The House Intelligence Committee’s 300-page report on its impeachment inquiry, released Tuesday and approved by the panel on a 13-9 party-line vote, received a mixed bag of reviews—both damning on one hand and incomplete on another. Donald Trump’s personally directed scheme to corrupt the 2020 elections by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden was thoroughly and convincingly documented, even as Trump’s inner circle almost entirely escaped being compelled to cooperate with the inquiry. So although Trump’s racket to win reelection has been exposed for all to see, a plethora of loose ends remain. In fact, in a press conference following the report’s release, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff stressed the urgency of the matter at hand even as he promised to continue investigating the possibility that Trump’s scheme began far earlier than is already known.
“There is, I think, grave risk to the country with waiting until we have every last fact,” he told reporters.
But to many people, reporters and liberal activists alike, the notion that more than a few stones have been left unturned feels deeply “unsatisfying,” as veteran journalist Howard Fineman told MSNBC. Indeed, there’s a passionate argument to be made that cutting the inquiry short for political considerations is a complete abdication of responsibility, as our own Joan McCarter pointed out on Tuesday. And yet I admittedly find myself persuaded by the immediacy of Democrats’ argument for making the referral now rather than waiting for the courts to decide the fate of multiple top Trump officials, not to mention Trump’s financial records and perhaps even his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who clearly orchestrated Trump’s entire Ukraine scheme.
One of the main problems with waiting until it’s all out there in the open is that Trump’s corruption is pretty much endless. There will always be another stone to turn over. What Democrats have done is detailed a distinct instance of Trump’s malfeasance that is also perfectly representative of all the ways in which he has exploited the power of the office entrusted to him by the American people.
“What we’re seeing unfolding in front of us with Ukraine is the same pattern of obstruction and abuse of power and obstruction of Congress that we saw in the Mueller report,” Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told MSNBC. But the main difference between Mueller’s investigation and the House inquiry is that, while Mueller’s team was probing what had already transpired in the last election, House Democrats have been examining Trump’s effort to rig an upcoming election. “We can’t wait for all of those things to come to the forefront because the threat to our democracy and our elections is so severe that we do need to quickly move on this,” Jayapal noted.
Strategically speaking, there might be a political upside to keeping the impeachment probe from bleeding too far into 2020 and potentially overtaking the Democratic primary and alienating voters. Likewise, one could argue that dragging Trump through the mud throughout the entirety of 2020 would give voters the perfect impetus to head into the voting booth next November. Instead, it appears that we will get some hybrid of those two options: a truncated impeachment proceeding and Senate trial followed by a series of delicious revelations throughout 2020 courtesy of the courts. It’s not perfect, but then again, there’s also no silver bullet in this crapshoot of a political environment.
But exposing Trump’s pattern of corruption now, when there’s still enough time to heighten voter awareness and maybe even take preventative measures, is a strategic imperative for saving the democracy. As Schiff told reporters, “We do not intend to delay when the integrity of the next election is still at risk.”