PETER ROFF, POLITICAL GAMES
No one can be sure what Nancy pelosi’s intent is. I’m not sure she even knows but her decision to wait before transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate is setting a bad precedent that puts politics ahead of the U.S. Constitution.
For all the work that’s gone into addressing the charges against President Donald Trump, it’s hard to argue they rise to the level of impeachable offenses. The charge of obstruction of Congress could just as easily be presented as a justifiable defense of executive power for which ample precedent exists. The allegation he abused the power of his office is likewise flawed. While U.S. policy toward Ukraine is legitimately a subject for congressional oversight it is hardly the stuff of which previous presidents were threatened with removal from office.
Remember, early on, how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opined on the gravity of impeachment and the need for bipartisanship? She got the latter at least, but not as she hoped. It was the Democrats who split their votes. Not a single Republican voted for impeachment. Three Democrats did along with Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard, who wants to be president and who voted “Present.”
Oklahoma Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, a cool-headed senior member of the House of Representatives, may have put it best when he recently tweeted: “After running a totally partisan and closed impeachment process in the House, [Pelosi] now wants an open and bipartisan process in the Senate? That is the height of political hypocrisy!”
He’s right. The process leading to the president’s impeachment was manifestly unfair, with the minority party in Congress’s right to mount a defense of the president routinely impeded by the process the Democrats devised.
Now Pelosi is sitting on her hands, waiting for Senate to approve rules for a trial to which she can agree because they will be, as she put it, “fair.” She’s entitled to her opinion, one supposes, but she’s failing to carry out her duties as leader of the House by doing so. She’s also creating a problem she’s not aware of for, if Harvard’s Noah Feldman is right and the president is not deemed to have been impeached until the articles are forwarded to the Senate, why should anyone be planning for a trial? Wouldn’t that be premature?
Democrats hoped the Mueller Report would show collusion with the Russians but that went nowhere. They had to settle for an innovative interpretation of a phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The Democrats allege Trump proposed a quid pro quo—military aid for Ukraine in exchange for a public announcement of an investigation into alleged corruption by Hunter Biden and, by extension, his father, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden who, the polls suggest, is most likely to be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.
It’s a stretch, but the case was made anyway even though both Trump and Zelenskiy deny any such arrangement was ever on the table. And without the Democrats willing even to acknowledge the younger Biden’s paid membership on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma while his father was the point man for the U.S. government on Ukraine policy looks suspicious. Even the elder Biden has a hard time grappling with the question when it’s been put to him. But who among us won’t say, at least in their heart of hearts, that payments of a million dollars a year to the well-connected son of an important U.S politician by an energy company operating in a country with all the political integrity of Chicago, Illinois isn’t worth looking into?
What Pelosi wants is at least one more bite at the apple, maybe more. Her minions have been trying to impeach the president for most of his administration. The votes taken just prior to Christmas on articles of impeachment were not the first and, if you can believe what’s being said over the holiday recess, may not be the last. As Politico is reporting, “The House is open to the prospect of impeaching President Donald Trump a second time, lawyers for the Judiciary Committee said Monday.”
Will it ever end? Probably not. Just as Bill Clinton gave us what came to be called “the permanent campaign,” Nancy Pelosi and her allies are giving America “the permanent impeachment.” For all her high-minded talk about the gravity of the situation and the steps being taken by the House, she’s messing around with the Constitution while trying to overturn the results of the last election and influence the outcome of the next. She might succeed, at least as far as the latter effort is concerned, but not in the way she intends.
Newsweek contributing editor Peter Roff has written extensively about politics and the American experience for U.S. News and World Report, United Press International, and other publications. He can be reached by email at RoffColumns@gmail.com.