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Democrats cautious about discussing Trump impeachment after aides convicted



Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer
Nancy Pelosi and Chuck

AP Photo/Andrew

  • The possibility of President Donald Trump’s impeachment
    is center stage after his former longtime lawyer took a plea
    deal and his former campaign manager was convicted on several
    felony counts this week.
  • One group avoiding the topic? Democrats.

President Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen
pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to eight counts of
federal felonies on Tuesday — including two in which he
implicated his old boss as a co-conspirator.

Meanwhile, Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was
convicted on eight counts of federal felonies that same day in a
courtroom roughly 200 miles away in Virginia.

The two instances, particularly Cohen’s and his admissions under
oath that Trump “directed” him to violate campaign-finance law,
have caused an uproar about the possibility of the president’s
eventual impeachment.

And that uproar has been particularly loud on the right.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told The Guardian that both the
Cohen plea deal and Manafort ruling would have implications for
the November midterms, saying they will now be “an up or down
vote on the impeachment of the president.” 

Michael Caputo, a former Trump adviser, told Politico that the Cohen
deal specifically was “worrisome” and “probably the worst thing
so far in this whole investigation stage of the

Trump himself has opined on this possibility, telling Fox News he doesn’t
“know you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job.”

“If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash,” he
added. “I think everybody would be very poor. Because without
this thinking [points to head] you would see, you would see
numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse.”

A group people haven’t heard discuss impeachment much this week
is Democrats.

They’ve sought to put focus elsewhere in the aftermath of a
whirlwind Tuesday.

Democratic House and Senate aides who spoke with Business Insider
and requested anonymity to candidly explain Democratic
thought on the matter without speaking directly for their bosses
said any discussion of impeachment is still far off, even after
the Cohen and Manafort episode. Instead, they pointed to what
they said were the “shorter-term impacts,” such as the House or
Senate Judiciary Committees holding hearings and using the
convictions as further rationale to delay a confirmation hearing
for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

One Democratic Senate aide said Cohen’s plea deal and Manafort’s
guilty verdict don’t change any calculations for the time being,
but do set the stage for possible actions after special counsel
Robert Mueller’s report is released.

“There’s nothing the White House and Republican strategists want
more than for the midterms to become a referendum on
impeachment,” they said. “They want to be able to say the
legitimate legal problems facings Cohen and many Trump associates
are motivated by politics instead of their misdeeds. The smart
thing to do is to let the investigation play out — and do
everything we can to protect its independence — and then make a
determination based on Mueller’s report and any charges they

Trump’s attorneys have said Mueller, who is investigating Russian
interference in the 2016 presidential election, plans to
stick to the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel
guidelines that stipulate a sitting president cannot be
indicted. Mueller’s office has not independently confirmed
that, The Associated Press noted.
And in the aftermath of Cohen’s plea deal, there was no
indication that the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern
District of New York would pursue criminal charges against the

‘The Cohen guilty plea changes everything, but what comes
of it depends entirely on the midterms’

The DOJ guidelines have led many, including Trump’s personal
attorney Rudy Giuliani, to believe that the only recourse
available should Trump be found to have committed any crimes is
impeachment. Impeachment proceedings would have to begin with
House Judiciary Committee hearings, which would then be followed
by a vote to move articles of impeachment before the full House.

Of course, the possibility of that happening is almost entirely
dependent on whether Democrats regain control of Congress
following the November midterms.

“The Cohen guilty plea changes everything, but what comes
of it depends entirely on the midterms,” A Democratic House aide
told Business Insider. “The Republican-led Congress has spent two
years studiously ignoring the growing bonfire of legal problems
and outright criminality around Trump, so it’s hard to see
anything changing if they retain control of both chambers. For
there to be any accountability for the Unindicted Co-Conspirator
In Chief, voters have to remove the rubber stamp faction from
power in Congress.”

President Donald Trump

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The aide added that Democrats “also have a lot of questions about
the parts of the investigation which are still unknown,” such as
what additional information Cohen will provide, the upcoming
Manafort trial in Washington, DC, and other information yet to
come from Mueller’s investigation.

With the midterm elections still months away, leading Democrats
have hesitated to mention impeachment.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said impeaching Trump was “not
a priority” for Democrats after the Manafort conviction and Cohen
guilty plea, telling the Associated Press
“impeachment has to spring from something else.”

“If and when the information emerges about that, we’ll see,” she
added. “It’s not a priority on the agenda going forward unless
something else comes forward.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has zeroed in on the
Kavanaugh nomination as his target in Tuesday’s aftermath.

In a floor speech on Thursday, Schumer said the “recent legal
developments for Mr. Manafort and Mr. Cohen shed an entirely
different light on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme

“It is conceivable that, down the road, the Supreme Court could
be faced with a decision as to whether a sitting president can be
subpoenaed or indicted, something the court has not yet ruled
on,” he continued.

Other leading Democrats who sit on some of Congress’ most
prominent investigatory committees have called for further
probing as part of the fallout, but did not go as far as
discussing impeachment.

“These are extremely serious crimes that implicate the
fundamental underpinnings of our democracy, and they warrant
robust and credible oversight by Congress as an independent
Constitutional check on the Executive Branch,” Democratic Rep.
Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform, said of Cohen’s guilty plea in a
request to House Oversight chairman Trey Gowdy. “Given the
gravity of these revelations, I request that you schedule a
hearing as soon as possible before the Committee on Oversight and
Government Reform to obtain sworn testimony directly from Mr.

Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, ranking member of the House
Judiciary Committee, called on his counterpart, House Judiciary
Chairman Bob Goodlatte, to hold “immediate hearings on President
Trump’s persistent, venomous attacks on the Department of Justice
and the FBI,” following Trump’s comments on Cohen and Manafort.

“It is clear that the President hopes to hedge against the
investigation by undermining the investigators,” Nadler said.
“Yesterday’s guilty plea by the President’s longtime personal
attorney adds further concerns regarding ongoing efforts by
President Trump to undermine or impede the investigation by
Special Counsel Robert Mueller. What is less clear, however, is
how these vital institutions that President Trump and House
Republicans consistently attack will weather the storm of this
selfish, and possibly illegal, strategy.”

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