Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the committee that will impeach Donald Trump, abruptly announces retirement

Two days after the Republican Party got thumped by voters across the nation who are punishing the party for Donald Trump, the fallout continues. The House Judiciary Committee is sometimes informally referred to as the “House impeachment committee” because by law, it’s where articles of impeachment are initiated. Today the Republican chairman of that committee abruptly announced his retirement. Depending on how this plays out, it could mean one of a few things.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte has long been an ally of Donald Trump, and up until this week he had been helping Trump create distractions from his Russia scandal. Now Goodlatte has announced that he’s retiring and he won’t seek reelection in the 2018 midterms. Several Republicans in Congress have already made similar announcements, presumably for fear they won’t be able to win reelection anyway, amid the mounting anti-Trump backlash. But Goodlatte’s announcement is different, for a few reasons.

If and when the impeachment process against Donald Trump gets underway in the House, Goodlatte – in his role as chairman – was expected to serve as Donald Trump’s primary backstop. Even if the Democrats take majority control of the House in the midterms, Goodlatte would still have been his party’s ranking member on the impeachment committee. In other words, Trump just lost a key remaining ally who could have protected him from impeachment, either before or after the midterms. In fact it’s fair to ask if that’s precisely why Goodlatte is bailing.

If Bob Goodlatte ends up leaving the House before his current term ends, it could be a sign that House Republicans are planning to move forward with a strategic impeachment of Donald Trump in the hope of salvaging the midterms, and Goodlatte has decided he wants no part of it. If Goodlatte does complete his term, his resignation could be a sign that he expects the Democrats to take control in the midterms and begin impeachment, and he wants no part of it. Keep an eye on what Goodlatte does next, because it may telegraph his own party’s contingency plans.

Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report