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Bill Straub: Worth it or not, the time is coming for decisions to be made and it has to be right

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created a bit of a stir in political circles this week when she told The Washington Post that she opposes impeaching President Trump (yech!) because the spectacle of attempting to remove him from office would prove “divisive to the country.”

In something of a coda, Pelosi, a California Democrat, further offered that the blackguard currently holding down the nation’s – and the world’s – highest office is simply “not worth it.’’

Now it’s true that Donald J. Trump isn’t worth a dime, a rap, a fig, a darn or a hoot. He isn’t worth a rat’s patoot, losing sleep over, dying for, a shucks or a warm bucket of spit (credit John Nance Garner, although he most assuredly didn’t say spit). He isn’t worth your time or your money, the paper he’s written on or a plugged nickel.

Trump ain’t worth shootin’. But worth impeaching? That, friends, is another matter.

John Yarmuth

Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, chairman of the House Budget Committee, is among those who disagree, respectfully, with the speaker, asserting on CNN recently that an effort to oust The Donald from a position he was never qualified to hold in the first place is “not a question of ‘whether,’ it’s a question of ‘when.’”

That time has probably not yet arrived, Yarmuth acknowledged, “but I think at some point it’s going to be inevitable.”

“I believe that the impeachment power is in the Constitution for a reason, and if we don’t use it, then it becomes meaningless, particularly when you have a president who has committed crimes while in office, who has abused the power of his office and many other reasons why I think he’s committed impeachable offenses,’’ Yarmuth said.

Yarmuth is the lone blue Democratic island in the sea of Republican red that voters in the Commonwealth see fit to send to the District of Columbia, so his comments don’t always pierce through. But nowadays he’s serving in the House majority, chairing a key committee, no less, and suddenly we find his words carry some weight.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Gov. Matt “Yosemite Sam” Bevin awoke from his stupor long enough to express his dismay in a tweet since he’s too high-minded to actually speak with reporters:

Wow…⁦@RepJohnYarmuth⁩ couldn’t be more out of touch with Kentucky, a state that overwhelmingly supports our ⁦@POTUS⁩, ⁦@realDonaldTrump⁩… More liberal than ⁦@SpeakerPelosi⁩ may be popular in some circles, but not in Kentucky…

Nancy Pelosi

Now, St. Matt the Divine of New Hampshire, the most unpopular governor in the nation with a 51 percent disapproval rating according to the most recent Morning Consult survey, may want to be careful about saying Yarmuth or anyone else is “out of touch.”

It’s particularly disingenuous here since Yarmuth, who won re-election by 25 percentage points in 2018 over a former Bevin aide, doesn’t represent the whole state, just the environs of Louisville.

Regardless, despite Pelosi’s concerns, the impeachment engine is starting to churn and Trump’s ridiculous rantings of “NO COLLUSION!’’ and “WITCH HUNT!’’ won’t function as his life preserver.

While whispers of his political demise are premature, a case is being built. Several House committees, now under Democratic control, are beginning to look into the president’s dealings, some of which have already been proven to be pretty despicable.

If Congress finds smoke, it’s likely to find fire.

But the case for impeachment at this particular moment remains a bit squishy. There are gale-force winds, perhaps, but no hurricane. Trump has proven to be a grifter, a con man, a three-card monte dealer, a bigot, a racist, a misogynist, a scoundrel and, most of all, a liar. But that was all true when he was elected, albeit by receiving 3 million votes less than his foe, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

It would prove difficult for Congress to give him an albeit well-deserved heave-ho based on those widely known factors since the Constitution, which Trump Republicans refer to only when it serves their purposes, requires that the Senate depose a president based on that famous phrase, high crimes, and misdemeanors. Those words are open to interpretation, but ousting Trump based on the fact that he’s a doofus probably isn’t going to fly.

As of now, the strongest case against Trump may stem from the guilty plea entered by his former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, in federal court for violating campaign finance statutes.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and is now singing like a nightingale. It was Cohen who paid off one Stormy Daniels, a porn star, to keep her quiet about a dalliance with Trump, the revelation of which during the campaign might have placed his election in jeopardy, thus the campaign finance rap.

During Cohen’s sentencing, U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III clearly noted that the president’s fixer acted at Trump’s direction, which certainly raises the possibility that the president was involved in a conspiracy to commit a felony. That would satisfy the high crimes definition.

Trump, of course, dismisses the whole rigmarole as “a simple private transaction” and the judge’s statement is based only on the preponderance of the evidence. Still, there’s something there for congressional investigators to sink their teeth into.

There’s also the question of Trump violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution which prohibits the president from accepting personal benefits from any foreign government or official. When he became president, Trump refused to place his various holdings in a blind trust, opting instead to turn over operations to trusted aides and family members.

Since the 2019 inauguration, nations like Saudi Arabia and Russia have been pouring loads of dough into Trump-owned operations, like the hotel he developed on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. China, meanwhile, has granted the Trump outfit a whole bunch of new trademarks that will undoubtedly stuff plenty of cash in his pockets.

But all this will likely come down to an interpretation of the intention of the nation’s founders in the Constitution, which means the dispute probably is destined for the U.S. Supreme Court. If Trump abides by the court’s decision – or leaves office before it’s resolved – impeachment crumbles.

Donald Trump

There are other possibilities – obstructing justice for firing FBI Director James Comey because he refused to put the kabosh on an investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2018 election, for instance. But acts like this could be summed up as political decisions made at the president’s discretion. That would provide the Republican-controlled Senate an easy out if it is even called on to convene an impeachment trial.

No. It’s best for Congress to wait and see what Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller uncovers in his on-going probe into Russia’s electoral finagling. Hopefully, that will reveal, as Sen. Howard Baker, R-TN, said during the Watergate hearings in 1973, what did the president know and when did he know it?

Also consider this: If the House votes a bill of impeachment based on unsteady grounds and Trump is acquitted by the Senate, will the lower chamber have the stomach to come back for a second bite of the apple based on any irregularity Mueller might find? Don’t bet on it. Then Trump’s silly claims of “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!’’ might actually carry some weight.

Republicans, particularly Trump himself, rabidly maintain the special counsel’s investigation has failed to uncover any evidence of Trump colluding with Russia. It is accurate and also unbelievably cynical. No evidence has come to the fore because Mueller has yet to release his findings. It’s like complaining it’s the bottom of the second and Babe Ruth hasn’t hit a home run yet.

Maybe Mueller will come up with something. Maybe he won’t. In any case, it serves no purpose to jump the gun.

KyForward’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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