Pelosi threatens to withhold articles of impeachment from Senate
Just when you thought the House Democrats' impeachment frenzy couldn't get any more ridiculous, Speaker Pelosi is threatening to derail the constitutionally required Senate trial that would result in President Trump's acquittal. In a news conference following the impeachment vote, she noted that the rules passed by the House Rules Committee enabled her to withhold naming House impeachment managers:
Nancy Pelosi: "We have legislation approved...that will enable to decide how we send over the articles of impeachment."— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) December 19, 2019
"We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side...so far we haven't seen anything that looks fair to us." https://t.co/KV8jBJCHcL pic.twitter.com/LcgasQXGHv
The idea apparently came from Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, who previewed it with a tweet December 15 and followed up with a Washington Post op-ed the following day, in time for the Rules Committee to skew the procedures enabling the blackmail.
BREAKING NEWS: Schumer’s proposal to McConnell. If he rejects these reasonable ground rules & insists on a non-trial, the House should consider treating that as a breach of the Senate’s oath & withholding the Articles until the Senate reconsidershttps://t.co/a9zbBywFBG— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) December 16, 2019
Now that Trump's impeachment is inevitable, and now that failing to formally impeach him would invite foreign intervention in the 2020 election and set a dangerous precedent, another option seems vital to consider: voting for articles of impeachment but holding off for the time being on transmitting them to the Senate.
This option needs to be taken seriously now that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has announced his intention to conduct not a real trial but a whitewash, letting the president and his legal team call the shots.
Such an approach could have both tactical and substantive benefits. As a tactical matter, it could strengthen Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer's (D-N.Y.) hand in bargaining over trial rules with McConnell because of McConnell's and Trump's urgent desire to get this whole business behind them. On a substantive level, it would be justified to withhold going forward with a Senate trial. Under the current circumstances, such a proceeding would fail to render a meaningful verdict of acquittal. It would also fail to inform the public, which has the right to know the truth about the conduct of its president.
Let me count the ways in which this is absurd and self-defeating.
First, the Constitution's Article I, Section 3 specifies: "The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments." There is no mention of negotiations between the House and Senate. Pelosi is contravening the Constitution, which exposes the lie behind all the phony solemnity and purported reluctance to carry out the House's "constitutional responsibilities" to deal with President Trump's alleged offenses.
Second, by making a demand of "fairness" in the Senate, she implicitly highlights the unfairness of the House's impeachment hearings, in which the Republicans were not allowed to call witnesses and prevented from getting answers to questions they posed to the witnesses chosen exclusively by Democrats. A big part of the reason that support for President Trump has increased during the impeachment process was the visible railroading of Trump.
Third, as in the House, the Senate majority gets to do whatever it wants in adopting procedures. There was no negotiation between Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy over the rules for impeachment hearings. How does Pelosi justify demanding from the Senate exactly what she was unwilling to grant House Republicans?
Fourth, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a small-t trump card that he already has turned face-up. Ed Morrissey writes:
Remember when the Senate could come to a unanimous, bipartisan approach to rules governing an impeachment trial? Good times, good times. In fact, those were such good times that Mitch McConnell wants to bring them back. Rather than keep having his counterpart Chuck Schumer negotiate via MSNBC, the Senate Majority Leader announced that he'll simply reinstate the rules package that governed Bill Clinton's impeachment twenty years ago.
By the way, that also includes a dismissal option.
Here are two and a half minutes of Cocaine Mitch devastating in advance the Tribe scheme:
Over the weekend, my colleague the Democratic Leader began asking the Senate to break from precedent, break with the unanimous template from 1999, and begin choreographing the middle of a potential trial before we've even heard opening arguments.
In 1999, all 100 senators agreed on a simple pre-trial resolution that set up a briefing, opening arguments, senators' questions, and a vote on a motion to dismiss. Senators reserved all other questions, such as witnesses, until the trial was underway. That was the unanimous bipartisan precedent from 1999. Put first things first, lay the bipartisan groundwork, and leave mid-trial questions to the middle of the trial.
I have hoped, and still hope, that the Democratic Leader and I can sit down and reproduce that unanimous bipartisan agreement this time. His decision to try to angrily negotiate through the press is unfortunate. But no amount of bluster will change the simple fact that we already have a unanimous… bipartisan… precedent. [emphasis in original]
If 100 senators thought this approach was good enough for President Clinton, it ought to be good enough for President Trump.
The fact that the Clinton trial rules were unanimously adopted, with the votes of Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden among others, puts Pelosi in an indefensible position.
Fifth, Pelosi's threat implicitly defines the impeachment vote as political, not constitutionally substantive. All the blather about the solemn constitutional responsibility is exposed as BS: BullSchiff.
Sixth, the longer a standoff continues, the weaker Pelosi's bargaining position becomes. She is obstructing the constitutional process.
Seventh, President Trump fights back, and she is handing him the best ammo he could wish for to castigate the entire impeachment fiasco and to claim he is being denied his right to defend himself.
Photo credit: Twitter video screen grab.