What is Pelosi thinking? Pundits debate her motives for withholding impeachment articles from the Senate

What is Pelosi thinking?

While some think she’s just “winging it,” others see Pelosi-an craftiness in the Speaker’s stunning decision to delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) could be trying to influence public opinion against Republicans by highlighting coordination between the White House and Mitch McConnell (R-KY), but then again she could just be floundering, pundits debated on Fox Nation’s Deep Dive.

“I think right now, frankly, she’s winging it,” said Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal. “She initially didn’t want to do it, got sort of pressured into it from her more progressive members who wanted her to do this.”

Pelosi’s strategy

Just one day after voting to impeach Donald Trump, Pelosi set up an intractable partisan impasse by refusing to send articles of impeachment to the Senate. While she maintained that she will not proceed until Republicans guarantee a fair trial, Republicans fired back that they won’t be swayed by political games: McConnell has set the tone by promising “total coordination” with the White House in a swift trial, possibly with no witnesses, that McConnell has not even pretended will be non-partisan.

The conventional opinion is that Pelosi’s decision to impeach Trump was a forced error, and that she is making the inevitable blowback even worse by playing games. Riley expressed that view on a Fox Nation panel, saying that Pelosi never wanted to impeach Trump and things are not going as she planned.

“She thought that she’d be able to peel off some Republican support on this. That didn’t happen. And went the other way,” he said. “The polls have not gone the way the Democrats thought,” adding, “Trump was polling in the high 30s in October. He is now in the mid 40s. … It just hasn’t gone the way they were hoping.”

Support for Trump has inched up, while support of impeachment has dipped, according to a Gallup poll. Moreover, Democratic Senator Doug Jones (AL) is being seen as a possible defector in the vote to convict or acquit Trump.

While things don’t appear to be going as Pelosi had hoped, others still see Pelosi-ian craftiness at work. At the Wall Street Journal, Kimberly Strassel argues that Pelosi is pursuing a “rolling impeachment”: she always knew that Trump would be acquitted, and she always knew Democrats expected her to impeach Trump, so Pelosi has squared the circle by denying the president the chance to exonerate himself for as long as possible. Strassel argues:

Think of it as ‘rolling’ impeachment. Every day the Senate doesn’t hold a trial, Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are free to argue that the process is rigged. They are already claiming that the Senate’s Republican “jurors” have abandoned impartiality, are actively working with Mr. Trump to cover up his crimes, and are afraid to hold a trial.

This bears no relation to reality and is the height of cheek given the House circus. But it’s fodder for the press corps and it may resonate with some voters. More important, it puts daily pressure on Senate Republican moderates to break with Mr. McConnell.

Delay tactics

Others on Fox’s panel echoed those sentiments, saying that Pelosi is making the best of a losing battle by creating a narrative of Republican dishonesty. While many Republicans have eagerly used Pelosi’s sudden caution to call her sincerity into question, former New York Times journalist Judith Miller (known for spreading false WMD allegations before the Iraq War) said that Pelosi can hammer home the point that Republicans are smothering fairness with a pre-judged outcome.

“By withholding the impeachment, holding up the impeachment proceedings, she calls attention to Mitch McConnell’s ‘collusion’ with the White House, which is really driving constitutionalists and strict constructionists of the Constitution crazy,” Miller argued.

That pressure could make things tougher for wavering Republicans like Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME), who have expressed misgivings about McConnell’s approach. Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady agreed that Pelosi is trying to drive a narrative that Republican senators are working too closely with Trump, but said she doubts that Pelosi has “any leverage really.”

Republicans have been clear that they won’t be moved by Pelosi’s gamesmanship, and Trump will be acquitted. As soon as that happens — assuming it does eventually happen — the president can claim a fresh victory before 2020. Obviously Pelosi wants to avoid that, but this game can’t go on forever.

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