"Very few hearings, if any": Dems hoping to rush through impeachment before Thanksgiving

The official word is that there’s no timetable but the political reality is that Democrats need this done ASAP.

Which is bad news for Trump since it leaves him less time to plead his case and produce exculpatory evidence before Dems take the plunge.

But it’s good news for Senate Republicans. The less time Democrats give themselves to build a case against Trump, the less persuasive that case will be by the time it gets to the Senate, the easier it’ll be for Republicans there to say, “I’m troubled but it’s just not enough to convict.”

Plus, Cocaine Mitch doubtless wants this over as soon as Pelosi does. Nothing good can come from Susan Collins and Cory Gardner having to linger in impeachment limbo while voters in their home states scream at them to vote yes/no.

“Very few hearings, if any,” said a senior Democratic aide, who said the coming investigative work will largely take place in closed-door interviews. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly…

Under an informal timeline discussed by multiple Democrats on Wednesday, the Intelligence Committee would spend the coming weeks investigating the Ukrainian allegations. Meanwhile, the other five committees investigating Trump-related matters would work to close out their own investigative portfolios. After that, the findings would be passed to the Judiciary Committee, with Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) taking the lead in drafting potential articles of impeachment.

Following the two-week recess, the House is scheduled to be in session for the last three weeks of October, then after another one-week recess, another two weeks in session before Thanksgiving. Some Democratic lawmakers and aides said Thursday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations, that they believed impeachment articles could be ready for a House vote around Thanksgiving.

Centrist Dems want to go slow in order to show right-leaning voters back home that they’re taking this seriously and not rushing to conclusions about Trump. But that timeline doesn’t work for the party. Pelosi’s worried about this bleeding into next year and disrupting the primaries while Democratic candidates are busy trying to make their case to voters on policy. And with every day that passes, the argument grows stronger that we’re close enough to Election Day to let voters resolve this matter at the polls. Pelosi’s also worried about the public losing interest in the Ukraine matter if it drags on for months. And of course lefties fret that impeachment might backfire on them by driving undecided voters to sympathize with Trump the same way it backfired on the GOP in 1998.

All of this fits with Pelosi’s baseline view of impeachment — it’s a bad idea that could actually help Trump next November, but if the base simply won’t be denied its heart’s desire then the House is better off doing it as quickly as it can and dumping it on McConnell. McConnell will doubtless dispense with it quickly too and come next November it’ll be a distant memory. The base gets what it wants and Pelosi still kinda sorta gets to stick with her “focus on the election” approach. In fact, the most interesting detail in the excerpt is that House committees investigating Trump on matters other than Ukraine — emoluments, tax returns, hush-money payments, etc — will now also be pressured to wrap up quickly and send their findings to Nadler. That is, Pelosi’s going to seize this opportunity to snuff as many impeachment candles as she can while she’s busy granting progressives their wish with an impeachment vote on Ukraine. She’s not going to go through this mess again in six months over something else because liberals are mad that the Senate didn’t bounce Trump over Ukraine.

The standard view of how impeachment might backfire on Democrats is by so infuriating right-leaning voters that Trump’s turnout next fall ends up higher than anyone expected. That’s possible, but there’s a greater risk per Noah Millman — the process might placate some anti-Trump voters who are outraged by Trump’s behavior and looking to punish him for it. Impeachment might scratch their itch such that they’re less motivated to vote, or it might inadvertently convince them that Trump’s not as corrupt as they’ve been led to believe. It might even move the goalposts on what properly counts as “corruption”:

Then, while the inquiry is ongoing, there’s a real possibility that the allegations move in the minds of at least some of the public from the political column to the criminal one. The standards of evidence could move from “do I want to hire this guy again?” to “is he guilty enough to convict?” — and attacks could feel more like prejudging the case than weighing it and finding the president wanting. This dynamic is arguably ridiculous — but it’s also exactly what happened in the Kavanaugh hearings. Ironically, starting a process designed to remove the president for his crimes could lead the public to view that process as the sole legitimate venue for adjudicating whether those crimes were committed, and remove them from the electoral calculus. And the GOP is going to pursue all of these lines of argument through official channels and through friendly media, to make sure that the public evolves in the desired fashion.

It’s pointless to weigh the political pros and cons of impeachment anymore, though, since it’s now assuredly going to happen. Yuval Levin wrote today at NRO about his time as a staffer for Newt Gingrich during the Clinton impeachment saga, when pundits routinely predicted that the GOP would find a reason to hold off and the GOP went right ahead and impeached him anyway. Once you commit to a course this dire and gratifying to your base, Levin explains, there’s no way to retreat without losing face. The momentum is nearly unstoppable. In Trump’s case, it would probably take something on the order of the whistleblower confessing to having made up some of the allegations in his complaint to give Pelosi a strong enough reason to cancel the attack on Trump at the eleventh hour. As it is, Levin’s correct to say that “Pelosi now seems to be operating under the logic that the best way to contain the damage from this process to her conference is to get it over with quickly.” She’s going to check the box, then McConnell’s going to check it, and that’ll be that. Back to (the new) normal.