Having learned nothing from the hysterics and performance theater used during Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Democrats attempted to use similar tactics in a failed attempt to impeach President Trump in an election year.
This colossal waste of time opens the door to impeachment being used as a political tactic in the future by a minority party. This will be the legacy of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to proceed with impeachment.
But there were several paths available to Democrats when this began.
At every turn, they chose political expediency. When taken together, dozens of small decisions ended in an epic failure.
Impeachment must be bipartisan. As recently as March 2019, this was Pelosi’s standard. It was House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler’s standard during the Clinton impeachment as well.
But Democrats played partisan games from the very beginning.
Pelosi announced the impeachment and, in an unprecedented move, refused for weeks to hold a floor vote to authorize the inquiry. She assigned the matter to the House Intelligence Committee, rather than the House Judiciary Committee, so depositions could be held in secret. The White House was prevented from having counsel attend, and Republicans on the committee were not allowed to invite witnesses or compel testimony.
Why did Democrats do this? They wanted to be able to leak from these secret depositions selectively. But there was a secondary motive.
They wanted to protect leading presidential candidate Joe Biden, denying the GOP any opportunity to call him or his son as a witness.
Soon enough, we will learn if this entire episode was manufactured. The whistleblower complaint may have been coordinated by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and his staff and the whistleblower. The intelligence community inspector general found partisan bias in the whistleblower’s background. That aspect of this story has largely been protected from further inspection.
Had the House chosen to proceed with the impeachment inquiry in a fair manner, things may have been different. The White House may have participated. Republicans would not have been able to make process arguments. Potentially, a few moderate or retiring members may have come to a different conclusion. We will never know.
Without that floor vote authorizing the impeachment inquiry, Democrats began issuing subpoenas. Why did they do this?
They did not have the votes to pass an impeachment inquiry at the beginning. But they needed something they could sell to their media allies and House Democratic colleagues. This is where the leaks began.
As time went on, eventually, House Democrats passed the impeachment inquiry on the floor and authorized subpoenas. But if they had the authority to issue subpoenas in House rules all along, why did they feel the need to authorize subpoenas?
Democratic messaging shifted almost daily. They charged a “quid pro quo,” then they alleged “bribery,” and eventually they alleged “extortion.” But in the end, they could only muster the votes to pass “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress,” two stunningly weak articles of impeachment that did not allege a criminal violation or a violation of any statute.
The House impeached Trump after a three-month investigation, the fastest impeachment in modern history. For comparison, President Richard Nixon’s impeachment investigation lasted five months and President Bill Clinton’s impeachment lasted eight months. For 71 of the 78 days in the House impeachment, Republicans had virtually no role and the White House had zero due process.
House Democrats claimed Trump was an urgent threat to democracy and national security and must be removed from office immediately. But Pelosi puzzlingly held the articles for 33 days, preventing the Senate trial from beginning. Her true motivation cannot be known, but whatever it was, the gambit did not work. She folded after winning zero concessions.
The reason impeachment must be bipartisan is that the Constitution requires 67 votes for removal from office. Instead of taking their time and trying to build bipartisan support, House Democrats chose to make impeachment hyperpartisan from the beginning. This doomed it to failure.
Senators were rightly confused by Democrats’ trial arguments that their case was “overwhelming,” but that more witnesses and documents were needed.
In the end, a majority of senators rightly decided that if it was enough information for the House to render a judgment, then it was enough for the Senate.
The die was cast from the beginning of this impeachment farce.
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.
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