The White House press secretary flatly claimed that Trump is not watching the House Intelligence Committee's formal opening of its impeachment inquiry. A few days before Trump was just as confident and nonchalant when he said that he wasn't worried in the least about the hearings. Trump's seemingly airy attitude toward the whole business is no surprise. It wouldn't have been Trump if he had said anything less than that the impeachment inquiry is much ado about nothing. Trump though wasted no time in seeing the impeachment hearings as a campaign pot of gold. He's fundraising off of the hearings.
He has good reason, in fact several good reasons, to put up the" who cares" posture and grab cash off impeachment. The first is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He loudly pronounced that" I" am the firewall against impeachment; meaning that if and likely when the House votes impeachment, he'd make sure that it was stopped dead in its track in the Senate.
Next there is the GOP. Aside from a few private head shales at Trump, and the usual private grumbles about the embarrassment he is to the party, every top GOP House and Senate leader did tortured circus loops to defend Trump's flat out quid pro quo lawbreaking with the Ukraine and probably China, to name the most immediate few.
The biggest reason for Trump's brash indifference to it all are the polls, and the grave politics behind them. They show that a slender majority of Americans back the impeachment inquiry. That's not the real story though. They also show that there's much muddle and ambiguity and doubt from a majority or near majority that Trump should be removed from office. That could change as it did with Nixon after revelation after revelation about Nixon' outrageous and very provable lawbreaking. A majority of Americans then said that Nixon should be removed from office.
However, Trump has muddled public sentiment on his behavior and now impeachment in ways that could Nixon could never dream of. He's had a lot of help from a media still enthralled by every insipid tweet and utterance from his well-honed deflect and distract playbook. The real payoff for him lay with the polls and public attitudes toward impeachment in the only places that really count for him. That's in the five states that will decide the White House; the states that barely put him over the top in 2016.
Press people have repeatedly rushed out to every nook and cranny of those states asking one question mostly of those who backed him: "What do you think of impeachment." The answers vary from shrugs of indifference to open hostility. The open hostility is mostly a parrot of Trump and the GOP's line that impeachment is just a vicious, cynical and self-serving ploy by sore loser Democrats to do what they couldn't do at the polls, that's wipe out the 2016 election. The message is they're trying to take away your vote for me, are you going to let that happen?
Trump banks that this is the swift kick needed to fan even more fury among his base and many others who may not like the guy but like the idea of an end around the election process to dump Trump even less. If the fury caries over to November than Trump gets the benefit and the boost.
It's that fear that made House Speaker Nancy repeatedly say no to any effort to impeach Trump for so long. She gravely warned that Trump was goading and taunting her and the Democrats to go ahead and try to impeach him. Trump saw that as his ticket back to the White House in 2020. It would allow him to go into full blown victim mode and wail that he's being hectored, harassed and tormented by vindictive, sour grape Democrats still fuming that he won the presidency, and determined to wreak their revenge on him. Now that the impeachment inquiry is going full blast, Trump loyalists and countless other Americans show that there's much truth to this.
The GOP has done its part on this. It has made sure that impeachment will be almost exclusively a Democratic show in the House since no GOP House Republican will likely back the effort. The GOP controlled Senate, as McConnell has made amply clear, will never, ever vote to convict. So, if it's a strictly hard-nosed political partisan effort, it comes off as nothing more than a stunt, or at best an empty gesture done purely to satisfy hopped up progressive Democrats.
Now a compelling case can be made that going after Trump with impeachment is first and foremost the legally and constitutionally right thing to do since he openly broke the law with his Ukraine dealing, not to mention countless other acts of lawlessness in office. An equally compelling case can be made that impeachment will stir even more Democrats to storm the polls in November 2020. Whether impeachment is that message or not could be less important than in showing that Democrats aren't afraid to fight for a political principle despite the political risks and the saber rattle from Trump and the GOP.
Will impeachment then help or hurt Trump? It will do both.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of The Impeachment of President Trump? (Amazon Kindle). https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075XSXJM8 Free Amazon Reading Friday June 7 and Saturday June 8
He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.