News & Politics

Pelosi Says Trump Can't Be Acquitted Because the Senate Trial Isn't a Trial, or Something

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. speaks to reporters following a House Democratic caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

In a press conference on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the opportunity to grandstand rather than responding to a reporter’s question. She insisted that even if the U.S. Senate votes against convicting and removing President Donald Trump, he would not be acquitted. Pelosi also went on to say Trump does not know right from wrong.

The reporter asked whether Pelosi expects Trump to be “chastened” by the impeachment process or “emboldened because the Senate will have acquitted him.”

Rather than answering the question, the House speaker launched into a diatribe against Republicans.

“Well, he will not be acquitted. You cannot be acquitted if you don’t have a trial, and you don’t have a trial if you don’t have witnesses and documentation and that,” she huffed.

This stance is particularly interesting, coming from a Democrat who rushed to vote on Trump’s impeachment before key legal issues involving subpoenas could be resolved in the courts. Pelosi and her caucus rushed to impeach the president, claiming he was an imminent threat to the next election. House Democrats squandered the opportunity to hear from witnesses, and now Pelosi is saying the trial will be illegitimate if Republicans also refuse to hear from witnesses?

Ironically, White House Counsel Patrick Philbin also found fault with the trial. He argued that the impeachment process would be ruled a mistrial in any legitimate court because impeachment managers brought up new charges of bribery and extortion in the case of arguing articles of impeachment that did not include those charges.

The speaker went on to berate senators for not trusting Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to cast a tie-breaker vote on witnesses. She concluded with a dig on Trump that came completely out of the blue: “Does the president know right from wrong? I don’t think so.”

Pelosi has insisted that Trump will always have been impeached because the House voted to impeach him, even though there are substantial due process concerns about the way the House ran the inquiry, and even though she waited weeks before handing the articles of impeachment over to the Senate for a trial.

If it is true that — regardless of serious due process concerns — Trump will always have been impeached, then it is equally true that when the Senate votes to acquit him — regardless of concerns Democrats seem intent to scream about — he will have always been acquitted. Impeachment is a high bar for a reason. The Founders did not intend for it to be a routine political weapon, as Democrats in 1998 argued so eloquently.

As in the impeachment inquiry, the delay of the articles, and so much more, Pelosi is trying to have her cake and eat it, too. Americans will see through this — and they should hold her accountable for it in November.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.