WaPo: House Dems "bracing for defections" on impeachment

What will it say if Adam Schiff’s circus failed not only to get Republicans on board the Impeachment Express, but also caused a few Democrats to jump off? House Democratic leaders remain confident that they have the votes to impeach Donald Trump, but the Washington Post reported last night that they’re already resetting the expectations for the final vote.

Impeach in haste, repent at leisure … or election time:

House Democratic leaders are bracing for some defections among a group of moderate Democrats in swing districts who are concerned a vote to impeach President Trump could cost them their seats in November.

Lawmakers and senior aides are privately predicting they will lose more than the two Democrats who opposed the impeachment inquiry rules package in late September, according to multiple officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly. Two senior Democratic aides said the total could be as many as a half-dozen, while a third said the number could be higher.

Predictions about some defections come as a core group of centrists from districts Trump won in 2016 are having second thoughts. While many knew impeachment would never be popular in their GOP-leaning districts, some have been surprised that support hasn’t increased despite negative testimony about Trump from a series of blockbuster hearings last month.

If they’re surprised about that, it’s just evidence that they have lived too long in their own Beltway bubble. Most of the rest of the country sees this effort the way Andrew McCarthy describes it today in his analysis of the impeachment articles:

The judgment was made long ago. The president has been Impeached Man Walking for “The Resistance” since before he took the oath of office.

The hearings confirmed this impression. One did not have to believe that Trump’s interest in Ukraine was pristine to comprehend the kangaroo court that unfolded under Schiff’s direction. None of the witnesses ever produced direct documentary or testimonial proof of the elusive quid pro quo which never materialized anyway. There was more documentary evidence of political bias in Operation Crossfire Hurricane in the texts between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok than there was of supposed bribery or extortion in Ukraine-Gate. Democrats rushed to get through the investigation in just a couple of weeks rather than take the time to sustain subpoenas for better-situated witnesses, with the obvious purpose of impeaching Trump quickly rather than properly.

Not everyone in the caucus has lived in the bubble too long. Roll Call notes that the seven freshmen House Democrats whose op-ed catalyzed the impeachment stampede now won’t say whether they support its conclusion:

Two months ago, seven freshman Democrats in the House published an op-ed column in The Washington Post that helped launch the impeachment inquiry. Now that the inquiry’s over, the freshmen are not saying what they will do next.

The op-ed made clear the writers, who all have national security backgrounds, thought it would be “an impeachable offense” if reports were true that President Donald Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate a political rival while withholding aid to the country.

So far, however, the seven aren’t saying whether they will support the articles of impeachment released Tuesday, which accuse Trump of abusing the power of his office in dealing with Ukraine and obstructing Congress by blocking the release of subpoenaed information and testimony. …

Yet with the House likely to vote next week for just the third time in history on whether to impeach a president, they have been careful to say they were reviewing the evidence.

Rather than reflect further on the fact that the Schiff show didn’t play in Peoria, House Democrat leaders still want to charge towards impeachment. Even without any bipartisan support, and now even without unanimity in their own caucus, Pelosi won’t stop pushing for this partisan historical error.  As House Republicans are busy pointing out overnight by e-mail, that’s quite a change from what they were saying at the beginning of this process:

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country.”
  • Intel Committee Chairman Adam Schiff: “If the evidence isn’t sufficient to win bipartisan support for this, putting the country through a failed impeachment isn’t a good idea.”
  • Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler: “Impeachment should not be partisan … You have to be in a situation to undertake impeachment where you believe that once all the evidence is public, not a majority but a good fraction of the opposition voters who supported the president would say, ‘Well, they had to do it. It was the right thing to do.'”

House Republicans stuff those quotes down the throats of their Democratic counterparts. Until now, Pelosi and her team could claim that all these quotes show is that the GOP refuses to do its constitutional duty, a criticism they made implicit in the announcement of their intention to write articles of impeachment. However, if House Democrats who voted and pushed for an impeachment inquiry defect now, that defense becomes moot and leaves Pelosi, Schiff, and Nadler exposed for the partisan grandstanders and hypocrites they are.

That will be true even if they manage to scratch enough votes together in the end to impeach. But one has to wonder whether those defections will snowball into an outright revolt. If enough moderates defect to make this vote close, it will put other moderates in even more danger of facing claims of being the deciding vote to impeach Trump in districts where he remains popular — more popular than Congress, especially. A few defections could break the dam wide open by the time the articles come to the floor.