This is the smart strategy, which is why Nancy Pelosi’s caucus won’t stand for it. House Democrats have already begun pushing back against their leadership’s decision to hold off on proceeding with impeachment, a decision that the Speaker announced in a conference call last night:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told lawmakers Monday that there are no plans to immediately open impeachment proceedings against President Trump, rejecting calls from several Democrats to initiate steps to try to oust the president.
In a rare Monday night conference call, the California Democrat stressed that the near-term strategy in the wake of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report is to focus on investigating the president and seeing where the inquiries lead. Members of Pelosi’s leadership team reaffirmed her cautious approach, according to four officials on the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
“We have to save our democracy. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. It’s about saving our democracy,” Pelosi said.
But Pelosi’s message did not go over well with several Democrats, who argued that Congress has a duty to hold Trump to account with impeachment despite the political blowback Pelosi has long feared.
Impeachment for what? Oh, sure, Volume II of the Mueller report outlines arguable cases for obstruction of justice, but that approach has a number of problems. The biggest of these by far is Volume I of the Mueller report, in which no evidence of collusion with Russia was found despite nearly three years of FBI and special-counsel investigations. Democrats sold impeachment on the basis that Trump was a Russian agent and had corruptly stolen the election from Hillary Clinton. That would have risen to an impeachable-removable offense, but it turns out it just wasn’t true.
Now Democrats want to impeach Trump over arguable calls on obstruction without any evidence of underlying guilt in the investigation he supposedly obstructed. Even putting aside the difficulty of pushing a prosecution under those circumstances, to a lot of voters this will look like a sore-loser bait-and-switch. Impeachment was never a popular choice with voters, and it’s gotten even less popular over the past year. Put that together with an election cycle starting up in less than two months with Democratic primary debates, and voters are going to wonder why Democrats insist on undoing the previous election rather than focusing on doing their jobs in the eighteen months until the next one.
Unfortunately for Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, many of their colleagues seem stuck in the activist-media bubble rather than paying attention to their actual constituents. That raises questions as to whether Pelosi can withstand the impeachment tide from her progressive caucus. She had to make concessions to win the speaker post again after a revolt fell short of unseating her and her leadership team. If Pelosi refuses to allow formal impeachment proceedings to begin, will she face another palace revolt — and can Pelosi survive another one? The fact that Pelosi felt compelled to hold that rare Monday-night conference call to lay down the law suggests that it’s a possibility.