As readers no doubt know all too well, Donald Trump has been impeached. You can read the two articles of impeachment here.
I have to confess I am posting on this development with some reluctance. As much as I view Trump as a dangerously incompetent and personally corrupt President, it is hardly controversial to recognize that the Democrats have gone about the impeachment in a manner that isn’t winning the hearts and minds of the group they need to win in order to take back the Presidency in 2020, independents. It’s been obvious from the outset that the Democrats were highly unlikely to be able to convict Trump in the Senate, and Trump has demonstrated again and again his fondness for fighting, even on issues like The Wall, where he lost early on, so there was zero reason to think that an impeachment would lead to a resignation or less desire on his behalf to campaign in 2020.
Not surprisingly, the vote was largely on partisan lines, with three Democratic party defections (including Tulsi Gabbard, who voted “present” on the first article of impeachment and against the second), all from districts that had gone to Trump in 2016.
But the move that caught everyone, including reporters at the hearing, on the back foot, was Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement that she had not set a time for sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate. The lack of any preparation of the public for this move, after all of the Democratic Party braying that they’d impeach Trump by Christmas, implying an eagerness to move the process forward, makes them look at best too clever by half and at worst, unserious or even worried about fallout. Lambert has pointed out repeatedly in Water Cooler that Peak Impeachment Enthusiasm occurred in October; support for the process has fallen and Trump’s popularity have risen since then.
The Wall Street Journal suggests there are practical reason for pausing, that the Democrats want to get some business concluded before proceeding to the divisive and all-consuming Senate trial. The Senate has not set a schedule for January because impeachment takes precedence over all other business and requires Senators to sit six days a week. From the Wall Street Journal:
Sending the articles automatically triggers a trial. There have been discussions on waiting until after the government is funded, according to the aide, and possibly until after the passage of a new North American trade deal.
The Democrats appear to be trying to put a completely different face on the delay, that they are tussling with the openly partisan Mitch McConnell over the rules for the hearing. Note that with the Clinton impeachment, this process took place behind closed doors and was approved with a 100-0 vote. This outcome appears implausible now.
The Democrats want a full-blown trial, including calling witnesses like John Bolton, whom the White House directed to turn down House invitations to testify. The Republicans want a fast trial to declare victory and move on.
The Democrats to be hanging their hopes on a longer process to keep Trump under the hot lights and secure Republican defections in a Senate vote from the likes of Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney. However, there are also Democrats who may cross the aisle like Doug Jones of Alabama, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. However, even the Financial Times points out that a long trial could result in the Republicans producing evidence that bolsters Trump. And let us not forget that having Warren and Sanders hostage to the Senate trial means they can’t campaign.
As Politico describes it, the Democrats are trying to pin the partisan tail on the Senate Republicans, and are threatening to keep investigating Trump in the House in the meantime. Again, this has the potential to come off as “Fire, aim, ready,” confirming the point the Republican constitutional expert Jonathan Turley made in his testimony, that the Democrats might well have a case for impeachment, but the evidence in hand didn’t add up to one.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 1, 2019