If it’s starting to look like Democrats don’t actually want to impeach President Donald Trump, there’s a reason why.
The impeachment is not about removing Trump from office; it’s about targeting vulnerable Republican senators, says former Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)’s plan was to take back the Senate and make Trump into a lame-duck president.
The real goal of impeachment
Impeachment was in limbo for three weeks after Pelosi decided to withhold articles of impeachment from the Senate indefinitely, apparently in an attempt to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to hold a trial on terms favorable to Democrats. But the stalemate may finally be over after Pelosi announced Friday she would send the articles to the Senate next week. With Pelosi’s capitulation, an outcome that was always seen as inevitable — Pelosi giving in, paving the road for Republicans to acquit Trump — has come to fruition.
Republicans have long accused Democrats of impeaching Trump because they are afraid of facing him at the ballot box fair and square, and they used Pelosi’s delay to hammer the narrative that she had “cold feet” and didn’t believe in her own case. Gowdy agreed, saying that Pelosi’s delay games were an admission that Democrats have little hope of actually removing Trump from office.
Instead, Democrats hoped to make life difficult for Republican senators facing re-election, Gowdy speculated. Pelosi knows that Democrats don’t have the votes to convict Trump, so she and her fellow Democrats did everything possible to make the Republicans’ handling of the trial look like a travesty of justice — ironically, by insisting on testimony from witnesses that Democrats refused to pursue when they had the chance. As Gowdy explained it in a Fox News op-ed:
The impeachment inquiry, investigation, votes, and ultimate refusal to transmit articles are not about removing Trump from office. Rather, it is a tacit acknowledgment he will be re-elected in November of 2020. The plan now is to use impeachment to neuter that second term with a Democrat-controlled Senate.
Dems give the game away
Democrats, Gowdy notes, had avoided issuing subpoenas in the House to avoid lengthy court battles — only to stall the impeachment process for weeks over witness demands. The answer to the riddle may be that Democrats were never in a hurry to remove Trump because he isn’t their target.
By passing the buck on having former National Security Adviser John Bolton, White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and others testify, Democrats were hoping to compel Republican senators to make risky votes for them. Gowdy pointed to a recent interview between NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), in which the California Democrat admitted that Democrats were still weighing a subpoena for Bolton — whose testimony Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has made essential to any trial agreement — but left the ball in Schumer’s court.
Schiff gave the game away when he praised Pelosi for “fleshing out” the true motive, in Schiff’s universe, of McConnell and the Republicans. As Schiff seems to see it, Pelosi’s delay helped shine a light on a so-called “cover-up” by Republicans of the president’s so-called crimes.
Pelosi to send articles
That Republicans are engaged in an unfair “cover-up” has been a major part of Democrats’ messaging strategy through the last three weeks of impeachment limbo. Even as Pelosi conceded defeat Friday, she seemed to confirm parts of Gowdy’s theory in her letter to Democrats, framing the Senate trial as a litmus test of Republicans’ patriotism.
“In an impeachment trial, every senator takes an oath to ‘do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.’ Every senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the president or the Constitution,” she wrote.
The impasse started to break this week when McConnell announced that he had assembled the 51 votes necessary to start a trial without any agreement on witnesses. Several Senate Democrats began to express this week that they didn’t see the point in delaying any further since the momentum seemed to have shifted decisively to the Republicans.
There is likely little more that Democrats can do now, other than make partisan noise. The dam is cracking, and Trump can soon claim victory.