House Democrats have a new motto: “If you can’t beat ‘em, impeach ‘em.”
With this week’s announcement that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence will complete a majority report on impeachment and send the issue to the House Judiciary Committee to draw up and pass articles of impeachment, the battle enters a new phase.
The first phase was a farcical secret process where House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff acted as judge and prosecutor, limiting the rights of the accused and of the Republican minority. That phase was marked by selective leaks by House Democrats. Witness transcripts were eventually released — long after the Democrats and their media allies shaped the narrative they wanted.
The public hearing phase lasted two weeks, and despite media hysterics and hourly use of the word “bombshell,” the public case for impeachment manifestly weakened.
Democrats expected the public phase to capture the attention of the American public and move public opinion. They were shocked to learn that independent voters grew more opposed to impeachment and in the battleground state of Wisconsin, one poll found that 53% now oppose impeachment while just 40% support it.
Democrats could have selected an off-ramp. Instead of marching off the impeachment cliff, they could have pursued a censure resolution of President Trump, which may have attracted bipartisan support. It would have been a more reasonable approach than the harsh remedy of impeachment.
Instead, their absurd and partisan sham process has unified Republicans and made Mr. Trump’s removal from office unimaginable.
The clock is ticking. Democrats are aiming to pass articles of impeachment by Christmas, but it’s a political timetable, not a constitutional one. Mr. Trump is the first president in American history to be under investigation every day of his tenure. No president has had to deal with the constant attacks that he has.
Indeed, Democrats pledged to impeach him even before he took office, making Republican promises to make President Obama a “one-term president” seem tame.
But while House Democrats race toward their political goal, another clock is ticking.
On Dec. 9, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz will release a long-awaited report on the origins of the Mueller investigation and alleged wrongdoing over warrants obtained to spy on Trump campaign figures. The IG will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Dec. 11.
Already Democrats and their media allies are racing to define the report before it is released, leaking aspects of it to soften the blow, but I predict that this story will look very different three weeks from now than it does today.
Once impeachment moves from the House to the Senate, Democrats will lose control of the narrative. Republicans will be in control and they may seek to answer inconvenient questions about Mr. Schiff’s interactions with the whistleblower who first detailed President Trump’s fateful phone call to Ukraine’s president and about the lucrative board seat that Hunter Biden — Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s son — had with a corrupt Ukrainian gas company.
For more than two years, Democrats oversold the Russian collusion story. When Mr. Mueller found no evidence of conspiracy, the story died. Nonetheless, Democrats who pledged to impeach the president over Russian collusion immediately switched their focus when the Ukraine revelations surfaced. Did their urgent desire to impeach President Trump over Russia evaporate?
Why did Speaker Nancy Pelosi abandon her pledge that pursuing impeachment required bipartisan support?
Much like the Russia storyline fell apart, so will the Ukrainian one. There cannot be a crime if there is no victim: Ukraine’s president and foreign minister both say they weren’t pressured.
Despite opening statements with overly bold language, nearly every witness in the public phase admitted they had no evidence of a quid pro quo and certainly no evidence of bribery or extortion.
Meanwhile, Democrats are needlessly holding up the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, bills to fund the government for the fiscal year, infrastructure legislation and a prescription drug bill. Instead of pursuing investigations in a bipartisan and fair manner, Democrats rushed into impeaching the president with no exit strategy and no room to maneuver.
They may not have run on impeachment in 2018 when they won the House, but their entire majority has been used for that purpose. Impeachment is not why they were elected, but it remains their single most visible ‘“accomplishment.” Impeachment won’t decide the 2020 election. It will fade into the background.
But Democrats will be forced to explain why they pursued impeachment in a hyperpartisan way when a majority of the country opposed it.
Matt Mackowiak is president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney reelection campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.
Potomac Strategy Group, LLC
AUSTIN: 807 Brazos St, Ste 408, Austin, TX, 78701 | office: (512) 469-9090 | fax: (512) 532-0999
WASHINGTON: 1238 Wisconsin Ave, Suite 401, Washington, DC 20007 | office: (202) 350-2647 | fax: (202) 318-8590
Podcast: “Mack on Politics”
(iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, MackOnPolitics.com)
Texas tipsheet: MustReadTexas.com
Firm website: PotomacStrategyGroup.com