If he were alive today, Alexander Hamilton would nod right along. In “Federalist No. 65,” he noted that prosecution of impeachable offenses would “seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community.” It will “connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other.”
Given this reality, and a looming election, Pelosi is correct that the better course is to give the people the facts and let them decide the outcome. Indeed, the American people in 2020 will be in a far better position to render judgment than they were in the past two impeachment controversies. Evidence of Richard Nixon’s and Bill Clinton’s misconduct didn’t fully emerge until well into their second terms. Voters had no opportunity to make a direct decision.
The calculus would likely be different if overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing emerged early in a President’s first four years, when the American people would face the prospect of a full term with a probable felon at the helm. But that ship is sailing. The first Democratic primary debate is a mere three months away. Democratic candidates are already in Iowa and New Hampshire. Even if impeachment proceedings began almost immediately after Mueller issued his report, they’d be conducted in the heart of the presidential campaign.