‘Im­peach­ment’ be­ing whis­pered as a pos­si­bil­ity


Lethbridge Herald - - HEADLINE NEWS - Alexan­der Panetta THE CANA­DIAN PRESS — WASH­ING­TON

The I-word has en­tered the Wash­ing­ton vo­cab­u­lary. That for­bid­den word — the 11let­ter path­way to politi­cal damna­tion, is sud­denly, timidly, tip­toe­ing onto the tongues of cap­i­tal-dwellers.

A Demo­crat sug­gested it on the floor of Congress on Wed­nes­day. A Repub­li­can con­ceded it might be a pos­si­bil­ity. And an In­de­pen­dent ex­pressed re­gret about hav­ing to even men­tion the fear-in­duc­ing noun. Im­peach­ment. “The pres­i­dent must be im­peached,” said Demo­crat Al Green, rais­ing it on the con­gres­sional floor Wed­nes­day. “This is not some­thing to be taken lightly. And I do not. ... It’s a po­si­tion of con­science for me.”

The fact that it’s trav­elled in just one week from the realm of lib­eral bar-room fan­ta­siz­ing to open dis­cus­sion in the hall­ways of Congress in­di­cates the de­gree of tur­moil caused to Trump’s pres­i­dency in just a few days.

How did this hap­pen? It’s been less than two weeks since the pres­i­dent held a vic­tory party on the White House lawn, sur­rounded by ju­bi­lant Repub­li­cans, as they cel­e­brated the par­tial pas­sage of a health-re­form bill.

But it turns out a pres­i­dent can ac­cu­mu­late lots of dam­age by fir­ing an FBI di­rec­tor; chang­ing the story about why; be­com­ing the tar­get of a con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion that’s ex­pand­ing into money-laun­der­ing; shar­ing in­tel­li­gence with Rus­sia, to the dis­may of al­lies; be­ing ac­cused of in­ter­fer­ing with a po­lice probe; chew­ing out his staff; and see­ing en­e­mies within govern­ment leak con­stantly to the press.

Trump fumed about it in a speech to grad­u­ates of the Coast Guard Academy.

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, es­pe­cially by the me­dia,” Trump told the cer­e­mony on Wed­nes­day. “No politi­cian in his­tory — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more un­fairly.”

A per­cep­ti­ble shift has oc­curred. It hap­pened the in­stant news re­ports sur­faced say­ing that fired FBI di­rec­tor James Comey kept a diary of his in­ter­ac­tions with the pres­i­dent and in it the pres­i­dent pur­port­edly asked him to cut short a Rus­siare­lated in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

That hint of ob­struc­tion of jus­tice was a turn­ing point for many.

Never mind the oc­ca­sional whis­per about im­peach­ment — which re­mains a long shot. The most im­me­di­ate worry for the pres­i­dent is the sud­den crum­bling of the de­fen­sive wall around him. His Repub­li­can party con­trols the com­mit­tees in Congress, and they’re in­creas­ingly on his case.

Three com­mit­tees, all con­trolled by Repub­li­cans, have re­quested Comey’s records. Two have asked the for­mer FBI di­rec­tor to tes­tify. One has asked for money-laun­der­ing records from the U.S. Trea­sury De­part­ment.

A few Repub­li­cans have even joined calls for a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor or in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tor.

One law­maker from a ruby-red con­ser­va­tive dis­trict, Adam Kinzinger, told CNN: “This has raised real red flags in the level of se­ri­ous­ness. This is about Amer­ica. It’s not about our politi­cal par­ties, or our politi­cal fu­ture.”

Most Repub­li­cans are still block­ing calls for a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor or in­ves­ti­ga­tor. That’s among the half-dozen de­mands from Democrats, who are us­ing their mea­gre mi­nor­ity power to push for:

• The White House to re­lease tran­scripts of the Oval Of­fice con­ver­sa­tion with Rus­sian of­fi­cials;

• The re­lease of any tapes of Comey talk­ing to Trump — which the pres­i­dent has hinted ex­ist; • Comey’s memos; • Comey to tes­tify be­fore Congress.

Top Se­nate Demo­crat Chuck Schumer said it’s about pre­serv­ing Amer­ica’s politi­cal in­sti­tu­tions: “These re­quests are rea­son­able. They’re mod­est. To my col­leagues on other side: Amer­ica needs you. Amer­ica needs you now ... His­tory will judge us.”

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