Harry Reid’s flip on impeachment

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Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
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Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

In an interview with USA Today published earlier this week, former Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid said the House of Representatives should launch impeachment proceedings against the president.

“It’s not the right thing to do nothing,” Reid said.

Reid, like most party elders, had earlier warned the party not to pursue impeachment.

“We have just a short time until the next election,” Reid said in Las Vegas in April. “And if impeachment proceedings go forward, I think this country might be spending an inordinate amount of time on impeachment and nothing else. And I don’t think we can afford that.”

But this week, Reid said launching an impeachment inquiry will “give the American people a view of what’s going on.”

Reid’s statements came as one his former chief staffers in the Senate, Adam Jentleson, published a piece in GQ making the case — contrary to conventional wisdom — that impeachment would help Democrats politically.

Jentleson recounts how, as Reid’s deputy chief of staff, he watched the calculation Senate Democrats made in 2016 when Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was blocking President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

Being in the minority limited our options for overcoming McConnell’s blockade. But whenever we started to contemplate more aggressive tactics, they were dismissed on the theory that the upcoming election would sort everything out. Why rock the boat, we told ourselves. We’re on a glide path to victory in November, and then President Clinton will submit her Supreme Court nominee to be confirmed by a Democratic Senate.

The rest is history.

Noting today’s conventional argument (formerly shared by Reid) that the party should avoid impeachment and instead capture the electorate’s attention by focusing on issues like health care, Jentelson wrote, “That’s not going to happen.”

The void that House Democrats are ceding to Trump is the space between now and election day. Filling that space with easy messages like health care is not a viable option. And a good rule of thumb of politics is that if you have the power to do something that hurts your opponent, you should do it.

Anything can happen and hearings can go haywire, but the odds of making a convincing public case against Trump are stacked strongly in Democrats’ favor. Trump’s crimes are serious and laid out in meticulous detail by an unimpeachable source… In this case, the impeachment process is like one of those meals where all the ingredients come in a box: you have to boil some water and maybe crack an egg, but it’s basically idiot-proof.

Following Robert Mueller’s public appearance last month, in which he reiterated his report’s key findings, Democratic Rep. Dina Titus and Steven Horsford stepped up their rhetoric against the president.

“I’ve read the report and it is clear that obstruction of justice occurred by this White House,” Horsford said.

“Mueller made it clear today that Department of Justice policy prevented him from bringing criminal charges against the President,” Titus said. “It is now up to Congress to ensure that no person is above the law.”

Both, however, have stopped short of calling for impeachment.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.

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