Total insanity. I already said my piece about “impeach and withhold” in this post but I’ll add that it’s so baffling to me that I can’t even muster a decent devil’s-advocate argument for it. If you were a lawyer and Pelosi tapped you on the shoulder and said, “I need you to stand up right now and argue that withholding impeachment from the Senate makes sense for Democrats,” what could you possibly say?

The best I can do is this: “Senate Republicans are openly in the tank for Trump, boasting that they’re not impartial. Withholding the articles is a way to protest that. Republicans spent two months calling the House proceedings a sham, now Democrats are going to return the favor by highlighting the GOP’s own sham process.”

Except … why the hell would you do this after you’ve made the most vulnerable members of your caucus take an agonizing vote to impeach? All the freshman Dems from red districts just walked the plank and now Pelosi decides that the Senate is too corrupt to proceed further? The time to make a stink about Senate procedure was after Schiff’s hearings wrapped up, before moderate Democrats like Elissa Slotkin were forced to piss off half their constituents by deciding to follow through on impeachment. Go figure that Slotkin’s also nervous about the delay tactics:

Slotkin and the other endangered freshmen want impeachment over and done with im-me-di-ate-ly. They want to pass the USMCA, give everyone time to cool off over the holidays, then come back fresh in the new year and never speak of impeachment again. From January 1 to Election Day, it’s going to be nothing but health care and pocketbook issues for the centrists — if they have any say in it. Let the public forget about impeachment. Instead, watch below as the number three Democrat in the House vows that if it were left up to him, they’d continue to hold impeachment in suspended animation, right over the heads of Slotkin and her freshmen colleagues, potentially for the entire year.

And on top of all that, by never transmitting the articles, they’d give McConnell the option to just drop the whole matter and spare Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Martha McSally and every other Republican facing a tough reelection from having to take their own hard vote on this. That’s the only political virtue to impeachment for Democrats at this point — and here they are plotting to squander it.

Are these people insane?

Even a short-ish delay in starting the trial would benefit the GOP. Imagine that Pelosi withholds the articles throughout January and finally sends them over in February. Every day that elapses between now and Election Day strengthens the Republican argument that we’re close enough to the election to let voters settle the issue, making Trump’s acquittal by the Senate that much easier. The whole reason Pelosi and Schiff didn’t bother fighting in court to get Mulvaney and Bolton to testify, in fact, is that they thought time is of the essence on impeachment, that letting it bleed into next year will distract from the Democratic primaries and feed Trump’s narrative that the “Do-Nothing Democrats” are obsessed with impeachment. So now … time isn’t of the essence after all?

What?

On top of everything else, regardless of any concessions McConnell might make to the House (almost certainly none), acquittal is assured anyway. Pelosi could get him and Lindsey Graham to swear on a stack of Bibles that they’ll be impartial and really, truly consider the evidence and not a single vote in the chamber would change. And if the idea is to squeeze McConnell on making concessions specifically about witnesses, i.e. trying to get the Senate to call Mulvaney and Bolton, that’ll backfire in two ways. First, it’ll leave people asking why Pelosi herself didn’t demand their testimony during the House process, a question to which Democrats have no good answer. And second, it’ll empower Trump to demand that he be able to call his own witnesses like Hunter Biden, the consequences of which are unpredictable for both sides. If Trump’s lawyers put Biden on the stand and grill him about Burisma and Biden sounds shady and evasive — which is a safe bet — suddenly Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy will have been damaged. Trump’s apparent goal in the Ukraine business would have been achieved, ironically at an impeachment trial that Nancy Pelosi made possible and via leverage in calling witnesses that Nancy Pelosi inadvertently provided.

Trump’s already taking full advantage of this nuttiness, as well he should:

Pelosi is many things but she’s not stupid. She knows this is idiotic. I assume she plans to delay impeachment for a short perfunctory period simply to give the media a reason to write some “Dems highlight Senate Republicans’ trial bias” stories for public consumption. She’ll hold the articles for a few weeks, maybe, then drop them into McConnell’s lap in January once she’s proven her point. The real suspense isn’t what she’ll do about all this, it’s what McConnell will do. Will he wait for Pelosi? Will he give her a deadline to deliver the articles and say, “If we don’t have the evidence by this date, we’re voting”? Will he just call a snap vote based on the evidence described in the reports published by Schiff’s and Nadler’s committee? He has all the leverage here and Pelosi knows it, even if Clyburn seems not to.

I mean, really:

Exit question: Do Democrats want him to call a snap vote and acquit Trump? The only play they have left is to somehow taint the Senate’s verdict in favor of the president. Baiting McConnell into disposing of the matter without House Democrats ever formally presenting their case is a way to say, “Aha, the verdict was illegitimate!” to voters. A lame, unpersuasive way, but maybe that’s better for them than a more legitimate acquittal after a full trial.