What next? The substance of the Mueller report is only now beginning to penetrate through the fog of lies and distortions coming from Attorney General William Barr, backed by his loyal lieutenant, Rod Rosenstein. Even the redacted version makes visible the despicable behavior that emanated from the Trump campaign and the Trump White House, not to mention Donald Trump himself, and the shocking penetration of Russia into our elections—with no visible response then or now from Republicans in power. But most Americans will not read or even get the gist of the Mueller report, or know much of what is in it, as they lead their own lives largely unfocused on politics and government.
So what should Democrats do? There is ample evidence of behavior on the part of the president that fits any reasonable definition of high crimes and misdemeanors—and most likely there will be a lot more when the Southern District of New York (SDNY) and other jurisdictions of the Justice Department finish their work—at least if Barr does not stymie them. The House has a constitutional responsibility to follow up.
But a formal impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee would be politically perilous—and while politics cannot override duty, Democrats cannot risk the kind of 2020 backlash that would come if a large share of the voting public came to see the House as Javert-like, abandoning its focus on health care, jobs, and the other issues that dominate most Americans’ lives in a monomaniacal quest to get Trump. A quick move to impeachment would be used by Trump and his acolytes, from the Senate to Fox and talk radio, to incite and outrage the GOP base.