Pelosi: Can you believe that the rubes think impeachment is removal?

Is the only obstacle to impeachment for Nancy Pelosi the ignorance of the American public? The Democratic argument on “educating” voters on the need to impeach Donald Trump is already condescending enough, but … hoo boy. In her daily briefing with reporters, Pelosi declares her mystification as to how people can confuse impeachment with removal, and lets her elitist flag fly while doing so:

First of all, I travel all the time in the country. Do you know what most people think — that impeachment means you’re out of office? Did you ever get that feeling, or are you just in the bubble here? They think that you get impeached, you’re gone, and that is completely not true. And I may have thought that myself fifty years ago.

But you get impeached, and it’s an indictment. It’s an indictment. So when you’re impeaching someone, you want to make sure you have the strongest possible indictment. Because it’s not the means to the end that people think. “All you do — vote to impeach — bye bye birdie.” [Laughs] It isn’t that. It’s an indictment, so you want to have the best possible indictment, going through, ah, the legal process, in a way that shows accommodation, that we need the courts to rule in our favor because we’ve done it correctly, and the rest.

So it is, ah, it is the business of the committees to do that, and when they decide how their accommodations and their conversations are going, then we respect that.

The last half of this argument is all but incoherent. Technically speaking, the courts have no role in impeachment. If the House wants to impeach, it can do so on its own, regardless of whether people respond to subpoenas. In this case especially, Congress has the results of an outside investigation that has already done all of this work. It didn’t provide anywhere near a politically prima facie case for impeachment, which is why the committees are trying to redo the Robert Mueller investigation on their own, but the courts have no role to play in the impeachment process.

The first part of Pelosi’s argument is arrogant beyond belief, and at least as disingenuous. Thanks to the shared national experience of 1998, most people are painfully aware that impeachment and removal are two different processes. News coverage of this fight continually references the unlikelihood of the latter with Republicans controlling the Senate. There may be a few people outside of Pelosi’s enlightened “bubble” of Beltway denizens and journalists who confuse the two, but I’d wager it’s not many — and it’s not important anyway.

The most disingenuous part of this argument is Pelosi’s implication that impeachment is completely separate from removal. That’s as asinine an argument as anyone’s likely to make. The sole purpose of impeachment in the House is to push for removal from office by the Senate. It has no other constitutional consequence, no other outcome other than removal or non-removal by acquittal. If the House wants to just paint Trump with a black mark on his record, Pelosi could choose to censure him, which also has no real consequence but doesn’t attempt to undo an election.

Voters understand exactly what Democrats pushing impeachment want. That’s why Pelosi’s hands are tied, and why she’s lashing out at them today.