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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

All sides have plenty to sweat about in D.C.'s current governance crisis

The U.S. Capitol on Dec. 19, 2018.

The U.S. Capitol on Dec. 19, 2018. Credit: EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock/Michael Reynolds

Regardless of whether it should even have been an issue, Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday apparently caved in to defuse one of several clashes with Congress — by agreeing to turn over requested Mueller-probe documents.

House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) called it a "first step towards compliance with our subpoena." 

This outcome suggests President Donald Trump, or at least his staff, realizes how self-destructive it could be to try to nullify outright the investigative authority of either house of Congress. 

Americans dislike the powerful openly defying the Constitution. Trump's doing so would give his foes a real rationale for impeachment. In the shorter term, stonewalling could add to the president's list of most embarrassing court setbacks.

Congressional Democrats have other things to worry about.

New members of the majority caucus — including those who won districts that went for Trump in 2016 — expressed reluctance to move forward on impeachment.

For one, Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) told ABC-News last week: " I don't think it's the right thing for the country at this point in time."

Even Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, seeking the Democratic nomination for president, said last month: "If for the next year, year-and-a-half … all that the Congress is talking about is impeaching Trump and Trump, Trump, Trump, and Mueller, Mueller, Mueller, and we're not talking about … all of the issues that concern ordinary Americans, what I worry about is that works to Trump's advantage."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made clear she isn't ready to pull the trigger on impeachment as pressure to do so purportedly builds within her caucus.

She accused Trump of involvement in a "cover up," given White House defiance of subpoenas and information requests, but said, "we believe it’s important to follow the facts."

Fear of failure and backlash is evident. To convict and remove Trump, the House would need assistance from some Republicans in a Senate trial, which doesn't look likely.

On the other hand, independent-minded Rep. Justin Amash, a conservative Michigan Republican, provoked a bit of a panic within his party when he declared after reading the redacted Mueller report that Trump "engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called the Amash statement "very disturbing."

 “What he wants is attention in this process. He’s not a criminal attorney," McCarthy complained. "He’s never met Mueller. He’s never met Barr. And now he’s coming forward with this?”

Now Jim Lower, a Michigan state representative, is expected to challenge Amash in a GOP primary next year.

Some Democrats, meanwhile, evoke dark results if they refrain from impeaching Trump.

Anxiety stalks numerous corners of power these days as the partisan tensions build.

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