Impeach Trump, Not AOC And Not Ilhan

Written by on March 15, 2019

America is lucky to have these 2 extraordinary young women in Congress

Earlier this week, Vanity Fair published a profile of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by Abigail Tracy, “I Felt Like I was Being Physically Ripped Apart”: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Opens Up About Her New Fame, Trump, And Life In The Bubble. Sounds like a National Enquirer headline! Tracy writes that she’s eclipsing Pelosi and Hillary as a target of deranged GOP and corporate media bile and hatred. Ocasio said she feels “an intense amount of pressure. Every day for me feels like I’m walking on a high wire. Every single day.” In her office there is a wall of pictures of people who have threatened her. And she’s under no illusion that the right wing’s obsession will abate. “The whole goal is to dehumanize.”

“I think they saw a woman of color– Latina, no less– that came from a working-class and poor background, that ascended to federal office, and they said, ‘We cannot allow this to have credibility, because if people saw that she did it, then maybe others will come– and we cannot let other people like her run for office. We need to make an example out of her,’” Ocasio-Cortez told me.

…Ocasio-Cortez’s critics, it seems, are always waiting for her to slip up– to say something inaccurate, to expose her relative inexperience, to provide anecdotes that support the narrative that she is a Communist moron. She is nonplused when I ask whether this dynamic scares her. “Absolutely,” she said, despite the no-holds-barred fearlessness she projects. “Every time I do make a mistake, in the smallest sense, I just feel the weight of the world on me. But I know that that is not a reason to stop,” Ocasio-Cortez explained. “I think one of the taboos that we’ve been breaking has been you can’t learn while you’re in office. You know?”

It is hard to imagine Ocasio-Cortez following in the footsteps of Crowley, and holding on to the NY-14 seat for decades while she works her way up the leadership ladder in the Democratic Party. Her star power seems too unbridled for that. No sooner had she beaten Crowley than people began to calculate what year she’d be old enough to run for president. Ocasio-Cortez has thought about other outcomes, too. “God forbid something terrible happens and everything collapses tomorrow . . . I completely walk away from office tomorrow. There will be more people that are coming and running and advancing the same principles,” she said. “I try to let that be my solace.”

Meanwhile, she says one thing people aren’t saying about her is that there is an ordinary reality beneath the caricatures. “It’s really hard to communicate that I’m just a normal person doing her best,” she shrugged. “I’m not a superhero. I’m not a villain. I’m just a person that’s trying.

Goal ThermometerOne of her best friends in Congress, freshman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has it even worse. Sudden fame has swept her up out of relative obscurity too. Each has two Twitter handles. @AOC has 3.53 million followers, the most of anyone in the House. @SpeakerPelosi comes in second with 2.35 million. (Kevin McCarthy’s @GOPLeader handle has 247,000 followers and his personal @KevinOMcCarthy has 48,400 followers.) Ocasio’s secondary “official” twitter account, @RepAOC, has another 145,000 followers. Ilhan Omar’s main handle, @IlhanMN has 740,000 followers and her secondary one, @Ilhan, has 112,000. Both young women are very much in the public eye– and under a constant barrage of attack. Ilhan stepped on AIPAC’s sensitive toes and they won’t rest until they drive her out of Congress. Her comments about them– 100% true (and remember, 100% is more than 99.7%– were a little too close for comfort for them and they began screeching “antisemitism,” even though nothing she has said is even remotely related to antisemitism. It doesn’t matter. She’s getting the Cynthia McKinney/Earl Hilliard treatment— political annihilation. The Blue America “best incumbents” thermometer on the right will allow you to chip in to her reelection campaign.

Her political enemies are trying to recruit a candidate against her.

“Our community is exasperated by Rep. Omar’s unfulfilled promises to listen and learn from Jewish constituents while seemingly simultaneously finding another opportunity to make an anti-Semitic remark and insult our community,” Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said in a statement.

Omar met with Hunegs last month, after her initial remarks received widespread condemnation. She has continued to meet with Jewish leaders both in Minneapolis and Washington, a spokesman said.

“Unfortunately, having the opportunity to speak with her about that point didn’t dissuade her making that statement,” Hunegs told The Hill in an interview Wednesday. “We were appalled.”

Some Democrats are eyeing Bobby Joe Champion, a state senator who has served in the legislature for a decade. Others hope to entice Minneapolis City Councilwoman Andrea Jenkins, the first openly transgender African-American woman elected to public office in the United States.

“I’d be pretty uncomfortable supporting Rep. Omar right now, given what I’ve learned about her since the election and given her apparent inability to stop insulting Jews,” said Latz, who represents the city of St. Louis Park, home to a large Jewish population, and who supported Omar’s chief rival in the 2018 Democratic primary.

But finding a challenger to take on Omar is a difficult prospect.

No House Democrat from Minnesota has ever lost a bid for renomination, according to University of Minnesota political scientist Eric Ostermeier, author of the Smart Politics blog.

Only two House members from Minnesota have ever lost primaries, most recently more than a century ago.

“While she has created a significant amount of controversy for herself and said things that have offended many Americans, I’m not sure that one could make the case that she is in trouble yet,” said Mike Erlandson, a former Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) chairman and chief of staff to ex-Rep. Martin Sabo (D) who ran for the seat against Omar’s predecessor, Keith Ellison (D), in 2006.

Jenkins told The Hill on Wednesday she is not interested in running for Congress, and she backs Omar for reelection.

“Support is really strong for Congresswoman Omar, but certainly there is some acrimony. I think people feel like she’s being unfairly targeted,” Jenkins said. “I love my job. I’m really close to the people I represent.”

Champion did not respond to several requests for comment.

A part of the challenge in fielding a competitor, Minnesota Democrats said, is that Omar is likely to win the endorsement of the state DFL, which comes with access to voter lists and data that unendorsed candidates do not receive.

“The DFL endorsement is a huge advantage,” said Corey Day, a former executive director of the Minnesota DFL. “The real fight is usually for the DFL endorsement or to block it.”

Omar, 37, won the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s endorsement in 2018 over two other candidates. She won the DFL primary with 48 percent of the vote, well ahead of former state House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher– who did not seek the endorsement– and state Sen. Patricia Torres Ray.

Omar’s win underscored a deep geographic and racial divide in one of the most liberal congressional districts in the country. The district includes the entire city of Minneapolis and its whiter, wealthier western suburbs; about 67 percent of its residents are white, compared with about 84 percent of the state as a whole.

Omar, a Somali-American and one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, won big in Minneapolis itself. Kelliher, who is white, won the suburbs west of Minneapolis by wide margins.

Omar’s base inside the city is another challenge any rival would have to overcome.

“The core of Minneapolis outvotes the suburbs, even though the population may be relatively similar,” Erlandson said.

Several potential candidates have already taken themselves out of the running. Latz said he considered a bid “for all of a half a second” before opting against it.

Kelliher, appointed in December to take over the state Department of Transportation, is “entirely focused” on her new job, a department spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Jenkins noted that “I do not want to spend all my time fundraising.”

A representative for Omar’s campaign  said they do not fear a primary challenge.

“Ilhan entered a 10 week six-way primary and she believes you get what you organize for. She organized her district to win and she’s really excited to do that again over the next two years,” a campaign spokesman told The Hill.

Samantha B’s segment is the best look at this “controversy” you’ll find. I wish Pelosi had said it. But she can’t– big Jewish donors won’t allow it. Oh, and speaking of Pelosi… there’s another way of looking at her latest “impeachment is off the table” statement. Maybe impeachment isn’t really off the table. Maybe Pelosi is planning to gut him like a fish and serve him up as some nice piping hot San Francisco cioppino.

Democrats see a wide range of potentially impeachable offenses, including obstruction of justice, based on Trump’s efforts to impede federal investigations, starting with the firing of FBI Director James Comey; accepting campaign assistance from Russia; violating campaign-finance laws by paying hush money to alleged mistresses; violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause; and abuses of presidential power. While Democrats in Congress expect the Mueller report will bolster the case, many believe they’ve seen ample evidence. “We have already seen deeply concerning evidence of the President’s lack of fitness for office, the degree to which profound conflicts of interest may be guiding his foreign policy, as well as evidence of criminality on the part of the President,” Representative Adam Schiff of California told reporters on March 12.

Conventional wisdom in Washington tends to treat impeachment as a fringe crusade, on a par with campaigns by antifluoridation activists or UFO enthusiasts, and views Pelosi as right to resist this momentum. Many believe it would be a political disaster for Democrats, galvanizing Trump’s base and alienating moderates. Republicans have taken to goading their opponents to try it, while White House officials say they relish the prospect of the Democratic Party tearing itself apart over the issue. “It would play right into our hands,” says a House Republican leadership aide.

Speaker Pelosi by Nancy Ohanian

But Pelosi is actually playing a deeper game. Her aides note that she’s never ruled impeachment out. All she’s done, they say, is set a standard: increased popular support and some degree of GOP backing. Behind the scenes, she and her team are working to see that standard is met. “The easy thing to do would be to start down the path of impeachment. That’s a trap,” a senior Democratic aide tells TIME. “Now that we have the gavel and can expose all of this wrongdoing, I think you will start to see a shift in public opinion and movement of Republicans.”

For the past two years, the Democrats have coordinated their investigations and oversight of the Trump Administration in a regular Friday-morning staff meeting. Following a “culture of corruption” messaging framework set out in a memo by Representative John Sarbanes, they determine issues and people to target, parceling out document and witness requests to various committees. Even without the House majority, the aide notes, this push contributed to the departure of four Cabinet officials accused of misconduct, and the public has heeded their work: according to a March Quinnipiac poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans now believe Trump committed crimes before becoming President.

Pelosi’s two-pronged test aims to avoid what happened with President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, which backfired on Republicans and boosted Clinton’s popularity. When she first became Speaker in 2007, Pelosi quashed Democrats’ zeal to impeach George W. Bush for the Iraq War, believing it was misguided. She believes her party won the 2018 midterms by focusing on issues like health care, not Trump.

But there are already signs Pelosi’s standard could be met. Public support for Trump’s impeachment hovers around 45% in recent polls. That’s the highest for any President since Richard Nixon, whose impeachment was favored by 43% of Americans in March 1974, five months before he resigned. Large majorities say they would favor Trump’s impeachment and removal from office if Mueller finds he authorized coordination with Russia or obstructed justice. To date, congressional Republicans have staunchly defended the President, who has the overwhelming support of the party’s voters. But their calculation could change. “Someday, all of a sudden, it’s going to be like the Berlin Wall coming down,” George Conway, the prominent conservative lawyer and Trump critic who is married to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, says of Republican support for the President. “You never know what straw is going to break the camel’s back. But I firmly believe this is going to happen.”

Over the coming months, Pelosi and her lieutenants will use congressional hearings and investigations to paint a picture for the public. This effort will constitute an impeachment drive in all but name. And while some House Democrats would rather use the I word from the start, most privately believe they’ll get there when the time is ripe. “There’s remarkable consensus about impeachment now,” says Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, a former constitutional-law professor who serves on the Oversight and Judiciary committees. “The caucus does not want this to be a fetish or a crusade, but the caucus also doesn’t want it to be a taboo.”

The question of whether to impeach Trump isn’t just a Washington parlor game. Attempting to undo the will of the voters and remove a duly elected President is one of the most consequential powers entrusted to the Legislative Branch. The next presidential election could hinge on how such an effort plays out. Yet much as Pelosi may not want to say it now, even her reticent Democratic allies in the House admit the push for impeachment is likely coming. “It gets more difficult to avoid every day,” says a House Democrat who has voted against every impeachment resolution presented so far.

…Soon, it will fall to Pelosi to try to bring Mueller’s findings to light. “If you’re ever going to get to impeachment, you need to get all that data,” says Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin. Pocan once gave Pelosi a pair of oven mitts emblazoned with one of her favorite phrases: too hot to handle. It’s shorthand for her strategy of leveraging public opinion to pressure Republicans to do things they oppose, like ending family separations at the border or reopening the government. The idea is that no matter where your opponents start out, or how committed to the President they profess to be, when the politics changes, they’ll change with it.

If the politics of impeachment do change, and Democrats initiate impeachment proceedings, the process would get under way with a vote in the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Representative Jerrold Nadler, a no-nonsense New Yorker with a night-school law degree and a photographic memory for the various strands of the Mueller probe. Though Nadler nominally shares Pelosi’s stance against impeachment, the standard he has set isn’t quite the same as the Speaker’s. Already he has said publicly that he believes Trump obstructed justice. Separately, he has said he sees attacks on Democratic institutions and the rule of law as impeachable offenses. And unlike Pelosi, Nadler believes Republican support isn’t a prerequisite for opening an impeachment inquiry.

“We are not going to rule it out or in,” Nadler tells TIME. “If our duty is to do it, we will do it. If it’s not, we won’t. Impeachment is not a punishment. It is not a political act to say we think it’s a good idea to get rid of the President. Impeachment is a defense of the Constitution, a defense of liberty. It’s a very blunt sword that should only be drawn if absolutely necessary. But it may be.”

Pelosi Power by Chip Proser of

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