House Democrats can resume impeachment inquiry into obstruction of justice

The Propaganda Bubble and the Coverup

We have reached a point in the impeachment show that we predicted in the spring, when Nancy Pelosi was firmly resisting calls to launch a broad impeachment inquiry into the misdeeds of President Donald Trump.

The point at which we currently find ourselves is one at which few dents have been made in the wall of lies, distortions and distractions that secure the Trump propaganda bubble, a bubble which enshrouds the consciousness of his cultish supporters, and increasing numbers of those he has corrupted. President Trump’s job approval rating remains strong. On Januay 24, the Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll put Trump’s approval at 49%, tied with his 49% disapproval rating.

The bubble must be defended against the truth at any cost, as demonstrated by the fact that Fox News quit showing the Senate proceedings on Thursday night, January 23, shielding its viewers from seeing Adam Schiff’s powerful summation of the case against Trump.

Those he has corrupted double down, seeking validation through their own efforts to corrupt others, their own public lies and distortions, and their own active participation in a conspiracy to cover up the President’s misdeeds.

Others, who have made a Devil’s bargain to accept Trump in exchange for tax relief and strong stock market gains, will likely stick by their bargains.

Trump as a leader of extraordinary cunning

As Bob Woodard has told us, Trump rules by Fear, the title of his 2018 book on Trump and his administration.

Yet Trump is a master of other tools as well. He can apparently be quite charming, a quality he shares with some other notable demagogues.

Democrats should not underestimate him, or the threat he poses to American democracy.

Trump is a man of cunning media intelligence, the fruit of a lifetime of obsession and immersion.  That he knows little else is disappointing, but after the 2016 campaign should not come as a surprise.

He is at the same time a master of the greatest Nazi, Soviet, and Russian propaganda techniques, and a highly skillful and engaging TV performer.

He is indeed a world historical figure, with incredible power to shape national values, the ability of Americans to appreciate the truth, and  their capacity to adopt policies based on science and ascertainable facts.  With his successful defiance of the Constitution and Congressional oversight, he has acquired unprecedented power to affect the course of both domestic and world events.

Who could have predicted his enormous success in corrupting the political leaders of the Republican Party, and the consciousness and values of some 40-50% of the American electorate?

Since the spring, the Observer has recommended using the impeachment process as a tool to chip away at Trump’s propaganda wall and the propaganda bubble that has reduced the conduct of affairs of state to a tribal clash. In that tribal clash, up to one half of the population does not appear give a hoot about the truth or core values that have been central to the American story in the past.

Well, here we are. The House Democrats ignored for too long the Observer’s sage advice to use the impeachment process as an educational tool, to chip away with sledgehammers of truth at Trump’s propaganda wall and to puncture the bubble of lies and distortions he has so masterfully created.

Now, with the House hearings and two narrow impeachment articles, they have begun.  They  have done an outstanding job within the narrow compass of their effort. But they have ceded control of the educational project to Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans, who seem determined to bring it to a swift end, to shut it down, in time for the Super Bowl and the State of the Union Speech on February 4.

The Union is in terrible shape. To stress the travesty that is taking place in the Senate impeachment trial, all Democrats should boycott that address.

A Grand Illusion?

Perhaps it was but a grand illusion, an unfounded hope that in the end truth and decency would triumph over corrumption and the antithesis of those values which we liked to tell ourselves we hold dear.

That is the American Illusion, after all, that we are a moral people, blessed by American exceptionalism, a city on a shining hill, viewed by the rest of the world with envy and admiration.

But now, it looks like the Democrats are headed toward certain defeat in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump in the Senate.

Miracles are always possible. Yet moral courage, as Adam Schiff, the House impeachment manager, pointed out on January 23, is a rare thing.  John F. Kennedy gave powerful examples of such courage in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage.

Now would be a good time for Republican Senators to read that book.

We can only hope and pray that a sufficient number of them will vote to hear testimony from witnesses and subpoena critical documentary evidence which Trump has withheld up to now. As Adam Schiff closed his argument on January 24, “Give America a fair trial. She deserves that.”

But hope is no substitute for resolute action to take on the challenges which reality poses.

Democratic options:  Resume House Impeachment Hearings on Obstruction of Justice

What might the Democrats still do in this ongoing game of chess with the Republicans?

As the Republicans seem to be hell-bent on ramming through an acquittal in the sham trial they have organized in the Senate, what moves might the Democrats make that might still turn the impeachment process into an educational project?

The country needs such an educational project, which might enable the American people to regain their senses and be able to see facts with a renewed interest in the search for truth.

There is one move left:  The House Democrats could open an impeachment inquiry into the cases of obstruction of justice detailed in the Mueller Report, with a view toward explaining to ordinary citizens what Mueller’s investigative team actually found. Moreover, such a renewed impeachment inquiry need not be limited to matters described in the Mueller Report.

House Democrats can wait to start their hearings until the Republicans’ sham trial in the Senate has concluded. They have little to lose. If there are any “moderate” House Democrats who still think they can gain electoral advantage by holding back now, after voting to impeach Trump on the Ukraine matter, they should think again–particularly following the Senate impeachment trial coverup.  Democrats, as well as Republican Senators, need to display moral courage.

Better late than never. Such an inquiry would give Democrats ammunition with which to fight Trump’s triumphalism following an acquittal in the Senate. And it could conceivably pierce Trump’s propaganda bubble, if indeed there is anything that can.

House Democrats could find a way to campaign, and in any event would be no more disadvantaged than their Republican colleagues in the House. There would be no necessity for a trial in the Senate before the November elections, unless the Trump propaganda bubble were to collapse.

The battle the country now faces is a battle for the Truth, for the critical importance of Facts and Science,  and for the enduring significance of our Constitution and its promise that America will always be a country where the Rule of Law and the Constitution itself, not tyrants, reign supreme.

It is time to educate the American people about the full range of high crimes and misdemeanors President Trump has committed and is committing. We must pierce Trump’s propaganda bubble.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.