D.C. DISPATCH-Trump has poorly miscalculated the impeachment threat and needs to reassess his signals. There’s an analogy from the world of signals intelligence -- the gathering of intelligence by interception of signals both electronic and telephonic.
Normally, no matter how strong a microwave transmission signal is, it can only be received by those with a clear line of sight. But some years ago, a few farsighted engineers realized that by using a clever hack called “tropospheric scatter” they could receive scattered signals from much greater distances by catching their reflections off the lower atmosphere. In effect, they could see over the horizon -- but the catch was, to receive the faint signal, they had to know what to listen for and be prepared to receive it.
Trump has done neither of these in the past week and has been caught off guard with no strategy to deflect his enemies.
President Trump has isolated himself in a White House tower, fired anyone who opposes him, welcomed sycophants, and become increasingly bold (read erratic) as his actions have gone unchecked. Donald Trump has long been known for being a loud transmitter, but his detractors contend that he’s a very poor receiver. Because Trump, with his unchecked hubris, calculated that any impeachment effort would be based on the Mueller Report, he believed he could adopt a scorched earth tactic, ignore any subpoenas and deprive every congressional hearing of witnesses for the next year, as he coasts to reelection in 2020.
Delay, delay, and all will work itself out just as it always has before. Trump was convinced that Pelosi would never commence impeachment proceedings against him and that the Senate would never get a two-thirds majority to convict him. With his base firmly at his side, Trump was home free, he reasoned gleefully.
The public revelation of a Ukraine political “favor” that Trump asked for -- dirt or the commencement of an investigation into his leading political opponent and his son, Hunter Biden -- was a black swan hovering over the situation room. It caught the White House completely off guard. A lonely whistleblower exposing the scheme, which the White House, the Justice Department and the Acting DNI hoped to bury and keep from the public, was another unanticipated occurrence.
Trump saw nothing wrong with pressuring a foreign power to provide or manufacture information to help his campaign. He had his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his Attorney General, Bill Barr, to give him cover in his scheme and he was shocked when his troops could not control or suppress the fallout. Suddenly, his usual blitz of “fake news, witch hunt, deep state Democrat conspiracy” weren’t working so well. Now he desperately struggles to control the narrative so that his base doesn't begin to question his ethics and actions. Trump was stunned with the speed that Pelosi was able to put an “impeachment inquiry” on the table and to ensure that articles of impeachment would be successfully voted on before year’s end. A perilous and complex road awaits our President as the path to impeachment lies before us.
This past week in Washington reflects a culmination of signals the Democratic Party has been sending for some time. By placing primary jurisdiction in the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) under the able chairmanship of Harvard Law educated Congressman Adam Schiff, Pelosi is assuring that the recent circus hearings with Corey Lewandowski in the Judiciary Committee will not be repeated. Pelosi is also insisting that the HPSCI keep its agenda focused on the Ukraine. If Trump’s inner circle refuses to produce documents, tries to assert executive privilege, or refuses to testify to the Committee, the inference will be that the individuals are obstructing Congress, and this will form the basis of additional articles of impeachment.
The House’s impeachment inquiry represents a clear and direct signal with immediate implications for those looking at the near-term consequences for Donald Trump. But the fainter and more important signals may be the message that the Democrats will not let Trump get out of this investigation unscathed. The Pelosi goal is to keep it simple. As the public is made aware of Trump’s perfidy, it is likely that they will increasingly support impeachment. This shift in public opinion will require the Senate to reassess its views. The chances of Trump emerging free and clear from a Senate trial are diminishing.
When faced with a similar scenario, Nixon resigned to avoid the shame of a trial. While Trump likes to double down and is not known for feeling shame, he is motivated by a very strong sense of self preservation. Part of his calculus today must be: can he work out a deal that leaves his companies and net worth intact? At question is whether Donald Trump can switch from transmitter to receiver long enough to absorb the message and act accordingly. Surely, he does not want to risk being the first President in history to ever have been successfully impeached and convicted.
(Sara Corcoran writes DC Dispatch and covers the nation’s capital from Washington for CityWatch. She is the Publisher of the California and National Courts Monitor and contributes to Daily Koz, The Frontier Post in Pakistan and other important news publications.) Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.