This week’s impeachment of President Trump came and went like a sun shower on a warm spring day. It was a slight annoyance, but once it passed, the country got back to its picnic of jobs, record stock-market highs and consumer confidence. For all of the Democrats’ pantomiming about the gravity of the moment, their party line vote had all the impact of a beanbag. So now, the articles of impeachment will move to the Senate for a trial. Or will they?
The latest twist in this reality show is that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now not sure when or if she will send them to the Senate. She, along with the anti-Trump media, seems to think that by withholding them they can force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to cave and demand that White House officials testify. A puzzled McConnell tried to explain that you can’t get leverage by refusing to give someone something they don’t want.
Let’s be clear. Senate Republicans would be thrilled if Pelosi just shoved the articles into the back of a closet in the speaker’s office next to a disregarded carton of Camels left by John Boehner.
The GOP-held Senate has become a well-oiled conservative-judge machine, churning out jurists like a factory assembly line. It has no desire for an impeachment coffee break to vote on a matter everyone has already made up their minds on.
But the president, progressives argue, is desperate for a trial. He wants his victory lap when the inevitable acquittal drops. This is supposedly Pelosi’s vaunted leverage.
Unfortunately, that’s based on a naïve reading of a trolly Trump tweet. Here’s what he said: “So after the Democrats gave me no Due Process in the House, no lawyers, no witnesses, no nothing, they now want to tell the Senate how to run their trial. Actually, they have zero proof of anything, they will never even show up. They want out. I want an immediate trial!”
Many in the media are latching onto that last phrase, “I want an immediate trial!” as evidence that Pelosi has him right where she wants him and can extract demands from the Senate to call witnesses.
Yet this is a deep misunderstanding of who Trump is and where he comes from. Trump is from Queens, where insults are the coin of the realm; this tweet is not about demanding a trial, it’s about calling Democrats cowards.
Note that just a few minutes later, Trump tweeted this: “The House Democrats were unable to get even a single vote from the Republicans on their Impeachment Hoax. The Republicans have never been so united! The Dem’s case is so bad that they don’t even want to go to trial!”
This is the political equivalent of a guy in Astoria saying, “I’m here, you wanna throw hands?” during an argument over a parking space.
The important thing to remember here is that this is a win-win situation for President Trump. Would he like to be acquitted by the Senate? Sure.
But arguably better for him is a scenario in which no trial takes place and his impeachment becomes an asterisk that is all bluster and no bite.
If Pelosi sits on the articles, it’s a massive win for the president. It is in essence an admission by Pelosi and House Democrats that they did not make the case for impeachment, and that not only will the Senate not convict but the American people will continue to roll their eyes.
Mitch McConnell is about as likely to bend to Pelosi’s demands as David Mamet is to write a play without cursing. That is to say, some things never change. The speaker, as the saying goes, can pound sand. Her and Sen. Chuck Schumer’s wishlist of witnesses for their fishing expedition will not be doing any star turns on the Senate floor.
So the Democrats have two choices: send along the articles or fold their hand. If they do the former, Trump’s vindication will be complete with his acquittal. If they do the latter, he will be vindicated by their cowardice. Both of these are great results for the president and Republicans.
Impeachment has become a field of landmines Democrats buried for themselves, and they are in the middle of it. There is no way out that doesn’t go boom and leave them charred and scarred.