In the end, Nancy Pelosi really did have “no choice.” Her announcement Thursday that she has asked her chairmen to proceed with drafting articles of impeachment against President Trump means that it is all but certain that he will be the third president in the history of the United States to be impeached.
We’ve been here before. 21 years ago, House Republicans passed two articles of impeachment against then President Bill Clinton for the high crime and misdemeanor of lying about getting a blow job in the Oval Office. Don’t kid yourself; what Trump has done poses a far greater threat to this Republic than anything Clinton did. Even now, Rudy Giuliani is in Ukraine meeting with corrupt ex-prosecutors trying to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in an attempt to help his boss win the 2020 election. The brazenness of this administration knows no bounds.
On Wednesday, we saw four Constitutional scholars testify before the Judiciary Committee; three of them agreed that what Trump did was an impeachable offense. And even the fourth, Jonathan Turley – whom the Republicans were hoping would help them make their case – in his opening statement criticized Trump’s attempt to get Ukraine’s president to launch an investigation into Hunter Biden.
Matt Lewis believes Democrats in their rush to impeach are “failing to demonstrate how Trump’s behavior is part of a larger pattern of behavior.” While he does have a point, if Democrats actually conducted a thorough investigation into this president’s conduct, we’d be here until the 2024 election. Turley, in his opening statement, bemoaned the lack of “core witnesses and documents,” apparently oblivious to the fact that this administration made it clear from the beginning of the inquiry that it had no intention of producing either. Running out the clock should not be an acceptable strategy by the Executive branch to thwart a legal Congressional investigation. If Democrats were to allow this stonewalling to go unchecked, it would encourage future presidents to do likewise. Hell, it would green light Trump’s current behavior.
But let’s play devil’s advocate here for a moment. Let’s assume that Pelosi, et al, choose to rely on the Judiciary to compel Rudy Giuliani, Don McGhan, John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney and Mike Pompeo to testify. Let’s also assume for the sake of argument that they get an expedited review by the Supreme Court. And while we’re at it, let’s also just say that the review goes their way and that the Court rules that all five have to testify. One, the earliest that decision might come down would be some time in the winter, say February; and two, compelling a witness to appear is one thing, getting them to open their mouth is quite another. Not even John Roberts can stop a witness from pleading the Fifth. Imagine the level of frustration Democrats would be feeling, and rightly so, if after going through all the proper procedures Turley says they’re required to go through they wind up right where they are now.
Fast-track fantasies notwithstanding, the reality is that relying on the courts to sort this out would make a slow boat to China seem like the Star Ship Enterprise by comparison. Consider that this Monday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will finally get around to hearing oral arguments about whether Congress even has the legal standing to bring a lawsuit over Trump’s violation of the Emoluments Clause; a clause that Trump has consistently called phony. Eleven months just to get a hearing! And this is Turley’s idea of a remedy?
There comes a point where you have to play the hand you’re dealt. Democrats believed that once the public hearings got under way, the needle would move towards removal. So did I, to be honest. The fact that it didn’t just shows that this country is so fractured nothing this president does appears to shock anyone anymore. There’s no reason to believe that prolonging the inquiry will achieve the results Democrats were hoping for, especially given that the entire Republican Party is in lock step with Trump. The longer this goes on, the more likely it is that this president’s apologists will muddy the waters to such an extent that Democrats come out looking like the bad guys. Already the RNC is running ads in swing districts against incumbent Democrats who will vote to impeach. Trump himself is sitting on a boatload of cash that he will no doubt spend next year regardless of what Pelosi and her caucus do.
If anything, I give the Speaker credit for being incredibly disciplined throughout this whole process, for keeping her caucus laser focused and for not letting it go off the reservation. Many of them wanted Trump’s head on a platter from day one. She resisted. This is one smart cookie. And she’s smart enough to know when to call it a night. Trust me, if Pelosi thought Democrats had an ice cube’s chance in hell of winning over enough Senate Republicans to convict along with the vast majority of the country, she’d order Schiff and Nadler to keep the inquiry going until August. Shit, she’d sell tickets to the hearings. But that’s not going to happen. You know it, I know it, and, more importantly, Pelosi knows it.
This isn’t Nixon in ’74. There’s not going to be a come to Jesus moment for the GOP, no Barry Goldwater visit to the White House. To tell you the truth, we’re in uncharted waters here, and like any responsible leader, Nancy Pelosi has a duty to her members to make sure they don’t get swallowed up in those waters. Yes, impeachment was the right thing to do for Democrats, regardless of what the Senate does. To not hold this lawless president accountable would’ve been an abdication of their oath of office. And that was simply unacceptable by any reasonable standard we know of.
But there is such a thing as beating a dead horse. And, trust me, this is one horse that’s about as dead as any horse can be.