Impeachment Headed Nowhere, Perhaps in an Interesting Way
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighs delaying delivery of articles of impeachment to Senate until Republicans set trial rules she considers fair.
The Wall Street Journal reports House Impeaches Trump, Focus Turns to Senate Trial.
Democrats signaled Thursday they could delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, potentially pushing President Trump’s trial well into the new year, to pressure Republicans to allow new witnesses and evidence in the proceeding.
The House on Wednesday approved abuse-of-power and obstruction-of-Congress articles against Mr. Trump in the wake of his pressing Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. Nearly all Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), supported the charges, while the chamber’s Republicans rejected them, saying Democrats failed to show that Mr. Trump had committed a crime and that they had managed a flawed process.
Mr. Trump will now be the third president to face a trial in the Senate, where a two-thirds vote would be required to remove him from office. But it was uncertain when and under what procedures the Senate would conduct his trial.
What's Next? In the House
- Pelosi can sit on the charges and do nothing.
- Pelosi can send the charges to the Senate where it is then totally out of her control.
If It Goes to the Senate
- The Senate can choose to end the witch hunt without a trial. All that takes is 51 votes and there are 53 Republican Senators who might just wish to throw this away immediately.
- Trump favors a circus. Amusingly, so does Pelosi. There are people on all sides that want to call witnesses. Pelosi hopes this will backfire on Trump. But Trump believes it will backfire on Biden and the Democrats. Both sides cannot be right.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants a trial but no witnesses. It would be over in about the length of time it takes to strike a gavel plus a few Republican speeches of unknown length mocking the trial.
“We have one card to play here, which is the timing of its conveyance to the Senate, and how can we use that card to try and make the process balanced,” said Rep. Jim Himes (D., Conn.). “I think the speaker has a point of leverage. And she’s going to use that leverage to make sure the trial is fair.”
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D., Ore.) said he had spoken to at least 40 Democrats, including members of the House leadership and the Judiciary Committee, about delaying sending impeachment articles to the Senate, in a move to gain leverage in negotiations.
Some lawmakers raised the prospect that the delay could extend well into the new year, with an eye on possible court rulings that could lead to more witnesses testifying or the release of Mr. Trump’s financial records.
Asked if Democrats could delay sending over impeachment articles for months, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D., Mo.) said: “I’m not going to make the decision, but I wouldn’t rush.”
Earlier this week, Mr. McConnell rejected a request from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) to hear from four witnesses—including former national-security adviser John Bolton —who had been called by the House but were directed by Mr. Trump not to testify.
Let Them Wait
Pelosi wants an agreement from McConnell, but there would be nothing binding about such an agreement.
My Assessment: The public would quickly get tired of Pelosi having charges and not submitting them.
If that assessment is accurate, McConnell can get whatever he wants, just by waiting. Thus, I agree with this call by Senator John Cornyn.
“We don’t care whether they never come,” Cornyn told reporters, holding his hand up to his head like a gun. “It’s kind of like, don’t make me do this.”
A delay in sending over articles of impeachment could put Democrats from competitive districts in further peril. Some of the 31 House Democrats representing districts that Mr. Trump won in 2016 said that they hoped the delay didn’t persist.
Pelosi Has Three Options
- Sit on this forever, looking like a fool.
- Sit on this long enough to make a fool out of herself, then send it to the Senate.
- Change her mind quickly, then send it to the Senate.
Take your pick, but I have the order of likelihood as 3-2-1.
Then, although Trump favors a circus, I expect a short trial, perhaps with a very small number of witnesses that Republicans can destroy, followed by a quick dismissal of the charges.
Witnesses are unpredictable, the fewer the better to minimize uncertainty.
That is the least risky path for Republicans and even some Democrat Senators may see it the same way.
Ultimately, impeachment is headed nowhere. Meanwhile, the process is on an uncertain, entertaining path.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock