I’m not sure, is the short answer. I’m not sure the Democrats can explain the whistleblower issue (as I’m delicately calling it) in a way that ordinary Americans can understand. And respond to in the right way.
There are two reasons for scepticism about the Democrats’ ability to do this.
First, the case is shrouded in mystery. We do not know who the whistleblower is. We do not know the exact nature of his “urgent concern,” a legal term to seek action from the highest monitoring authority of the federal intelligence agencies. We do not know why Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, agreed that it was urgent enough to refer to Congress. And finally, the Trump administration is preventing the acting Director of National Intelligence from briefing members of Congress (or indeed, allowing Mr Atkinson to do so.)
All we know is that the whistleblower heard and saw enough about President Trump’s dealings with a foreign leader – and a “promise” he’s alleged to have made to his interlocutor – to have been deeply troubled. We know that the matter seems to involve Ukraine. We know that the whistleblower was sufficiently alarmed to stick their neck out on August 12. All we know is that there’s something there. But we don’t know what’s there.
All of this raises troubling questions about Mr Trump, and the fact that he can use his iron grip on the administration to prevent Congress – a co-equal branch of government – from oversight.
But the question still remains: Can the Democrats explain it all to the American people, in such a way that they care? The
Democrats haven’t done a very good job with explaining the Russia investigation this past year. They’ve taken control of the House but everything the Democrats have done since on the Russia investigation, hasn’t persuaded anyone outside their base that Mr Trump is unfit for high office.
Now, Congressional Democrats need to make sure their next attempt to hold the president accountable is more robust – and simple enough – for Americans to understand.
The stakes are high.