As former FBI Director James Comey's testimony before the Senate draws near, many folks are probably wondering why Democrats have been so reticent to attack Donald Trump's clear obstruction with the same gusto that Republicans manage to whip up over, say, Dijon mustard.
Recent reporting that Trump cleared the room before asking Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo to intervene with then-FBI Director Comey's investigation further establishes a clear fact pattern that top Democrats have mostly only hinted at.
One notable exception has been Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), who has been particularly outspoken about holding Trump accountable. On Tuesday night's All In with Chris Hayes, Lieu voiced what many of us have been thinking, which is why have Democrats been pussyfooting around the obstruction charge like an all-kitten revival of Riverdance? Lieu called Trump's behavior what it is:
LIEU: As a former prosecutor, there is a concept known as consciousness of guilt, an action that a person takes that an innocent person would not. And why would the president ask people to leave the room? Because he knows what he's about to do is illegal. This is obstruction of justice, endeavoring to influence an investigation. We've seen so much evidence of this, and we're going to see Comey talk about it as well on Thursday.
HAYES: So you think this is, as a former prosecutor and there's been debate about what the actual statute and the criminal threshold is, the consciousness of the party involved. But you think this is another — this is an example of something that you think is, on its face, obstruction of justice by the president of the United States?
LIEU: Yes. And the most damning evidence are the president's own actions and words. No dispute he fired Comey. No dispute that he told the Russians that he did it to relieve the pressure on him. The White House does not dispute that account. That is obstruction of justice. I don't know why people tiptoe around this, say it looks like it or it could be. It is obstruction of justice. The statute is very broad. You just have to endeavor to influence, impede or obstruct, and the president has already done that.
I recognize the political need for top Democrats to retain some measure of impartiality, but impartiality does not demand blindness. While a precious few like Lieu and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) have been holding Trump's feet to the fire, guys like Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) go around saying things like if he hears a tape of Trump obstructing justice, he might then consider the possibility that Trump obstructed justice. Democratic leaders have turned the dial way back past the “weak shit” setting, and there will be political consequences for that.
Until Trump's naked obstruction came to light, there was every possibility that the collusion case was just never going to make. Lots of evidence that works for intel purposes does not translate to a court of law. But Trump's obstruction will very likely lead to his removal from office, and when it does, this weak Democratic response will allow Republicans to catch up with them politically when it comes to holding Trump accountable.
Republicans were willing to impeach President Obama for literally no reason at all. Democrats should, at the very least, muster the stones to call a tangerine a tangerine.
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.