From the moment that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave in and allowed impeachment hearings, it seemed like a fool’s errand. The House has a Democratic majority. The Senate has a Republican majority. It was a foregone conclusion that nothing would stop impeachment, and nothing would make Republican Senators vote to convict. But Pelosi seems to have found a way to disrupt the process.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to commit Wednesday to delivering articles of impeachment to the Senate, citing concerns about an unfair trial on removing President Donald Trump from office.
Senior Democratic aides said the House was “very unlikely” to take the steps necessary to send the articles to the Senate until at least early January, a delay of at least two weeks and perhaps longer.
Pelosi’s argument is that the trial would be a sham, since Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has already said that he would not allow any witnesses. No witnesses at a trial. More importantly, McConnell has said he would act as leading defense counsel, not a judge in the matter. So Pelosi has said that she will not send the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate until she’s assured that it will be more like a real trial.
“So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference just moments after the House charged Trump with abuse of power and obstructing congressional investigations. “That would’ve been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.”. . .
By delaying passage of that resolution, Pelosi and top Democrats retain control of the articles and hope to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to adopt trial procedures they consider bipartisan.
Apparently, the unprecedented move is viable.
Pelosi could consider refusing to transmit the articles of impeachment that passed the House on Wednesday to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declared he is coordinating trial strategy with the White House.
Though the request initially seemed to have little currency on Capitol Hill, it gained momentum in recent days as McConnell has continued to make clear he has little interest in serving as an impartial overseer of the Senate trial.
The move puts the House in control, but is it Constitutional?
Pelosi’s comments, which echo suggestions raised by other Democrats throughout the day, inject new uncertainty into the impeachment timetable and send the House and Senate lurching toward a potential institutional crisis.
Republicans don’t seem concerned as a Washington Examiner writer quotes McConnell:
“I’m in no hurry.” @senatemajldr, when I asked if he cared if House decides to sit on articles of #impeachment rather than immediately sending to Senate, as some House Dems have urged, per good reporting by @washingtonpost & @Politico
— David M. Drucker (@DavidMDrucker) December 18, 2019
Other Republicans also questioned the trick.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), called talk of the tactic “one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard of.”
“Are they threatening to withhold the articles of impeachment?” he told The Hill. “That doesn’t accomplish their intended goal. That just means we won’t be having a trial.”
Really? Does he think Pelosi’s goal is to see Trump acquitted? Wouldn’t it be better to have an impeachment without an acquittal? That would leave the case in the minds of the people. Indefinitely.
The notion has been most prominently advocated by [Lawrence] Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor who is a harsh Trump critic and has advised the House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment process. In a Washington Post op-ed this week, he wrote that “the public has a right to observe a meaningful trial rather than simply learn that the result is a verdict of not guilty.”. . .
In a tweet Wednesday, Tribe said the House had the right to hold the articles. “Senate rules requiring the House to ‘immediately’ present its articles of impeachment to the Senate clearly violate the constitutional clause in Article I giving each house the sole power to make its own rules. It’s up to the House when and how to prosecute its case in the Senate,” Tribe said.
Tribe may be wrong. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says Articles must be sent to the Senate “immediately.” There’s nothing about how or when Articles must be sent to the Senate. Pelosi could simply “sit on” the issue, keeping Trump from ever being acquitted.
Besides, there are other ways to slow the process. The House must have “managers” of the process, and they have to be elected by the House. That takes time.
[Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said Wednesday,] that if McConnell does not agree to call the Democratic witnesses and stage a fair trial, he said, Democrats could simply hold on to the articles indefinitely and continue to investigate Trump. The House is involved in multiple court cases seeking documents and testimony that have yet to be resolved. . .
Blumenauer declined to discuss whether members interested in the gambit would withhold their votes on naming managers to force the issue: “I’m not interested in sparking controversy in the caucus,” he said.
As we have discussed in these pages, about 46% of the people are for and against the removal of Trump. Surprisingly, the public, as a whole, has not been angered, the way they were with the Clinton impeachment. But if it drags on, could Trump be made into a hero, the way Clinton was? Trump’s approval rating has been about 42 or 43% throughout his term. Could a dragged out process increase his favorability? Stay tuned.