J.W. Verret
Credit: CNN/Screenshot

Paul Krugman provided a good summary of the current situation and then asked the right question.

So all the “fake news” was true. A hostile foreign power intervened in the presidential election, hoping to install Donald Trump in the White House. The Trump campaign was aware of this intervention and welcomed it. And once in power, Trump tried to block any inquiry into what happened.

Never mind attempts to spin this story as somehow not meeting some definitions of collusion or obstruction of justice. The fact is that the occupant of the White House betrayed his country. And the question everyone is asking is, what will Democrats do about it?

But notice that the question is only about Democrats. Everyone (correctly) takes it as a given that Republicans will do nothing. Why?

Actually, there are some Republicans who are using their platforms to speak out in favor of impeachment. For example, J.W. Verret, who served on Trump’s transition team as deputy director of economic policy, says he’s seen enough.

The Mueller report was that tipping point for me, and it should be for Republican and independent voters, and for Republicans in Congress. In the face of a Department of Justice policy that prohibited him from indicting a sitting president, Mueller drafted what any reasonable reader would see as a referral to Congress to commence impeachment hearings.

Depending on how you count, roughly a dozen separate instances of obstruction of justice are contained in the Mueller report. The president dangled pardons in front of witnesses to encourage them to lie to the special counsel, and directly ordered people to lie to throw the special counsel off the scent.

This elaborate pattern of obstruction may have successfully impeded the Mueller investigation from uncovering a conspiracy to commit more serious crimes. At a minimum, there’s enough here to get the impeachment process started.

We’ve grown used to hearing from George Conway, Kellyanne Conway’s husband, but he, too, has seen enough.

White House counsel John Dean famously told Nixon that there was a cancer within the presidency and that it was growing. What the Mueller report disturbingly shows, with crystal clarity, is that today there is a cancer in the presidency: President Donald J. Trump.

Congress now bears the solemn constitutional duty to excise that cancer without delay.

A group called “Republicans For the Rule of Law” began as an effort to protect the Mueller investigation. Since the special counsel’s report was released, they have produced a few powerful videos, like this one.

Here’s one designed specifically to be aired on Fox News.

The problem is that all of these Republicans share one thing in common: they are not members of Congress. The best we’ve gotten from that group is Senator Joni Ernst saying that the president “has a brash demeanor;” the usual pearl clutching from Senator Susan Collins, who suggested that the Mueller report offered an “unflattering portrayal of the president;” Senator Rob Portman’s descriptions of Trump’s behavior as “inappropriate;” and a sternly worded statement from Senator Mitt Romney saying that he is “appalled” that Trump’s campaign welcomed help from Russia.

I would suggest that the Republicans who are publicly calling for Trump to be impeached are representative of a group of GOP voters. That explains why the president’s approval rating has dropped slightly since the release of the Mueller report. But the group of voters that elected officials are paying attention to is much larger and they have dug in to defend the president. As long as that is the case, Krugman is right to conclude that Republicans in Congress will do nothing.

Other than on this issue, Democrats don’t have much in common with the Republicans who are calling for impeachment. But it is not necessary to agree with them to recognize that, in our politically polarized environment, these are the only people who have a shot at reaching conservative voters with their arguments in favor of holding this president accountable. I applaud their efforts.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.