Well … yeah, that’s exactly what censure is, and why it might have been a good exit ramp for Nancy Pelosi from Impeachapalooza. The House Speaker dismissed it at a breakfast interview with press today, calling it just a “way out” from the responsibility to impeach “if the goods are there.”
But what if “the goods” never really show up?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday ruled out a congressional censure of President Trump, a move some lawmakers have suggested as an less divisive alternative to launching impeachment proceedings.
“No. I think censure is just a way out,” Pelosi told reporters. “If you’re going to go, you’ve got to go. In other words, if the goods are there, you must impeach, and censure is nice, but it is not commensurate with the violations of the Constitution, should we decide that’s the way to go.”
She added that a censure of Trump would be “a day at the beach for the president, or at his golf club, or wherever he goes.”
So that means full steam ahead on impeachment, right? Er … no, not really, or at least not now:
Ms. Pelosi made it clear that she did not currently support opening an impeachment inquiry against the president, despite the small but growing number of Democrats in her ranks who have said it is time to take that step. …
“Every day, we see more, so why would we stop with a less-strong case?” Ms. Pelosi said. “If you’re going to go down this path, you have to make sure that the public has an understanding of why, and that when the president — if the president is impeached, that the Senate understands that they either honor the oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and, if they don’t, the public will hold them accountable for not holding the president accountable.”
If “the goods” are that the public supports impeachment and removal, then “the goods” are never going to show up. More House Democrats might want to move forward with an impeachment — the count is up to 69 now, plus Republican Justin Amash — but the polls aren’t budging on the question. Every poll shows significant majorities opposed to impeachment, and the Quinnipiac series shows every demographic except Democrats and African-Americans opposed to it.
If Pelosi’s hoping that “the goods” come out of the multitude of House investigations into Trump, that doesn’t look much more promising. Contra Pelosi, they’re not seeing more each day, but have been stuck in an executive-privilege holding pattern. After cooperating with Robert Mueller, the White House has slammed the doors with executive privilege claims. House Democrats will litigate that in court, but it’s going to be a long process, with no guarantee that they’ll wind up winning. Even if they do win and redefine executive privilege in the process, it seems very unlikely that they’ll do any better than Mueller on the subject of obstruction — and Mueller had full cooperation from White House personnel on that issue, with the exception of Trump himself.
Either House Democrats impeach on the basis of the Mueller report, or they don’t impeach at all in this session. By the time courts rule on exec-privilege claims, the election season will be on us, and it would be ridiculous to conduct an impeachment in the middle of a campaign on the basis of what Democrats have now. In fact, it would look so nakedly partisan that it’s likely to demolish any Democrats’ hopes of retaking the White House, and it could lose them the House as well.
With that in mind, why not opt for a censure? It’s clean, it doesn’t require the Senate to act, and Pelosi can time that for later this year as the presidential debates heat up. Yes, it’s about as useless as any other strongly worded memo, but so is impeachment when the Senate won’t consider removal — and it’s a lot less politically damaging. Pelosi might regret trashing censure as more of her caucus demands action against Trump and the elections draw ever closer.
Or maybe she’ll claim she’s seen the light a lot sooner than that:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday she plans to view a minimally redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report later this week, just days after key House panels secured agreements to give more lawmakers access to the evidence underpinning the special counsel’s conclusions.
Pelosi’s announcement comes after the speaker initially rejected an offer from Attorney General William Barr in April to view the less-redacted report, rebuffing Barr’s demands that only top congressional leaders have that access.
“We will be having access to a less redacted version of the Mueller report,” Pelosi said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Wednesday morning. “I accepted that because I’m afraid — I really don’t trust the attorney general of the United States.”
Two points expose the nonsensical nature of this argument. First, none of Mueller’s conclusions were redacted, so everyone understands that the redactions won’t change those at all. Second, Pelosi didn’t need to trust Barr — Robert Mueller produced the report and worked together with Barr on the redactions. Nevertheless, if she’s feeling pressured, Pelosi might claim that some secret knowledge within the black bars completely flips the report on its head and suddenly it’s Impeachment Time. Which would prompt the question: why didn’t Pelosi read the less-redacted version immediately rather than oppose opening impeachment hearings?