She gives him three options here, actually. He can show up on February 4 as scheduled and give the speech, even though there’s near-zero chance that the Senate will have rendered its verdict by then.
He can send over a written SOTU and not give a speech at all. Which would be great.
Or he can ask for a rain check until impeachment’s over.
Which is the least bad option from Trump’s point of view? Because they all have downsides to them. Watch, then read on.
Do you think it would be appropriate to delay the State of the Union until after the impeachment trial…?
Pelosi: "It's up to the president…He can come that day…he could send a printed copy…or he could ask us to postpone it."pic.twitter.com/0ibIJyd2Z3
— Chloe Salsameda WJBF (@ChloeSalsameda) January 16, 2020
The problem with giving the speech as scheduled is that he’d be facing the public without having been vindicated by the Senate yet. It’s even possible, I suppose, if the Senate calls John Bolton and/or Lev Parnas that the morning of February 4 will be spent in the Senate hearing damaging testimony. Imagine Trump walking into the House chamber with headlines like “PARNAS: TRUMP KNEW EVERYTHING” on the front page of newspapers. Not great.
The problem with giving a written speech is that it deprives him of his single biggest television audience of the year. Everyone but everyone hates the State of the Union but it continues to be delivered annually because a president just can’t say no to face time with so many millions of people. Especially a president who craves attention as much as Trump does.
The problem with taking a rain check is that that would take some pressure off of Susan Collins and the rest of the centrists to oppose calling any witnesses. Bear in mind, Trump’s lawyers are reportedly hellbent on “trying to engineer the fastest impeachment trial in American history”:
“I think it’s extraordinarily unlikely that we’d be going beyond two weeks,” said a senior administration official, who briefed reporters Wednesday on the condition of anonymity. “We think that this case is overwhelming for the president, and the Senate’s not going to be having any need to be taking that amount of time on this.”…
During Clinton’s impeachment trial, his legal team spent three days methodically addressing the various charges against him as the chief justice of the United States presided and most senators sat silently.
Trump’s defense could be considerably shorter. A senior administration official said the White House would mount a “strong case” for the president but that a long trial would not be necessary.
Trump’s lawyers will likely get 24 hours to present a defense but they can choose to forgo much of that time. If they do so and McConnell manages to hold the caucus together in keeping the proceedings moving then they’ve got a shot at finishing within two weeks. And in that case, the SOTU may operate as an unofficial deadline. We don’t want the president to be humiliated by having to deliver this speech before he’s cleared, MAGA fans will tell Collins and Cory Gardner. Which means you *must* vote against calling any witnesses. Any slowdown to hear testimony from the likes of Bolton and Parnas would basically guarantee that the trial will drag on past February 4. Collins and Gardner will have a tough decision to make.
…unless Trump accepts Pelosi’s offer to postpone the SOTU. In that case, he can ensure that he won’t have to give the speech until he’s been acquitted, giving him an opportunity to gloat in front of the cameras with Pelosi sitting right behind him. But it’ll also lift the time pressure on Collins and Gardner. If the president can give the State of the Union anytime he wants then they might as well take a few extra days and hear what Bolton and Parnas have to say.
He could have his cake and eat it too, of course. If he can cajole/intimidate Collins and Gardner into not calling witnesses under any circumstances, he can postpone the speech until after the verdict is issued with no backfire risk. He’ll get to walk into the House chamber like a farking champion.
But I think they probably are going to call witnesses. At least Bolton. So Trump might as well postpone the speech now until, say, February 18 or so. That’ll give the Senate plenty of time to acquit him.
Here he is today emphasizing his interest in a quick trial.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 16, 2020