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Impeach Normalization

In this extra-long and extra-intense episode of Gaslit Nation, we discuss Paul Manafort’s sentences and Nancy Pelosi’s opposition to impeachment. We give our take on why the Mueller probe is thus far ineffective, and what it says about our justice system that a brutal career criminal like Manafort who has caused death and suffering around the world as well as threatening our own lives receives such a minimal punishment. We argue that it is in fact “worth it” to impeach Trump, the man whom Manafort served and who himself serves a transnational crime syndicate. We look back on our own decades of work studying authoritarian regimes around the world and the human toll of those regimes, and we examine the toll inaction has taken here in the US – a toll we are unwilling to abide and accept. We condemn the normalization of elite criminal impunity that has devastated our democracy, and we discuss what people can do to combat it. Because this is not about Trump, this is not about Pelosi, this is about the American people – and no matter what our officials tell you, you’re worth it.

On Impeachment:

In the Washington Post, Speaker Pelosi said:

I’m not for impeachment. This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.

As we have previously stated in multiple episodes, Gaslit Nation stands in favor of impeaching the motherfucker. This was previously not a controversial view, as Trump has committed a multitude of impeachable offenses, including but not limited to: violating the emoluments clause; obstruction of justice; ordering unconstitutional imprisonment of migrant families; abusing the pardon power; high crimes and misdemeanors; conspiracy against the US; and conspiracy to illegally influence the 2016 election. 

Trump has committed these crimes in plain sight and confessed to some of them, like obstruction, on television. These are not merely constitutional violations but severe threats to national security and public safety that require immediate action – investigation and indictment as well as impeachment. 

Impeachment is not a snap of the fingers producing an instant result. It is a process of hearings in which officials present evidence of crimes and deliberate in a public forum, removed from media bias. Americans these days tend to exist in information silos, but hearings, from Comey to Cohen, have brought our country together to bear witness. Hearings give the public information long withheld from them and shift expectations of accountability. We see parallels with Watergate, in which much of the republic was unconvinced of the severity of Nixon’s crimes until hearings began and they learned the full details. 

The public has the right to information and to make up its own mind. Our media is largely sponsored by dictators or dictated by sponsors. It is critical that officials present evidence to the public directly. This is not a partisan issue; it is a matter of public safety – Trump’s supporters have as much right to the truth as do Trump’s opponents. We are Americans, and we are in this together.

Pelosi, however, does not appear to see herself as in it together with us – she sees herself as above it. She sees Trump as a partisan matter, not an urgent public threat. She does not understand that we are already divided as a nation, and that truth and transparency are the salve. She is replicating the mistakes made by the Obama administration (and by the FBI and James Comey) when they withheld the truth about Trump and Russia from the American public due to their fear of seeming “divisive” or angering Mitch McConnell. 

The GOP has been hijacked by a transnational crime syndicate masquerading as a government. This is not a secret; we have seen the indictments and we have seen the panicked protectiveness of Trump by the GOP even when they are confronted with his most severe and obviously illegal infractions. Any possibility of bipartisan support for impeachment, for the GOP to put country before party is a myth. The Republicans created this situation: they long ago abdicated their duty through corruption and capitulation. If the GOP were to impeach Trump, they would effectively impeach themselves, since they are caught in Trump’s web of criminality. (Michael Cohen, for example, was the deputy finance chairman of the RNC.) But when Pelosi makes a bipartisan resolution that she knows is impossible the standard for following rule of law, she continues the very abdication that the GOP initiated – and in doing so, aids in their complicity.

Supporters of Pelosi believe there must be a secret message or a secret plan behind her statement, but there is very likely not. (We will be delighted if we are wrong and there is a secret plan, since we are thinking first and foremost about the welfare of the American people, but our track record of accurate assessments speaks for itself.) Some have said the point of Pelosi proclaiming Trump “not worth it” is to wound his ego – as if Trump remotely cares what Pelosi says. All Trump cares about is money, power and being immune from prosecution. Impeachment hearings actually threaten all three of these things. Attempted jibes do not. The message Pelosi conveys when she says Trump is “not worth it” is that it is not worth holding him accountable for crimes that have resulted in the loss of human life and the ongoing destruction of our nation. 

Pelosi may not have intended for this to be her message, but that is how many received it. She hurled a grenade into progressives and wounded many with her words. She may think we can vote Trump out, but she has hurt that very cause. We have heard from younger voters and voters from marginalized groups who no longer want to vote for the Democratic candidate because her flippant dismissal of impeachment as an outcome has led them to believe that the two parties are the same. They are not the same: one party is an existential threat, and one party is deeply flawed. We encourage you to support the Democratic candidate in 2020. But we demand that the Democrats confront our grim reality head on – that there may not be a 2020, that there may not be free and fair elections, and that every day is damage done. It may be a partisan game to you, Speaker Pelosi, but for the rest of us, and for this country, it is a matter of life or death. 

It is critical that the stakes are made clear. Refusal to impeach sends the message that the situation cannot possibly be that dire – it if were, the Democrats would move to impeach, right? This is the same disastrous miscalculation that gave us an unpunished cadre of criminals from Watergate, Iran-Contra, the War on Iraq, and the 2008 financial crisis – criminals who are working with the White House right now! This is not a comparative study; this is literally the same people committing crimes over and over without repercussions. We would not even been dealing with this crisis if officials had acted with conscience and conviction earlier, and brought these criminal elites to justice.

Let us be clear: we do not think that, if the House impeaches Trump, the GOP-dominated Senate will convict. We also do not think that if the Senate, by some miracle, impeaches Trump, that he will leave. Trump has made it clear he will not leave office even if the will of the people demands it in an election, and even if the will of Congress demands it in impeachment. Trump is an aspiring autocrat, and the GOP is seeking a one-party state. 

So what is the point of the House impeaching Trump? An informed public is a powerful public, and hearings are the best way of informing the people on what the White House has done. Autocrats and wannabe autocrats live by their brands, and a symbolic vote of impeachment by the House, sending the world the message that the United States still stands for the rule of law, damages the Trump brand and leaves a mark on it that Ivanka must carry with her as she continues to represent us abroad. The House must begin impeachment proceedings to help restore America's standing in the world and because it is their constitutional duty.

Impeachment sends a message about who we are as a country and what we will accept and abide. The rule of law demands action. Refusing to take action is normalizing atrocity. Lawlessness must be confronted regardless of the outcome, as a matter of principle and conscience. Fighting only the battles that you know you will win is a sure way of ensuring you lose; preemptive surrender, in a rapidly consolidating autocracy, is permanent surrender. The American people have suffered enough under Trump; they should not have to suffer due to Pelosi’s capitulation as well. We all deserve better than this.