On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led Democrats in approving a measure to finally forward the articles of impeachment passed on December 18 over to the Senate for a trial. Pelosi had held up the articles after insisting that Trump needed to be impeached as soon as possible because he posed an imminent threat to the 2020 election. Democrats also approved seven impeachment managers, headed by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
“We are here today to cross a very important threshold in American history,” Pelosi said before the mostly partisan vote (228-193). She recalled her long opposition to impeachment and then blamed Trump for forcing her hand. “He crossed a threshold. He gave us no choice.”
Yet the speaker’s own actions suggest she did indeed have a choice. Contrary to her protestations that Trump needed to be removed as soon as possible, Pelosi delayed the process by refusing to hand over the articles of impeachment once the House had voted on them. She claimed that since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would coordinate with White House counsel — as Senate Democrats did during Clinton’s impeachment — the Senate trial would not be fair.
That claim proved particularly rich, given the underhanded manner in which Democrats prosecuted the impeachment hearings. The push began with a “whistleblower” inside the CIA who coordinated with Schiff’s office in crafting his report! For some reason, Democrats took at face value former Vice President Joe Biden’s assertions that his son Hunter had done no wrong in getting a lucrative job at a notoriously corrupt Ukrainian gas company while Biden was the Obama point person on Ukraine.
Democrats insisted that Trump had asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate potential corruption only as a political tactic against Joe Biden, rather than in an attempt to get to the bottom of what seems at the very least a conflict of interest. Pelosi tried to turn a policy dispute into an impeachable offense, and Democrats seized on a situation that is difficult to explain to an average voter.
Worse, when the White House raised a routine executive privilege defense to some congressional subpoenas, House Democrats decided not to wait and challenge the matter in court but rather to add another article of impeachment for “obstruction of Congress.”
For these and other reasons, McConnell condemned the impeachment as an exercise in partisan rage. “House Democrats want to create new rules for this president because they feel uniquely enraged,” he argued. “This is by far the thinnest basis for any House-passed presidential impeachment in American history.” He condemned it as “the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history.”
After Pelosi refused to deliver the articles to the Senate, McConnell repeatedly called her bluff, and Pelosi finally caved last Friday after Republicans introduced a measure enabling the Senate to nullify an impeachment passed by the House if the speaker did not forward the articles to the upper chamber. Indeed, this measure makes a great deal of sense, since Pelosi had effectively pocket-vetoed her own impeachment.
Rather than prioritizing the impeachment after the New Year, the House speaker rushed a toothless War Powers Resolution to condemn Trump’s decision to kill Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani.
In addition to Schiff, Pelosi named House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Val Demings (D-Fla.), and Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) as impeachment managers, to argue the case in the Senate.
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) was the lone Democrat voting against sending the articles on to the Senate. He had voted against impeachment and he also joined Republicans in signing a letter to the Supreme Court, urging a reconsideration on abortion cases such as Roe v. Wade (1973).
The trial is set to begin next week.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.