Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Pelosi and co. on impeachment: Not if, when?

In some ways, the press conference held by Pelosi, Cummings, Nadler and Schiff in the wake of Mueller's testimony today was exquisitely frustrating. Their dual message made no sense on its face: the president manifestly deserves impeachment but we need more evidence. Nadler said the president committed crimes. Pelosi also said that "crimes were committed against our Constitution," albeit in passive voice. Schiff said Trump was disloyal to the country, citing his negotiating the Moscow Trump Tower deal while seeking the presidency without telling the public. So how can they not open an impeachment inquiry?

At the same time, it seemed to me that these committee chairs and Pelosi in particular may have turned a corner. This was the first time I've heard Pelosi speak about impeachment without actively undercutting it. They were stalling, but they were implicitly promising to get there.

This promise -- too strong a word -- was almost explicit at the end. Schiff, all but acknowledging that the Senate would not convict, also declared that that was not the point. My emphasis (and rough transcript) below:

And I'll say this on the issue of impeachment, which I view very much the same way as the Speaker: maybe I'm just an old prosecutor, but before I brought my case to an  indictment I wanted to make sure that I had the strongest evidence possible. I wanted to understand my case; I wanted to be able to make my case. Now, I tried a case of impeachment in the Senate about ten years ago,.a corrupt federal judge who was convicted, so I have some understanding of what it takes to get a conviction in the Senate and I have no illusion about getting a conviction in the Senate. But there are two juries in an impeachment: there is the jury that is the Senate that must decide about removal from office, and then there is the jury that is the American people. And I'm most concerned about the jury that is the American people. And before we embark on a course as significant to the country as the impeachment of a president, I want to make sure that we can make that case to the American people.
Pelosi seconded the motion:
Just following up on the last statement by Chairman Schiff: e pluribus unum. That's the guidance our founders gave us. They couldn't imagine how many we'd be or how different we'd be from each other. They wanted us to remember  that we are one. So when we go down this path, we want it to be as unifying for our country, not dividing. We want it to be the strongest possible case. Lincoln said public sentiment is everything. In order for the public to have the sentiment the public has to know. So I hope you will be messengers to the public; we think today was really a milestone in making that sentiment be more informed.
When, not if. And an implicit acknowledgment that it's not a matter of waiting for public sentiment to move, but of moving it.

It's been suggested that Pelosi,and House Democrats generally, won't move toward impeachment unless three dozen-odd moderate Dems are aboard. Perhaps the question is whether at some point Pelosi and co. are moved to move them. As Pelosi said many years ago, "I never stop whipping." She induced a lot of moderates to walk the plank for the ACA.  The question of whether moderates move is therefore kind of chicken-egg.

P.S. I think my headline is a bit overstated. Clickbait!

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