On Sunday night, President Donald Trump suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not want to impeach him, and now that he’s on track for acquittal in the Senate, “it’s her worst nightmare.”
“I think she’s a very confused, very nervous woman,” the president told Sean Hannity on Fox News. “I don’t think she wanted to do this. I think she really knew what was going to happen, and it’s her worst nightmare has happened.”
He also predicted that Pelosi would not remain House speaker for long. “I think the radical left is going to take over,” Trump said.
Indeed, between May 2018 and March 2019, Pelosi repeatedly insisted that impeachment must be bipartisan.
“Impeachment is a very serious matter. If it happens it has to be a bipartisan initiative,” the House speaker said in May 2018. “Unless you have bipartisan consensus, impeachment is a divisive issue in the country.”
“I’m not for impeachment. This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before,” Pelosi told The Washington Post in March 2019. “But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.”
Yet on Halloween last year, Pelosi finally held a formal vote to approve the impeachment inquiry she prematurely announced in September. The resolution passed 232-196, without a single Republican vote. In fact, two Democrats representing districts that voted for Trump in 2016 voted with Republicans against it. The only non-Democrat to vote for it was Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), a former Republican.
Not a single Republican voted to impeach Trump during the full House vote, either. The first article of impeachment, abuse of power, passed by a vote of 230 to 197, with two Democrats voting “no.” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) voted “present.” The second article, obstruction of Congress, passed by a vote of 229 to 198. Three Democrats voted “no” on obstruction.
Both the votes to formalize an impeachment inquiry against former presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were bipartisan. In 1974, Republicans joined the effort to impeach the Republican Nixon, with the House voting 410-4. In 1998, 31 House Democrats voted for an impeachment inquiry against Democrat Clinton, for a full vote of 258-176.
Not a single Democrat joined with the 126 Republicans who voted to impeach Andrew Johnson, but the House was overwhelmingly Republican following the Civil War. Yet five Democrats voted with Republicans to impeach Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice. Richard Nixon resigned before the House could vote to impeach him because both the House and the Senate were likely to vote against him.
Not a single member of the president’s party voted to convict Johnson or Clinton.
Now Pelosi has started insisting that the Senate cannot truly acquit Trump because the impeachment trial is not a trial, since it doesn’t fit her specifications.
Pelosi must have known that if she rushed to impeach Trump over confusing matters in Ukraine that did not involve clear wrongdoing — much less clearly grave wrongdoing — the impeachment would be partisan in the House and fail in the Senate. Yet she pulled the trigger, perhaps because she convinced herself Ukraine was worth it, perhaps because she wanted to tie up Bernie Sanders in the Senate, or perhaps because she thinks it will weaken Trump in the general election.
Then again, Trump may be right — Pelosi realized she could no longer hold back the radical members of her caucus. The other Democrats likely did push the House speaker over the line, forcing her hand on a dubious impeachment that was never going to get even the marginal bipartisanship of the Bill Clinton impeachment. As the president would say, “SAD!”
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.