I think this really is why they’re doing it. I’ve spent two weeks trying to make sense of this idiotic ploy strategically and this is the only thing that sort of adds up.
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT: Well, I would certainly support her in doing that [withholding the articles]. The House has the sole responsibility under the Constitution for impeachment to send over the articles when the majority leader, Mr. Mcconnell, has declared that he will breach his oath, that he will not do impartial justice in accordance with the Constitution, but plans to act in accordance only with the defendant, in this case, would be no trial at all.
So I think she could rightly say we have done our job under the Constitution, the ultimate jurors will be the American people. They should consider what we’ve done. Of course in ensuing weeks, we may have additional evidence out there through investigative reporting and other disclosures that would justify sending it at a later time. Meanwhile, McConnell loses his excuse for not acting on other important business, like the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which he could take up next week.
House Democrats have to send over the articles eventually. If they hold them forever, it’s an own-goal: They’ll have spared vulnerable Republicans in the Senate from a tough election-year vote after putting their own vulnerable Democratic freshmen through one. They need this Senate trial to happen. But if they let the trial happen right now, acquittal will be relatively easy. Collins and Murkowski will just shrug and say, “There’s very little firsthand evidence against the president,” and rubber-stamp a “not guilty” verdict. Granted, incriminating new evidence might come out *after* the trial — John Bolton’s writing a book, isn’t he? — but unless it’s a true bombshell I doubt Senate Republicans will pay a price for having acquitted Trump too hastily. Once Americans are done with a topic, they’re done with it, and once the trial is over they’ll be done with impeachment and Ukraine.
Besides, even if new evidence did come out afterward, you know what McConnell will say: Why didn’t House Democrats wait? They’re the ones charged by the Constitution with gathering evidence and building a case for removal. They knew that important witnesses had yet to testify and chose to proceed anyway. If a guilty man is acquitted at trial based on missing evidence, we don’t blame the jury. We blame the prosecution for not doing its job.
But here’s where Pelosi’s strategy makes some sense: Voting to impeach and *then* playing for time arguably works better than playing for time by delaying the impeachment vote to begin with. If they had dragged their feet on impeaching in hopes of getting Bolton to testify or forcing the White House to produce more documents, the public might have perceived it as lack of resolve on Democrats’ part. They don’t believe in their own case. Weeks or months might have passed with nothing happening on impeachment as court battles played out. Voters would have lost interest, then would have been annoyed if Democrats suddenly decided to proceed in February or March. (“This again?”) To the extent that there’s any popular momentum for impeachment, it might have petered out.
Whereas by impeaching him now and then slowing down, Pelosi shows that her caucus does believe in its own case and provides some closure on the House side of things. As noted a few hours ago, after a brief backlash following the impeachment vote, the polls have begun to inch back towards support for removal. Now Dems can go on offense against Senate Republicans by highlighting their bias towards Trump and their reluctance to call witnesses. And in the meantime, they’re giving the media a bit of extra time to work their sources and see if they can come up with anything game-changing that might suddenly put pressure on McConnell and the Senate GOP. The press is trying its best: Both the NYT a few days ago and Just Security today reported that it was Trump himself, over the objections of top aides like Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and Mark Esper, who insisted on continuing the hold on Ukraine’s military aid in late August. The president appears to be the only person of influence in the administration who opposed releasing the aid, coincidentally at the same time that his personal lawyer was leaning on Ukraine to reopen the Burisma and 2016 investigations.
The Daily Beast also reported a few days ago that Lev Parnas has material that he wants to share with Schiff’s committee. Whether all of these media outlets are operating independently or whether House Dems themselves are feeding info to the press to try to convince the public that there’s more incriminating material out there is unclear, but the more stories like this there are, the more heat McConnell will take to call witnesses. So maybe that’s the reason for the delay — Pelosi’s just spending a few weeks running a PR offensive in the media. Anything she can do at this point to delegitimize the eventual vote for acquittal is politically useful to Democrats; this little pause is letting Dems build an argument, however unpersuasive, that there’s some important stuff that’s come out *since* the big vote and therefore it’s properly now the Senate’s responsibility, not the House’s, to address it.
Exit quotation from Schumer, right on message about the new Just Security story: “The newly-revealed unredacted emails are a devastating blow to Sen. McConnell’s push to have a trial without the documents and witnesses we’ve requested. These emails further expose the serious concerns raised by Trump administration officials about the propriety and legality of the president’s decision to cut off aid to Ukraine to benefit himself.”