March 13, 2019

Pelosi on Impeachment

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

On Monday, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told the Washington Post, “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 [Trump’s] just not worth it.” Washington Post

See past issues

From the Left

The left is divided, with some believing Pelosi is doing the politically smart thing, and others arguing that Congress has an obligation to impeach if circumstances warrant.

“If the Democrats held 55 or 60 Senate seats, or if Republicans weren't so united behind Trump, it might be an entirely different equation. But if Trump is impeached by the House and then acquitted in the Senate (as Bill Clinton was the last time we went through this), Democrats will have offered him a potent political weapon…

I don't know why Pelosi didn't make those points directly… Perhaps she doesn't want to be perceived as overly focused on raw political calculus and decided she had to find more persuasive moral high ground. ‘He's just not worth it’ wasn't exactly her finest rhetorical hour. But when it comes to the politics of impeachment, she's right: It's a waste of time.”
Matthew Rozsa, Salon

“In throwing cold water on the idea of impeachment, Speaker Nancy Pelosi in some ways was simply offering a cleareyed assessment of the state of politics today in the nation’s hyperpolarized capital: There are not enough votes to convict and remove President Trump from office…

“And yet in declaring that impeachment therefore is ‘just not worth it,’ Ms. Pelosi may also be setting a far-reaching new standard with implications long after Mr. Trump leaves office. By her reasoning, accusations of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, campaign finance violations and other offenses — even if proved — do not rise to a level requiring action by the House of Representatives.”
Peter Baker and Emily Cochrane, New York Times

“There is no need for Pelosi to declare that she’s not for impeachment in the present, when it would be a lot more salutary to say this is simply premature, and that in the end, the right course of action will be determined by the facts, and leave it at that…

“Pelosi’s suggestion that impeachment hearings can proceed only with ‘bipartisan’ support is also unnecessarily self-constraining. Historian Kevin Kruse points out that majority support for President Richard M. Nixon’s removal didn’t develop until after the impeachment inquiry commenced. This can’t be the threshold for beginning an inquiry.”
Greg Sargent, Washington Post

“Pelosi might have meant that impeachment isn’t a good idea unless there is ‘compelling and overwhelming’ evidence that the president actually engaged in actions that would amount to an impeachable offense. If so, her position is perfectly sensible… [but] If Pelosi meant to say otherwise – to suggest that the House can refrain from acting unless impeachment is ‘bipartisan’ or not ‘divisive’ – she was speaking in patent defiance of the constitutional plan… the Constitution does not license members of the House of Representatives to refrain from impeachment, on the ground that it would not be ‘bipartisan’ and would ‘divide the country.’”
Cass R. Sunstein, Bloomberg

Some posit that “the last thing that the Democratic leadership wants to do in this environment is to remove Trump and inaugurate a Mike Pence administration before the 2020 election. They want Trump wounded but alive…

“Democratic House members have maintained the illusion of working toward impeachment with a harsh blizzard of investigations and subpoenas. However, most of these efforts focus on conduct by Trump before he became president. There is limited oversight value in some of these issues and even less potential for impeachment. Yet, the public does not understand that this is just political kabuki theatre. It actually believes an impeachment is in the making, and it is becoming impatient.”
Jonathan Turley, The Hill

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) “insisted the president couldn’t possibly have done anything wrong because, in the end, Ukraine got its money without committing to any investigations. This point of view has radical implications for America’s system of justice and overcrowded prisons, if Mr. Jordan in fact truly believes that all inmates convicted of attempted crimes are innocent of wrongdoing… Perhaps the most telling remark was offered by a Republican staff lawyer, Stephen Castor, who suggested that while the president’s behavior may have been highly irregular, ‘it’s not as outlandish as it could be.’ Here’s a tip: When ‘not as outlandish as itcould be’ is your strongest defense, it’s time to rethink your position.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

From the Right

The right sees this is as a smart move by Pelosi, given the lack of evidence against Trump.

From the Right

The right sees this is as a smart move by Pelosi, given the lack of evidence against Trump.

“If Pelosi and Schiff really believed their outlandish rhetoric on Russian collusion, they would be moving to impeach the president. If they believed, as they previously claimed, that there is clear evidence to show Trump is in bed with Putin, they could not move fast enough to present that evidence and force Republicans to defend an obviously compromised commander in chief. The fact is, they don’t have the evidence, and they don’t expect Special Counsel Robert Mueller to provide it.”
David Marcus, The Federalist

“The publicly available information about President Trump does not warrant his impeachment. Shady contacts with Russian operatives and a potential campaign-finance violation aren’t enough. Nor can Mueller be counted on to provide the smoking gun. That’s why the House has embarked on its fishing expedition, why the New York state attorney general’s office is poring over the president’s business record. They’re getting desperate. Pelosi’s against impeachment because she understands that the Democrats’ best chance at overturning the 2016 result remains the 2020 election.”
Matthew Continetti, National Review

Pelosi “is a shrewd politician who is playing the odds with her eye on the bigger prize, namely putting a Democrat in the White House… 59 percent of voters recently told Quinnipiac that they opposed impeachment. The unpopularity of impeachment could be a drag on Democratic candidates up and down the ticket… The decision not to impeach also removes a Republican talking point that could have been used to rally the base. A Democratic attack on the president, who remains popular in the GOP, would have spurred Republicans to circle the wagons in defense of the president. Without impeachment on the table, Republican voters disappointed in Trump’s performance might be more likely to stay home.”
David Thornton, The Resurgent

Impeachment “would energize Republicans to no end… As Democrats rip each other apart [in the primary], and they will, Trump’s war chest swells, the GOP is more united as ever, and the Democrats’ overreach thanks to members of Congress, like Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, could even scare Independents away.”
Matt Vespa, Townhall

“We’ve seen the result when the House pursued impeachment despite the lack of consensus across the aisle for that action. Republicans ended up getting burned in 1998’s midterms after a voter backlash raised confidence in Bill Clinton… The political lesson from 1998 is still obvious. Being confident in your own outrage isn’t enough to succeed at impeachment. It’s much safer to stick to elections when replacing presidents, unless someone digs up an actual crime large enough to convince both parties that the president has to go.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

“For once, the grassroots progressives have a good reason to be furious with their leadership. ‘Impeaching Trump’ is to the progressive grassroots what ‘repeal and replace Obamacare’ is to the conservative grassroots — a big ambitious goal that passionate outsiders boast will be easy, and that will determine the fate of the country. Much like with the waves of Republicans in 2010, 2014 and 2016, Democrats arrived in Washington and suddenly learned their goal is much more difficult than it appeared

“[But] impeachment is not a mulligan or do-over. We’ve never removed a president from office in our history. Two have been impeached by the House but spared by the Senate, and President Nixon resigned. We can’t have the first president removed from office to be taken out on a technicality. Whatever we do now establishes a precedent for the future.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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