Impeachment charade deepens divide between Democratic leaders and voters – Washington Examiner

How serious are House Democratic leaders about impeaching President Trump? Consider this: After finishing up last-minute business, members are leaving Washington for a 46-day recess. They will not return until Sept. 9.

That’s not very serious.

On Wednesday night, after Trump-Russia special counsel Robert Mueller’s appearance before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, Democrats met to discuss the testimony and prospects for impeachment. There were those, like Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, who argued for going ahead with impeachment. But it was “floated as an idea and a possibility, not as something that will imminently happen,” in the words of CNN reporter Manu Raju.

An “idea” and a “possibility”? Who are they kidding? It is late July 2019. If the House were actually going to pursue impeachment, Democrats would have to be working together toward that goal right now — not discussing ideas and possibilities before heading out for a long break.

Look at the last impeachment, that of President Bill Clinton in 1998. Independent counsel Kenneth Starr delivered his report on the Lewinsky affair to Congress on Sept. 9. The House voted to start impeachment proceedings on Oct. 8. The formal impeachment vote was Dec. 19. The matter then went to the Senate, which voted to acquit Clinton on Feb. 12, 1999. The process took a few days more than five months.

Imagine a similar timeline today. The House stays out on recess until the second week in September. Say they vote to begin proceedings in October. The impeachment vote comes in mid-to-late December, and the Senate verdict in February — probably somewhere between the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries.

That is a crazy scenario, and that is what would happen if impeachment work got under way immediately after the House returns from recess. If it were delayed further, the whole thing would move weeks or months farther down the road. Why not a Senate trial during Super Tuesday, or the summer political conventions? The possibilities are mind-boggling.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi fears impeachment will backfire on Democrats, in large part because the Republican-controlled Senate will never remove Donald Trump from office. Her strategy appears to be to delay and delay until at some point it becomes obvious to all that it is far too late to make impeachment happen. Pelosi will then look at her watch and say, “Oh, my goodness, look at the time!” And that will be that.

The fact is, it is nearly too late for impeachment right now. Yet the possibility of impeachment is still being discussed seriously.

It appears Mueller’s halting and sometimes confused testimony had little effect on the discussion. The Democrats who favored impeachment before the hearings still favor it, and the Democrats who opposed it still oppose it.

Precisely how many are on each side is a mystery. But we do know that 95 Democrats voted last week to advance an article of impeachment that no one could describe as serious. It was a quickie measure, proposing to remove Trump for his tweets about maverick Democratic lawmakers Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley. The impeachment article, pushed onto the House floor by Rep. Al Green, made no mention of Russian collusion, or obstruction of justice, or campaign finance violations, or any of the other real or imagined offenses some Democrats hope to pursue against the president.

And still it got 95 votes. That’s not nothing — about 40% of the Democratic caucus. And those are lawmakers who support impeachment even before throwing in all the usual charges against Trump. That suggests that any real effort to impeach the president would start with 95 votes and go up from there.

Of course, it would take 123 more House votes to reach the 218 required to impeach. So for now, Pelosi and the rest of the leadership opposed to impeachment have the upper hand.

The problem, for the speaker, is that there is another key player in the impeachment story — the Democratic electorate. And those millions of voters haven’t gotten the leadership memo. They still strongly support impeaching Trump.

A new poll of registered voters from Fox News found that 74% of Democrats surveyed want the president impeached and removed from office. A few more would prefer to see Trump impeached without removal. The bottom line is a huge majority of Democrats favor impeachment. (By way of comparison, just 8% of Republicans and 18% of independents told Fox they want Trump to be impeached and removed; for the electorate as a whole, the numbers were 42% pro-impeachment, 50% anti-impeachment, and 8% don’t know.)

Other polls have shown smaller majorities of Democrats in favor of impeachment, but majorities still. And remember that in exit polls last November, when voters gave Pelosi and her party control of the House, 92% of Democratic voters said Congress should impeach the president.

Lawmakers, at least the ones who are not heading off on junkets, will hear from voters when they are at home during the recess (which they prefer to call the “district work period”). During that time, Pelosi will continue dangling the possibility of impeachment in front of those voters, as she did when she addressed the press after Mueller’s testimony. Look at this exchange between Pelosi and a reporter:

REPORTER: Speaker Pelosi, you have long said there’s no point moving forward with an impeachment inquiry because Republicans control the Senate —
PELOSI: I have never long said that. I have never long said that. If we have a case for impeachment, that’s the place we will have to go. The fact why I’d like it to be a strong case is because it’s based on the facts. The facts and the law, that’s what matters. Not politics, not partisanship, just patriotism. I don’t care, I mean I’d like the Senate to be responsible and honor their oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution, to see what a challenge this is to our national security. What the Russians are trying to do to our country. But the stronger our case is, the worse the Senate will look for just letting the president off the hook.

Of course, Democratic leaders will argue that it takes time to develop a strong case — even though Mueller gave them the case, in the form of a 448-page report, more than three months ago. Back in 1998, House Republicans were well on their way to the final impeachment vote three months after Starr gave them his report. Now, from Democrats, nothing.

Appearing on CNN, a key Democratic chairman, Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee, offered even less hope to Democratic voters then Pelosi, all but shutting the door on impeachment. “I would be delighted if we had a prospect of removing [Trump] through impeachment, but we don’t,” Schiff said. “We do need to be realistic, and that is, the only way he’s leaving office, at least at this point, is by being voted out.”

Schiff and others have argued that the certainty of Senate acquittal creates an unacceptable risk for Democrats. Given a guaranteed acquittal, would impeachment still be a good thing for Democrats because it would be the best form of censure available? Or would it be a bad thing because it would boost Trump’s standing with the Republican base? Democratic leaders don’t really want to find out.

So the non-impeachment fix appears to be in, and everybody knows it except the voters and some cable news hosts. Every day the political world talks about Mueller’s performance, or a new Democratic lawsuit, or another Democratic caucus meeting, is a day that impeachment is not happening. And when it finally doesn’t come to pass, there will be a lot of disappointed people who made the mistake of taking all the talk seriously.

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