The Atlantic Politics Daily: Democrats Can’t Agree on the Reasons for Impeachment

Some moderate Democrats want the party to zoom in as closely as possible on Trump’s Ukraine-related offense. Others want to consider more. Plus: AOC makes another endorsement.

Today in Politics

It’s Tuesday, October 22. Today, the latest in impeachment. Plus, interpreting and misinterpreting “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Finally, what Canada loses by a Trudeau win.

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

Just about every single congressional Democrat supports the impeachment inquiry. (That consensus only hardened after Bill Taylor, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testified on Capitol Hill that President Donald Trump had explicitly extracted a quid pro quo from Ukraine.)

Impeached for what? Democrats aren’t in agreement on that question. A battle within the party might be forthcoming, as it looks to drafting official articles of impeachment.

The schism leaves two camps, as my colleague Elaine Godfrey reported:

1. Some moderate Democrats want the party to zoom in as closely as possible on Trump’s Ukraine-related offense. Representative Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania told Godfrey that her “personal preference” would be “to keep the focus narrow.”

2. And then there are the lawmakers who don’t want to forget about Russian interference, family separation, emoluments, or any of the issues that have swirled around Trump. Take Representative Gerry Connolly of Virginia: “Mueller all but said [Trump] committed a crime. “I don’t think we can afford to ignore that. That sets a precedent.”

How should swing-district Democrats be approaching impeachment? The Beltway insider narrative is that they should frantically try to distinguish themselves from their party’s moves, but that political calculus may be all wrong, writes Ronald Brownstein:

“But whether they support impeachment or not, their fate in 2020 may hinge less on their individual votes than on the country’s verdict on the overall impeachment process—and even more so on how it assesses Trump’s term in office.”

— Saahil Desai


(Veronica Cardenas / Reuters)

Jessica Cisneros, a Democrat running to challenge Representative Henry Cuellar in Texas, was endorsed today by fellow Justice Democrat Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Elaine Godfrey pressed Cisneros on her platform earlier this month.

Argument of the Day

(Bettmann / Getty)

As the House’s impeachment inquiry ramps up, both critics and defenders have turned to the Constitution’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” clause as their roadmap for the legal battles to come. But America’s politicians may be misinterpreting that phrase by searching for clear criminal violations of the law, Frank O. Bowman argues. It turns out the framers might have had a more sweeping definition in mind.

In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton made the larger point that impeachment is directed at “political” offenses that “proceed from … the abuse or violation of some public trust.” He was echoed by the foremost of the first generation of commentators on the Constitution, Justice Joseph Story, who observed in his 1833 treatise Commentaries on the Constitution that impeachable conduct is often “purely political,” and that “no previous statute is necessary to authorize an impeachment for any official misconduct.”

→ Read the rest

+ More from our Battle for the Constitution series: “The Trump administration has tended to adopt a posture of maximal presidential obstruction of congressional investigations into the conduct of the executive branch and the individuals surrounding it.”


(Mark Spowart / Getty)

🇨🇦Winning, but barely: “Justin Trudeau didn’t lose the Canadian federal election outright, but he had about as bad an outcome as possible short of that,” David Frum argues.

🇬🇧Brexit, now and forever: “This is a potentially seismic turning point in the Brexit drama, so long as the government can persuade all those MPs who have professed their support to stick with it,” Tom McTague writes from London.

About us: The Atlantic’s politics newsletter is a daily effort from our politics desk. Today’s edition was written by Saahil Desai, with help from Christian Paz, and edited by Shan Wang.

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