Pelosi Gambled And Won On The Impeachment Delay

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's decision to delay transmitting articles of impeachment to the Senate has paid dividends in more ways than one.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi applauding President Trump during the State of the Union – February 5, 2019. (AP)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi applauding President Trump during the State of the Union – February 5, 2019. (AP)

The House has officially handed impeachment over to the Senate, and the trial is set to begin next week. It’s important to keep in mind the fact this trial could’ve already been completed if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) chose to make one consequential decision differently.

On December 18, 2019, the House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump for his Ukraine extortion plot. Rather than immediately transmit them to the Senate, Pelosi took a different approach. Pelosi decided to use the remaining leverage she had in order to push for a fair Senate trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had already declared that he would not be an impartial juror, as his oath requires, and promised a quick acquittal of President Trump as he coordinated the process with the White House.

Pelosi knew that time was on her side, so she held onto the articles of impeachment to highlight the corrupt process Senate Republicans were planning, which involved no witnesses being called and a speedy acquittal vote. Many did not understand the strategy and felt it was unrealistic to expect McConnell to make major concessions up front. But since Pelosi’s decision to delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, there has been significant movement favorable to the Democrats – which we’ll cover in more detail later in this article.

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In spite of those developments, some in the media have claimed that Pelosi somehow failed. Chief among them is CNN Columnist Chris Cillizza, who is infamous for his lame takes on current events.

Cillizza had his article echoed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

This premise is false. Pelosi’s impeachment delay was objectively a success. It was less a gamble and more of a calculated risk. Public opinion has moved in favor of witnesses being heard in the Senate trial, some Senate Republicans have indicated they may vote for witnesses to be heard, and some significantly damning new evidence has surfaced relating to the allegations at the center of Trump’s impeachment. Let’s break it all down.

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More Impeachment Evidence Has Surfaced

President Trump with Attorney General William Bar, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Source: DOJ, Gage Skidmore, and State Department)

President Trump with Attorney General William Bar, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Source: DOJ, Gage Skidmore, and State Department)

There have been numerous developments that bolster House Democrats’ impeachment case and further implicates Trump and his allies. We’ll start with Thursday’s new conclusion from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the U.S. government’s non-partisan watchdog. As we know, President Trump withheld congressionally approved aid from Ukraine to pressure them to investigate his political targets. In a searing legal opinion, the GAO outlined their conclusions that the Trump Administration violated the law by withholding that aid.

This strengthens the Abuse of Power article of impeachment and voids the GOP argument that there was no underlying crime, so Trump’s conduct wasn’t impeachable (which of course is a false claim within itself because misconduct doesn’t have to be a crime in order for it to be impeachable). It also bolsters the Obstruction of Congress article of impeachment, as Neal Katyal pointed out.

In the weeks before this finding, there have been several other evidentiary developments. In December, the Center for Public Integrity revealed documents proving that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officially withheld Ukraine’s military aid 91 minutes after the July 25 Trump-Zelensky phone call. Right after the new year, Just Security reported out emails that showed the Pentagon warned the White House withholding that aid could be illegal (GAO proved them right).

The most significant new development came this week, in the documentary evidence provided by indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas. Among the two document dumps that have been released by House Democrats, were the following:

  • A contemporaneous note was written by Parnas highlighting the Ukraine probes they sought.
  • A letter from Rudy Giuliani to President Zelenskly that sought a May 2019 meeting with Zelensky about a “specific request” (which appears to be Biden probes) and that this meeting is being sought with Trump’s “knowledge and consent.”
  • An apparent effort to track the whereabouts of former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
  • Apparent coordination of the smear campaign against Yovanovitch between Parnas and a Trump PAC official who fed negative stories about Yovanovitch to Donald Trump Jr. for tweeting purposes.
  • Communications between Parnas and RNC Co-Chair Tommy Hicks Jr.

Then, there was Lev Parnas’ interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow which first aired Wednesday night. It proved incredibly damning for President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)

While everything Parnas said should be taken with a grain of salt, these are serious allegations that are in line with what documentary evidence and previous testimony have indicated. It appears all of Trump’s allies were either in on the effort to pressure Ukraine into probing Biden or were aware of it.

The fact the American people are now walking into this Senate trial with new evidence fresh on their minds puts GOP Senators in a difficult position. It makes it harder for them to not only acquit but to vote against hearing witnesses. Which brings us to our next point.

Witnesses Are More Likely To Be Called During The Trial

When the articles of impeachment were first passed, Republicans were giving no ground. It appeared there would be no witnesses called and a united GOP was set to quickly acquit President Trump. But time changed that. After Pelosi decided not to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate before Christmas, the united GOP began to appear more fractured on the trial process. On December 26, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said she was “disturbed” by McConnell’s coordination of the Senate trial with the White House.

On January 6, former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton said he’d be willing to testify if the Senate subpoenaed him. Senator Mitt Romey (R-UT) signaled that he would like to hear from Bolton. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) claimed that she was working with a small group of senators to push for a vote on witnesses appearing in the Senate trial. Polling subsequently indicated that 66% of Americans wanted to see John Bolton testify in the Senate trial. One has to wonder if vulnerable, purple state Republicans like Collins, who are up for re-election in 2020, saw this in their internal polling, triggering a shift in behavior.

With Murkowski, Collins, and Romney potentially supporting witnesses in the Senate trial, Democrats are significantly better positioned heading into next week’s trial. They need 4 GOP votes to hit the 51 vote threshold for a motion to bring witnesses before the Senate to succeed. Senator Cory Garnder (R-CO) and Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ), who are both up for re-election in 2020, are ones to watch.

The Rantt Rundown

All of this wouldn’t have happened if Pelosi immediately handed impeachment over to the Senate. The Senate trial would’ve very likely been completed by now with Trump’s acquittal in the rearview mirror. But, that’s not the case. Here we are and the future is not yet written. Now, it’s up the House impeachment managers to make the impeachment case against Trump directly to the Senate. We will see if Republican Senators decide to uphold their oath to the Constitution or if they continue to uphold their loyalty to President Trump.

Opinion // Donald Trump / Impeachment / Nancy Pelosi / Senate Trial