NANCY PELOSI IS running out of excuses not to impeach Donald Trump.
In the month since the Mueller Report laid out Trump’s litany of law-breaking in stark detail, Pelosi has repeatedly stymied efforts to hold the president accountable for his actions. She’s argued that Trump is not worthy of impeachment (he is); that he is “goading” Democrats into impeaching him (that’s actually Trump being Trump); and that he wants the House to impeach him (so it’s a win-win!).
This week according to the Washington Post, in a closed-door meeting with Democratic members who are aggressively pushing for impeachment, she complained that “Democrats’ messaging isn’t breaking through because everyone is talking about corruption, Mueller’s report, and impeachment.” Pelosi bemoaned the fact that the media was more focused on Trump’s conduct than legislation passed by the House this week to end discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans.
As the kids might say, “Duh.” The “Equality Act” might be laudable progressive legislation that reflects the values of the Democratic Party, but it’s going nowhere in the Senate. Does Pelosi think that in a world in which the president wasn’t a serial law-breaker, American families would be sitting around the kitchen table praising House Democrats for “tearing it up” with their latest legislative efforts that have no chance of becoming law?
There’s a reason, after all, that the news media is focusing on impeachment — it’s because the Mueller Report catalogued the president’s many criminal offenses and put the responsibility on Congress to do something about it. There’s no alternate universe where that wouldn’t be the central focus of press coverage.
To be sure, Pelosi has other reasons for not wanting to begin an impeachment inquiry. According to reporting by Politico, she seems to believe that impeaching Trump will help the president win re-election and Republicans win back the House of Representatives in 2020.
This is even more bizarre than her complaints about messaging.
In a good example of how bad ideas morph into conventional wisdom in Washington, Democrats seem consumed by the notion that impeaching Trump will make him politically stronger.
But the 2020 election will undoubtedly be a referendum on Trump — not the Democrats’ success in passing bills that fall into the legislative black hole known as the US Senate. Why would Democrats resist the opportunity to spend several months holding hearings that chronicle, in exacting detail, the president’s incessant law-breaking and corruption? Why would they not want vulnerable Senate Republicans, like Maine’s Susan Collins and Colorado’s Cory Gardner, to be forced to cast a difficult ballot on whether the president is guilty of impeachable offenses and should be removed from office?
Then there is also the fact that beginning an impeachment inquiry will likely make it easier to win future legal battles demanding evidence and testimony from Trump administration officials, since courts have traditionally given Congress a wide berth in seeking such information for an impeachment inquiry.
While it’s true that right now impeachment does not poll well (another of Pelosi’s excuses), it is the job of powerful political leaders to try and sway public opinion. The inclination of Pelosi and her fellow Democrats to accept the current polling numbers as somehow finite and incapable of change is an indictment of their bewildering unwillingness to make the case for why the president should be removed from office.
It’s not as if Pelosi doesn’t believe Trump has committed impeachable offenses. She’s called his actions “villainous to the Constitution of the United States,” accused him of engaging in a cover-up, and has said that he’s obstructed justice.
Rather, she is making a political judgment. For those of us who complained about the political calculation made by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former House speaker Paul Ryan to do nothing as Trump engaged in serial corruption his first two years in office, Pelosi’s reluctance to go down the road of impeachment is incredibly disappointing.
In Pelosi’s defense, she is at least not preventing Congress from investigating Trump and she is, to her credit, keeping the door open on impeachment. But in light of Trump’s brazen refusal to subject himself and his administration to congressional oversight, the Democrats’ decision to bide their time feels more and more like an abdication of their constitutional responsibilities.
At the end of the day, the best rationale for impeaching Trump is the most straightforward one: he’s broken the law and committed impeachable offenses. Even without a Senate conviction that should be enough for Pelosi and the Democrats. Considering that Trump shows no inclination to abide by laws or basic political norms, it increasingly feels as though impeachment is inevitable, no matter how much Democrats try to avoid it.
There’s a time for politics and there’s a time to do what’s best for the country — and it’s long past the point Pelosi and the Democrats recognized that when it comes to Trump, the latter must take precedent over the former.