The impeachment of President Donald Trump suddenly looks like much more than just a theoretical possibility.
Democrats on Monday will launch an “abuse of power” investigation that could be easily transformed into an even more serious process, with an expansive demand for documents from Trump’s government, his family and even his real estate empire.
The President reacted to his worsening plight with a vehement defense on Sunday, after a week in which testimony from his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen deepened his political vulnerability and ahead of the expected filing soon of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
“Presidential Harassment by ‘crazed’ Democrats at the highest level in the history of our Country. Likewise, the most vicious and corrupt Mainstream Media that any president has ever had to endure,” Trump tweeted Sunday night.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, who would eventually lead any impeachment proceedings, on Sunday signaled a significant escalation into congressional inquiries into the President.
The New York Democrat plans on Monday to request documents from 60 people and entities close to Trump, including from the Department of Justice, the White House and the Trump Organization.
The document trawl will be used “to present the case to the American people about obstruction of justice, about corruption and abuse of power,” Nadler said on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday.
Nadler stuck to the House Democratic position that impeachment “is a long way down the road,” apparently in order to avoid Republican arguments that the decision has already been made to try to oust Trump. The document requests are not taking place under the auspices of an official impeachment investigation.
But Nadler said nevertheless that he believes the President had obstructed justice, a potentially impeachable offense.
And given his responsibilities and powers, the warning from Nadler took the President’s political and legal nightmare to a new plane, and opened a new, more serious stage of the showdown between House Democrats and Trump.
It was the latest sign that investigations sparked by accusations that Trump’s campaign team cooperated with Russian election meddling has mushroomed into a relentless examination of Trump’s political, personal and business life.
The latest blow to the President further intensified pressure on the White House as Washington waits for another shoe to drop — with Mueller expected to file his long awaited report from Monday onward.
The Nadler investigation, along with parallel probes into Trump’s presidency by the House Oversight and Intelligence committees means that the structure of a political investigation into the President based in Congress is now in place, alongside the legal inquiries led by Mueller and prosecutors in New York and other jurisdictions.
Trump showing signs of stress
In the last week, partly through Cohen’s testimony, it has become clear that even if the special counsel does not find direct wrongdoing by the President, Trump’s legal troubles will linger deep into his presidency and probably beyond.
Trump is showing increasing signs of stress at being surrounded.
He spent much of the weekend laying out a likely defense should any of the multiple probes find him guilty of wrongdoing and bolstering his stranglehold on the Republican Party that could eventually be key to saving his presidency in a Senate trial if House Democrats opt for impeachment.
“I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start - And only because I won the Election!” Trump tweeted Sunday.
In a mostly unscripted two-hour speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday — one of the most demagogic and inflammatory appearances of his presidency, Trump lacerated Mueller and his investigation.
“So now we’re waiting for a report, and we’ll find out … who we’re dealing with … We’re waiting for a report by people that weren’t elected,” Trump said at CPAC.
“You put the wrong people in a couple of positions and they leave people for a long time that shouldn’t be there, and all of a sudden, they’re trying to take you out with bullshit, OK,” Trump said.
Trump also sketched a defense for two potential areas of vulnerability: his call for Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails during the 2016 campaign and his firing of former FBI Director James Comey in 2017.
He said he was being “sarcastic” when he asked Russia to find Clinton’s emails and was having fun with his audience.