The core of the second article is captured by the principle that no one is above the law in the United States. Indeed, no president, not even Richard M. Nixon, has ever tried to block all witnesses and documents in an impeachment inquiry. Nixon thought about it but backed down quickly. The impeachment here is not just about Ukraine. It’s about a president who thinks he does not even have to submit to a constitutionally authorized congressional inquiry. This stance is particularly galling because Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr, gave Trump a temporary get-out-of-jail-free card after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III found several instances of potential obstruction of justice; Barr claimed that the president could only be impeached, not indicted. Yet now the shell game continues — with Trump turning around and saying he can’t be impeached and investigated either.
Holding the first article back and letting the second go forward would be a powerful and precise response to McConnell’s unprecedented attempts to avoid committing to a real trial. It makes practical sense but also highlights what’s at stake here. Trump would be forced to undergo two impeachment trials instead of one — but that’s a fair price for him to pay for his attempts to hide evidence from the American people.
If, alternatively, Pelosi sent both articles up with a formal note that the House would step back in if the Senate failed to proceed appropriately, that would be a fair price for McConnell to pay. The speaker would, essentially, be guaranteeing that Trump would face another investigation because of McConnell’s insistence on a sham trial, one that fails to call willing witnesses or deal with relevant, if potentially damaging, evidence.