While that question has been examined repeatedly over the last few weeks, and Democrats are certainly working to come up with an answer that allows them to chisel away at Trump’s obstruction, The New York Times’ reporting breaks the possibilities for those refusing to cooperate with Congress down to three basic categories: jail them, fine them, or impeach them. And of those three possibilities, it’s the last one that’s gaining steam—enough so that some Democrats who previously urged caution are now saying that impeachment “may be inevitable.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was one of the first to speak up against impeachment following the release of the special counsel report. As The Hill reported at the time, Hoyer declared that “going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point.” Instead, Hoyer was one of those who urged hunkering down and hoping that the 2020 election would take Trump away. But on Wednesday, Hoyer seemed much more open to the idea, saying, “If the facts lead us to that objective, so be it.” Hoyer called Trump’s efforts to block access to materials and witnesses “perhaps the greatest cover-up of any president in American history.”
Trump’s efforts to block the House and Senate from seeing the unredacted Mueller report and supporting materials, and to block access to his taxes and financial records and prevent witnesses from testifying, are leaving Democrats with only one real option. Donald Trump is building the case for the impeachment of Donald Trump.
In addition to the contempt citation against Barr, House Democrats are considering building a “package” of citations that could be referred to the federal district court not as individual cases, but as a demonstration of a pattern of obstruction. Democrats would essentially be building something akin to a conspiracy charge against Trump—and perhaps racketeering as well, considering the way in which Trump has threatened former officials who are now private citizens.
This is being done with a deliberate focus on the articles of impeachment used against Nixon in Watergate. And Democrats aren’t being coy about this. Democratic Rep. David Cicilline said as much in explaining the strategy to the Times. Democrats may have been divided over the outcome of the Mueller report, but they are being united by Trump’s actions in obstruction. Acting against the obstruction is providing new energy and pushing even moderate Democrats to admit that impeachment may be the only action that remains to remove the barrier Trump has placed before Congress.
According to Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal, it’s a question not of waiting until the election, but of looking for three critical “data points” before launching formal impeachment proceedings. One of those is whether or not they can get the full, unredacted special counsel report. The second is whether the White House will allow former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify. And the third is whether Robert Mueller will be allowed to testify.
The answer to the first two points is already known. The clock is now ticking on the third.