Pelosi's Impeachment Stunt

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Posted: Jan 08, 2020 12:01 AM
Pelosi's Impeachment Stunt

Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Imagine if a district attorney charged you with wrongdoing, and then let the charges hang over you indefinitely?

That's the stunt Nancy Pelosi has been pulling, sitting on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump since Dec. 18.

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., accuses House Dems of "trying to hold these articles over the head of the president," denying him a chance to be acquitted.

Graham says "if we don't get the articles this week," then Senators should deem the impeachment articles "delivered to the Senate" so the trial can begin.

Monday, freshman Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., asked what's to stop Pelosi from holding the articles indefinitely. "If Americans are sick of this impeachment saga, this partisan circus now," think how they'll feel months, or even a year, from now.

Hawley is proposing a 25-day deadline. If the House fails to deliver the articles and name a legal team by then, the Senate can vote to dismiss the charges.

Hawley and Graham are rightfully fed up, but Graham's proposal is the better one. The president and the nation deserve a verdict, not just a dismissal.

To get it done, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell will have to drop the fiction that the Senate is still a place for bipartisan civility. It's time for a reality check.

In a previous era when senators prided themselves on bipartisanship, the Senate established a requirement for a 2/3 majority to consider any rules changes. Republicans and Democrats would have to agree. That can't happen this time. Republicans have a bare 53 votes, and no Democrat is likely to support a rules change.

McConnell blasted Pelosi on Monday for treating impeachment like a "frivolous game." To outmaneuver her, McConnell will have to resort to a parliamentary device -- the "nuclear option" -- that requires only a simple majority. He used it before to prevent Democrats from blocking Trump's judicial and executive branch nominees. The stakes are higher now: a timely trial for the president.

The trial will begin, according to McConnell, with House Democrats arguing their case, followed by a rebuttal from White House lawyers. At that point -- not before -- senators will decide whether to call witnesses or proceed to a verdict. It's the same plan unanimously adopted by the Senate for the trial of President Bill Clinton.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is demanding an upfront guarantee of White House witnesses, knowing he won't get it. It's a public relations stunt to smear Trump's expected acquittal as "unfair," damaging him for his re-election bid.

Some Republicans would like to call the Bidens. Reuters reports that, according to a former member of the Ukrainian parliament, Hunter Biden was hired as a director of Burisma Holdings to protect the company from investigation, when Vice President Joe Biden was the U.S. point person on Ukraine.

Democrats applauded Monday when former national security adviser John Bolton announced he would testify if called. Predictably, Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, still smarting from Trump's bypassing him for secretary of state, immediately said he'd like to hear from Bolton. But centrists Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark., are sticking with McConnell's plan, which postpones the witnesses question until after opening arguments.

That's wise because the key issue facing senators is whether the charges against Trump are impeachable offenses. For the first time in history, the House impeached a president without accusing him of breaking any law. Democrats insist they can nail Trump for "exercising power with a corrupt purpose, even if his action would otherwise be permissible" -- putting political advantage above the national interest.

By that definition, every politician is guilty. Expect a majority of senators, including some Democrats, to see the danger of such flimflam charges.

By the end of January, the Senate will have voted to acquit Trump. Pelosi and her party will be the big losers. They impeached a president for partisan gain, and then tried to delay the trial in a desperate search for evidence to make the charges stick. Voters will judge them harshly in November.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York state and author of "Government by Choice: Inventing the United States Constitution." Contact her at betsy@betsymccaughey.com.