Pelosi: We'll use our subpoena power as the new House majority to bargain with Trump

Do I understand her correctly? She’s not describing bargaining over document production, in which Congress might demand that the White House produce X,Y, and Z by way of documents and the White House counters with X only and dares them to subpoena the rest and the two branches ultimately compromise on X and Y so as to avoid a long, uncertain court fight.

What she’s imagining is threatening to demand documents or testimony from the White House (or other entities) that Trump might not want made public — unless he makes policy concessions to Democrats. E.g., “You agree to our target number on the infrastructure bill or we’re coming after those tax returns.” Quoth Pelosi, “Subpoena power is interesting, to use it or not to use it. It’s a great arrow to have in your quiver in terms of negotiating on other subjects.” Note: Other subjects.

The Trump family has taken notice:

The odd thing about this pitch is that it’s destined to please no one, which is surprising coming from a calculating pol like Pelosi who’s normally loath to say anything that might fuel GOP turnout next month. She’s shied away from impeachment talk all year knowing that Trump would turn it into an attack ad if she didn’t. Now, 15 days out, she’s suddenly presenting Republican voters with a scenario in which either their hero surrenders to them on policy or they do everything short of impeachment to bring him to his knees politically via subpoena power.

If she’s going to risk alarming righties, you’d expect at least an equal and opposite effect in exciting lefties. But I’m not sure this does excite them. Many liberals are looking forward to a subpoena snowstorm over the White House next year; it’s a prime motive for them in electing a Democratic majority. Pelosi’s hinting, though, that she might be willing to cancel the snowstorm (or at least reduce the blizzard to light flurries) if Trump plays ball with Democrats on policy. In an era in which partisanship were less bitter that prospect might seem attractive to lefty voters: If you’ve got some leverage over a Republican president to bend him to your side’s agenda, great! Policy is the point of government. But we’re not in that era and policy isn’t really the point of government now. The point of government is to thwart your political enemies. Lefties, especially fightin’ grassroots lefties of the Avenatti variety, would be royally pissed, I suspect, if Pelosi bartered away opportunities to expose Trump’s corruption for some mild policy concessions. Partisan activists are highly predisposed to view concessions from the other side as insufficient even under the best circumstances. As an alternative to embarrassing a president whom they loathe when it’s in their power to do so, though, they’d be completely indefensible.

And look, Trump being Trump, there are unlikely to be concessions once the subpoena snowstorm begins. The more antagonistic relations between the House and the White House are on subpoena-related matters, the more each side’s base will force them to dig in and not compromise on policy. (Democratic 2020 candidates won’t want policy compromises regardless lest they hand Trump “wins” that he can tout on the campaign trail.) That’s the irony of Trump’s “transactional” nature: Although he might be willing to put aside hard feelings and do a deal after the subpoenas have started flying, righty partisans won’t be as eager. They’re the opposite of transactional. If you think Trump would have difficulty selling a “DREAM amnesty for border-wall funding” trade to populists in normal times, imagine him trying to do it in a context in which Democrats have already obtained his tax returns and are holding it over him. It’d be seen as a sellout on steroids. Mere cuckery.

Exit question: Probably 90 percent of Dems believe that Putin has kompromat on Trump and is using it to extort him for concessions. (Never mind the evidence to the contrary.) Why shouldn’t they have their own?