Stormy hearings ahead

Rust never sleeps and neither do congressional Democrats intent on impeaching President Trump. When the House returns to session next week, the House Judiciary Committee will explore five instances of supposed obstruction of justice by Trump that they say are documented in Robert Mueller’s report.

None amounts to actual obstruction of justice. Each, by now, is yawn inducing.

But House Dems also plan an inquiry that might gain attention and put Judiciary Committee members in the spotlight. Reportedly, they will investigate Trump’s involvement in paying two women to remain silent about allegedly having sex with him.

One of the women is ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal. The other is porn star Stormy Daniels.

The payments predate Trump’s presidency. Is it a “high crime and misdemeanor” for a candidate to buy the silence of someone who has damaging information about him? I don’t think so. At worst, it’s a technical violation of campaign finance law, and I doubt it even amounts to that.

But why let this stand in the way of sexy hearings? Stormy Daniels and the ex-Playboy model might be able to attract media attention and draw viewers to hearings that otherwise hardly anyone would watch.

Might their testimony harm Trump’s image? I doubt there’s anyone left in America who thinks Trump is above having sex with attractive women. I also doubt that any potential Trump voter would fail to understand his effort to keep such matters out of the public’s eye during a presidential election campaign. But maybe Trump will take a minor hit if Daniels testifies that her sexual encounter with Trump occurred not long after his wife had given birth.

As for the alleged campaign finance violation, we’re back to yawn inducing.

Another question is how such hearings would affect the politics of impeachment. House Democrats are divided, at least on the surface, on whether to keep pushing for impeachment. Speaker Pelosi says Dems should stop barking up that tree, but a large portion of her caucus, perhaps close to half of it, wants to keep barking. (In reality, Pelosi probably doesn’t mind the barking as long as there’s no biting).

Depending on how they go, hearings on the Stormy Daniels payoff might ramp up pressure to impeach Trump. Democrats who follow Pelosi’s lead and resist the pressure might lose points with the Party’s base as the 2020 election approaches.

In sum, it’s conceivable, but unlikely, that Stormy Daniels hearings would injure Trump’s re-election bid. It’s conceivable, and perhaps not quite as unlikely, that such hearings would lead to consequences injurious to the reelection campaigns of a few House Democrats.

In the end, my guess is that these hearings would have virtually no electoral impact. They might make for good theater, though.

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