded colleagues did not step forward at the outset of the impeachment process, but only at the very end, when historic votes loomed, votes that would force upon them the most profound personal consideration about what they valued and what they stood for.

Yet today’s House leader, Nancy Pelosi, and her group are demanding that Republicans step forward now, at a preliminary stage in judging President Trump, as a condition of proceeding with impeachment. No formal process should even be initiated, she says, without significant Republican buy-in. This position is untenable. It forecloses the possibility, strange as it may seem to some, that there are decent and thoughtful Republicans who are deeply troubled by the revelations of the Mueller report, but who would come forward only when they were forced to do so because of a vote to decide the president’s fate....

Just as investigating endlessly without conclusion lets politicians off the hook, so is it an abrogation of responsibility to lob the scandal of the Trump presidency over to the court system. Time is now of the essence. Waiting for weeks and even months for the courts to deliberate and decide questions of obstruction and abuse of power ensures that impeachment will die by October. In the fall, the nation will be turning its attention to the 2020 election with the Iowa caucuses only a few months away.

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Impeachment isn’t the only opinion for Democrats. Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman asserts that formal censure by the House can be quick and effective. Impeachment, on the other hand, would be drawn out, ultimately ineffective and traumatic. “If a censure were to pass with significant bipartisan support, it would give hope to the many millions of Americans who have not yet given up on our system of checks and balances,” he writes. L.A. Times

Don’t go away, Bob Mueller. He may want his statement Wednesday on the end of his Russia investigation to be his final words on the matter, but there was enough ambiguity in his report for Congress to ask for some clarification, writes the L.A. Times Editorial Board: “Much as we may admire Mueller, the position he is taking is needlessly evasive and a disservice to the public.” L.A. Times

More on Mueller time: The former special counsel’s statement was even less satisfying than the “Game of Thrones” finale, writes Jon Healey. Remarkably, though, it seems even Trump may be coming around on whether Russia helped him win the presidency. Reader reactions range from insistence on Congress beginning impeachment hearings, to disappointment in Mueller’s refusal to reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.

Horses are dying again at Santa Anita Park, bringing the total to 26 since late December. The landmark Arcadia racetrack has made significant reforms amid public outcry following a spate of horse injuries, but until we get some clarity from a joint investigation by the California Horse Racing Board and the L.A. County district attorney, there’s only one option for Santa Anita Park: Shutdown. L.A. Times

Say goodbye to your local precinct. In 2020, Los Angeles and Orange counties will switch to a system that relies more heavily on vote-by-mail balloting and so-called vote centers instead of neighborhood precincts. The good news: In California counties that have already adopted this scheme, voter turnout in the 2018 midterms increased significantly. L.A. Times