PROGRAMMING ALERT: Watch Kimberley Strassel on October 14 on "Hannity" at 9 p.m. ET
Editor's note: The passage below is excerpted from Kimberley Strassel’s new book "RESISTANCE (AT ALL COSTS)." It demonstrates how the left set the stage for the impeachment of the president since the day he took office — and how Democrats began to abuse their oversight powers almost immediately upon Nancy Pelosi’s election to Speaker of the House in January.
On May 8, 2019, every Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress. Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler had less than three weeks earlier issued a subpoena to Barr, demanding he turn over to Congress the entire, unredacted Mueller report, as well as all of Mueller’s underlying material, by May 1. Barr could not turn over the material without breaking the law.
Federal statute makes it a crime to reveal grand jury material, even to Congress. The Justice Department offered to work with Democrats to get them as much material as possible within the confines of the law. Nadler instead abruptly shut down negotiations and moved to one of the quickest contempt votes in the history of the committee. Democrats wanted the contempt vote, to send a political message to its base that it was hammering the Trump administration. This was about the show, and it was yet another unfortunate abuse of power — done in the name of undermining Trump.
For all the Resistance’s initial anger over Trump, it came out of the election lacking any real authority to do much about the new president. Trump had brought along both a Republican Senate and House. The GOP controlled both the executive and the legislative branches.
That changed on Jan. 3, 2019, as Nancy Pelosi was elected again as Speaker of the House. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham had warned during the Kavanaugh hearings of the dangers of giving the Resistance “power.” The country was about to witness the excesses firsthand.
We should take care not to include in that category of “excesses” the many things the 116th Congress has done that are completely normal. Republicans might not like Pelosi’s many bills that seek to impose her progressive agenda. But House Democrats have every right to put any legislation they want through the usual committee order. House Democrats’ refusal to provide Trump money for his border wall helped provoke the longest shutdown in U.S. history, but shutdowns aren’t, sadly, a new thing. Republicans complain that Democrats are refusing to work with them on even bipartisan proposals, so committed is the Resistance to denying Trump any victory. But nothing says a House majority has to work with the other party. Voters will get their opportunity to judge this strategy in the 2020 elections.
The problem is instead Democrats who are turning the awesome powers of the House into partisan political weapons. The impeachment power is large and serious. Yet these days, Democrats toss the word around with as much regularity as they do the word “hearing,” or “motion” or “bill.” Holding an executive cabinet member in contempt of Congress is a serious move, yet Democrats slapped Barr with contempt in record time and for no reason other than to score political points. House Democrats have cast aside the usual rules on oversight — ignoring the traditional need to show true “legislative purpose” and instead demanding documents from Trump from before he was even in office. And current Democratic presidential candidates are promising to abolish the Electoral College, pack the Supreme Court, give sixteen-year-olds the vote, and confiscate existing firearms. constitutional norms, anyone?
The impeachment power is large and serious. Yet these days, Democrats toss the word around with as much regularity as they do the word “hearing,” or “motion” or “bill.”
The thoughtless use of these powers has watered down their meaning, with alarming future consequences. Impeachment remains one of the only ways to remove a truly corrupt president. The more Democrats politicize it, the more wary future Congresses will be to embrace it when it is truly necessary. And Democrats’ wanton threat of subpoenas and contempt citations has already made the Trump White House wary of complying with congressional demands. This destroys what in the past had been a tense but somewhat workable compromise — in which a Congress managed to see documents it truly needed for oversight, and a White House was able to protect those that went to the core of executive deliberation.
House Democrats have yet to vote for a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump. Should they unilaterally do so, half the country will see it as proof that the party is determined to reverse via brute force the results of the 2016 election. Again, nothing Trump has done compares.
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Even in the minority, the Democratic Resistance didn’t exactly cover itself in glory. Senate Democrats made a circus of the Kavanaugh hearing and abused their advice and consent duty with regard to Trump nominees. House Democrats used their perch to make libelous and unfounded accusations of treason and other criminal conduct. Committee Democrats in both chambers engaged in rampant leaking, stoking the press flames. Democrats sat idly by as Republicans attempted to wrest answers out of the DOJ about the FBI’s 2016 behavior. Only when Democrats were back running the House did they suddenly decide that the bucking of congressional demands amounted to a “constitutional crisis.”
In hindsight, House Democratic rule was destined to be wildly over-the-top. Democrats for two years had sloshed through the Resistance fever swamps, accusing Trump of every crime and transgression imaginable. Those Resistance voters were always going to demand that a new House majority act. The pressure from day one on Pelosi & Co. to take it to the White House was enormous.
The disappointment of the 2016 election had also energized the progressive movement. They blamed Clinton and the Democratic establishment for undercutting Bernie Sanders and then for blowing the election. They poured their frustration into the 2018 Democratic primaries, especially in more traditionally liberal districts.
The Resistance fielded far-left candidates and propelled the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Rashida Tlaib (Michigan), and Ilhan Omar (Minnesota) to victory. While centrists running in crucial districts won Pelosi the gavel, the Democratic House overall looked far more liberal after the election. New members from safe seats poured into the progressive caucus. Nate Silver’s 538 blog pointed out in a November 2018 post that in 2010, there were about 1.5 progressives for every Blue Dog moderate in the House. “In 2019, the progressives will have a 4-1 advantage.” These Resistance Democrats took office baying for blood and have consistently demanded the Democratic leadership bend to their demands.
Adding to this perfect storm: 2019 formally kicked off the Democratic presidential primary. Primaries are always about ideological purity; candidates cater to their party’s base. But the base this time was a mob of progressive activists and Resistance types, and the 2020 candidates have duly responded with ever more radical promises. Total renewable energy in a few years? Check. Forced licensing for all gun owners? Check. Government health care for all? Hell, yeah. This 2020 race has also put pressure on the House to rival the anti-Trump enthusiasm of its top presidential contenders.
Finally, do not underestimate the power of ego. Republicans won the House in 1994, and save for the brief interlude of 2006–2010, they had run it ever since. Congressmen like Nadler were aching to hold the gavel and throw their weight around. The question was never what Democrats were going to do. The question was always: What wouldn’t they do?
Excerpted from “Resistance (at All Costs): How Trump Haters Are Breaking America” by Kimberley Strassel, Copyright © 2019. Available from Twelve, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.