Democrats Aren't Feeding the Impeachment Trolls


(Bloomberg Opinion) -- As the House Judiciary Committee continues to consider the articles of impeachment, many close observers are saying that Democrats are all too content to sit on the sidelines while Republicans slam the proceedings as a sham.

That's not entirely true, of course. When Republicans argued that Congress should always defer to the courts when presidents defy House subpoenas, California's Zoe Lofgren gave an extremely strong defense of the rights of Congress, while also noting that President Donald Trump's refusal to cooperate with the investigation was made without raising any particular privilege. In other words, Trump and the House aren't arguing over a particular point of constitutional interpretation; Trump is simply asserting that he doesn't have to cooperate if he doesn't want to. That's something, as Lofgren argued, that's up to Congress to remedy.

But in several cases, Democrats are letting thing go. Journalist Marcy Wheeler, who knows this material as well as anyone, is among those frustrated. She recently tweeted, "Dems are really acting negligent here. There's so much to respond to this one."

Is she right? Are Democrats being negligent or simply getting rolled? Or have they made a strategic choice?

There is some upside to allowing Republicans to rant on and on - especially the ones who prefer to shout. At a certain point, the objections begin to sound like white noise, or the mumbly adults in Charlie Brown's world. If Democrats were to challenge them, it would elevate the Republican points and bait the news media into presenting bland reports about "both sides" of the debate - a debate that they would rather not have.

Instead, Democrats are typically using their time to make their case for impeaching Trump. That's not a bad strategy given the alternative. The media loves to do political analysis - how the impeachment is playing, what the electoral implications are - rather than just saying what happened.(2) And especially when the likely outcome in the Senate is an acquittal, the House procedures are likely to produce stories about the futility of the Democrats' actions, rather than about what Democrats see as the extent of Trump's malfeasance and the importance of impeachment.

At the same time, Republicans appear to be mainly concerned not with convincing anyone, but in producing talking points for Republican-aligned media. That's why they don't mind repeating entirely discredited assertions, such as the claim that former Vice President Joe Biden was attempting to stop an investigation into his son's company by getting a Ukrainian prosecutor fired when in fact Biden was - as the witnesses all said - trying to get Ukraine to replace a corrupt prosecutor who wasn't investigating that company with one who would fight corruption. What this means is that even when Democrats do counter Republican points, it won't change anything.

Granted, it is very frustrating to those who are watching along at home and seeing opportunities for their side to score debating points. For better or worse, that's not how anyone keeps score of these kinds of events.

(1) Not that I'm complaining; that's a lot of what I do here at Opinion. It can be valuable!

To contact the author of this story: Jonathan Bernstein at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Nizza at

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and policy. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.

For more articles like this, please visit us at

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


More Related News

TikTok announces first data center in Europe
TikTok announces first data center in Europe

TikTok, the Chinese video sharing app that's found itself at the center of a geopolitical power struggle which threatens to put hard limits on its global growth this year, said today it will build its first data center in Europe. The announcement of a TikTok data center in the EU also follows a landmark ruling by Europe's top court last month that put international data transfers in the spotlight, dialling up the legal risk around processing data outside the bloc. TikTok said the forthcoming data center, which will be located in Ireland, will store the data of its European users once it's up and running (which is expected by early 2022) -- with a slated investment into the country of...

The White House? Gettysburg? Florida? Trump team looks at options for nomination speech
The White House? Gettysburg? Florida? Trump team looks at options for nomination speech

The nomination acceptance speech is the most attention-getting event of a convention. Because of coronavirus, Trump may deliver his from home.

Republicans Aid Kanye West
Republicans Aid Kanye West's Bid to Get on the 2020 Ballot

At least four people who have been active in Republican politics are linked to Kanye West's attempt to get on the presidential ballot this year. The connection raises questions about the aims of the entertainer's effort and whether it is regarded within the GOP as a spoiler campaign that could aid President Donald Trump, even as those close to West have expressed concerns about his mental health as he enters the political arena.One operative, Mark Jacoby, is an executive at a company called Let the Voters Decide, which has been collecting signatures for the West campaign in three states. Jacoby was arrested on voter fraud charges in 2008 while he was doing work for the California...

Trump says he may suspend payroll tax himself
Trump says he may suspend payroll tax himself

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he may suspend the payroll tax himself as part of his administration's efforts to help the economy after the coronavirus shutdown, after the idea faced opposition in Congress in talks on the next relief bill. "Well I may do it myself," Trump

Amazon's Market Power to Be Investigated by New York AG

(Bloomberg) -- Attorneys general from New York and California are partnering with the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Inc.'s online marketplace, according to people familiar with the matter, ratcheting up scrutiny of the world's largest e-commerce company.The three agencies will work

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Asia