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Impeachment

Nancy Pelosi Delays Sending Articles Of Impeachment To Senate Following House Vote

Donald Trump has officially become the third President of the United States to be impeached following the House vote approving the articles of impeachment this past Wednesday (December 18th). While this doesn’t necessarily mean that Trump will be fully removed from office, it still is being recognized as a historic day. 

Now, the vote is up to the Republican-controlled Senate on whether or not Trump will remain in office for the rest of his term. However, they are facing some delays after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced yesterday that she would not commit to sending the articles of impeachment against the president to the Senate. 

“That would have been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there,” Pelosi said at a post-impeachment news conference when asked about the articles.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

The withholding comes as a response to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s rejection of Senate Leader Chuck Schumer’s request to allow four witnesses who work, or formerly worked,  as Trump’s officials to testify as witnesses at the Senate’s impeachment trial. Two of the witnesses include Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton and the acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney. Both of these witnesses were working closely with Trump around the time of the phone call to the Ukrainian President, making their role in the trial relevant. 

Pelosi is holding the articles until McConnell agrees to Schumer’s initial request. This withholding also means that it’s unclear as to the timeline of when the Senate’s trial will take place. However, both the Democrats and Republicans seem to be rather relaxed about it. Republicans and McConnell have argued that they’re in “no hurry” regarding receiving the articles and that there’s no advantage in delaying a trial the Senate doesn’t really want anything to do with anyway. Democrats are also taking their time in regards to how to go about the situation, and will be meeting Thursday morning (December 19th) to further discuss the matter. 

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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

The main goal regarding the withholding is to ensure that the Republicans will be offering a fair and thorough trial, and with a Republican-controlled Senate, it’s unclear as to what type of reassurance that would be. James Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat House member, stated that they will be holding the articles “as long as it takes, even if [McConnell] doesn’t come around to committing a fair trial, [we’ll] keep those articles here.” 

McConnell is expected to address the press about the impeachment and the future of the trial Thursday morning as well, and it’s likely that he will discuss the withholding of the letters as a sign that the Democrats are “too afraid to even submit their shoddy work product to the Senate.” He is also expected to announce the date of the Senate trial by the end of the week. However, with Pelosi’s last-minute decision to hold the articles, it’s unlikely that he will make that announcement during his Thursday morning speech. 

Additionally, Pelosi threw another wrench into the trial’s plans by delaying the naming of impeachment managers for the Senate’s trial; the House is likely to make that decision within the next few days as well. 

We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side, and we hope that will be soon. So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us, so hopefully it will be fair,”  Pelosi said

Impeachment Trial

Impeachment Trial Plans Begin as Schumer Requests Witnesses

The president will be impeached this week, as the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve  two articles of impeachment for a full vote on the House floor. Because Democrats hold the majority in the House right now and this impeachment is a hyper-partisan affair, it is virtually certain that the House of Representatives will vote to send both articles to the Senate, where a trial of some sort will be held. The Senate is currently controlled by Republicans, who have 53 seats whereas the Democrats have 45. As a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate is required to remove a president from office via impeachment, this outcome is unlikely, particularly because not a single Republican senator has indicated that they’d entertain voting with the Democrats. That being said, the upcoming Senate trial is nonetheless sure to have a significant and difficult-to-predict impact on the political world, particularly in consideration of the fact that the next presidential election is less than a year away.

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Now that impeachment in the House is all but certain, Senate lawmakers have begun publicly discussing the outline and the structure of the trial. Unsurprisingly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has all but confirmed that the outcome of the trial is a foregone conclusion, saying, “there will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.” Mitch McConnell wants the trial to move quickly and with little fanfare, even suggesting that witnesses may not be called at all, in the hopes that news about the facts pertaining to the trial will fly under the radar to the greatest extent possible, whereas the president wants the trial to be a bombastic, theatrical affair, believing that such an event would bolster his poll numbers. 

Despite this difference in opinion, though, Democrats were infuriated by McConnell’s suggestion that the trial should be orchestrated in coordination with the defendant in the trial, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calling it “totally out of line.” During impeachment, senators are assigned the role of juror, and as such are required to swear an oath which reads: “I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.” The Republicans’ coordination with the White House, then, would seem to be a clear and direct violation of this oath, as jurors who have already made up their minds before the trial takes place plainly impede justice.

The decisions senators will make throughout the process are hard to predict and will shed light on these their characters and indeed on the health of the republic generally.

Nevertheless, Democrats are doing everything in their power to negotiate with the Senate majority to make the trial process as fair as they can. Accordingly, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer today wrote a letter to McConnell outlining the witnesses he wishes to call during the trial, which will likely not be held until next year. Given the president’s love of drama and theatrics, it is likely that some witnesses will be called for the trial, though it’s unclear exactly who would be compelled to testify: Schumer specifically requested the appearance of Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former Security Advisor John Bolton, both of whom refused to cooperate with congressionally approved subpoenas during the inquiry at the direction of the White House and may simply continue to ignore further calls to testify; and Republicans likely will seek testimonies of the unnamed whistleblower and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the former of whom is protected by anonymity statutes and the latter of whom is not a fact or expert witness in this case and thus would have little legal justification for being compelled to act as a witness. 

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Though Schumer knows that he likely cannot change McConnell’s mind, or the minds of Trump’s most ardent defenders in the Senate, he believes he may convince enough Republican senators that at the very least relevant witnesses should be called to testify to secure the 51 votes necessary to pass an agreed-upon set of rules designed to enable a fair trial. When it comes to impeachment trials, there exists very little historical precedent for how they should be arranged and conducted, and impeachment has never before occurred in a political environment as hyper-partisan and polarized as today’s; as such, the decisions senators will make throughout the process are hard to predict and will shed light on these their characters and indeed on the health of the republic generally.

Impeachment

House Panel Votes to Approve Articles of Impeachment

While President Trump has not yet officially been impeached, that historic outcome has become even more likely as the House of Representatives prepares for a full vote on both of the articles that have been presented by the House Judiciary Committee. The full votes on both articles will be held sometime next week, probably Wednesday, and are likely to pass along party lines. Republican members of Congress have shown absolutely no cracks in their resistance to impeachment, as every Republican representative has voted against the process since it began several weeks ago and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he expects no Republican senators to vote to remove President Trump from office.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Jerry Nadler, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff presented the Articles of Impeachment during a press conference on Tuesday, with formal charges including Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. Democrats opted to keep the focus of impeachment narrow in order to build the strongest possible case in a short period of time; although the Mueller Report outlined several instances of potential obstruction of justice, which has been presented as an article in previous impeachments, the articles that the House Panel just approved involved only the misconduct that become evident in connection to a whistleblower complaint from a few months ago. Considering the President’s misconduct to be a national security emergency, Democrats are undergoing the impeachment process as quickly as they possibly can, choosing not to wait for the courts to decide whether the White House is legally obligated to produce documents and witnesses in accordance with numerous congressional subpoenas.

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While the outcome in the Democrat-led House of Representatives has been highly predictable throughout the impeachment process, the upcoming trial in the Senate, which is led by Republican Mitch McConnell, is less clear. However, McConnell has shed some light on what the Senate trial will look like during a recent interview with Fox News, during which the Senate Majority Leader indicated that the Senate would follow the White House’s lead in defining the parameters of the trial. 

It’s long been predicted that, regardless of how long the Senate trial goes on and how it is defined, Republicans would vote along party lines to protect the President. Now, McConnell has reaffirmed the congressional body’s fealty to the president, as he has taken the historically unprecedented step of allowing the defendant of a high-stakes trial to define the terms of the trial that will determine whether he is found guilty of committing high crimes and misdemeanors. McConnell said that there is ‘zero chance’ Trump is removed by impeachment, and given the Republicans’ unyielding loyalty to the current Commander in Chief, there is little reason to doubt him.

While President Trump will probably not be removed from office after the Senate trial, impeachment is nonetheless likely to have a lasting political impact, as the general election that will determine the next President of the United States will be held in less than a year. Though one can make a fairly confident prediction that Trump will remain the President through 2020, virtually nobody can speak with certainty at this point about the likelihood of his winning reelection next year. Both Democrats and Republicans have said that they hope impeachment will have a positive effect on their political power; Democrats argue that the public process of impeachment helps to inform the electorate about the President’s many abuses of power and thus of the urgency of removing him from office, whereas Republicans see the outcome of impeachment as a victory for the President, who is sure to portray his acquittal in the Senate as a vindication of his position that Article II of the Constitution, which defines the parameters of the executive branch of the federal government, gives him the power to do whatever he wants.

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Perhaps the biggest takeaway of the likely outcome of impeachment will be that Trump’s claim to absolute executive power, unburdened by the Constitution’s centuries-old system of checks and balances, will be correct. At this moment in history, as Democrats have taken pains to point out time and time again, impeachment and the upcoming general election are the only two remaining constitutional checks preventing the President from consolidating his power and transforming the country’s government into a monarchy or dictatorship. 

If Trump is acquitted by the Senate, as he probably will be, Congress will establish a precedent that it is OK for the President to cheat in American elections by coordinating with foreign powers to interfere in the democratic process around which the country’s entire government is built. Though the upcoming presidential election is likely to be compromised as a result of efforts by the President and Republicans to undermine democracy, it will determine whether or not the United States will remain a republic or descend into an authoritarian state, as the president’s last three years of attacks against the institutions of democratic governance have been remarkably effective and are certain to continue to their completion if he is given another term in office.

Impeachment Trial

Speaker Pelosi Directs Congress to Draft Articles of Impeachment

During a brief formal address conducted yesterday morning, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi publicly announced that she had asked members of Congress to begin drafting articles of impeachment, removing virtually all doubt that President Trump will become the third president in American history to be impeached. As such, yesterday was an important day in American history, as presidential impeachment is a constitutional provision meant to be employed only in the most dire of circumstances. 

Accordingly, Pelosi took the occasion to urge members of Congress and the American public to treat the proceedings soberly, somberly, and prayerfully, emphasizing that she considers the impeachment of an American president to be a sad and serious thing. Pelosi considers this impeachment as having nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the Constitution, saying that members of Congress have an obligation to proceed with it even if it might hurt Democrats’ chances of reelection next year. According to Pelosi, impeachment is now a necessary step for members of Congress to honor their oath of office to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

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Later that day, Pelosi held a press conference during which she fielded questions about impeachment as well as questions about legislation, including a bill designed to lower the cost of prescription drugs. While most of the conference was relatively standard, involving questions that Pelosi had already answered in other contexts, a notable interaction transpired just as Pelosi was preparing to end the event. As she left the podium, a reporter asked Pelosi whether she hates the President, prompting an angry rebuke from the Speaker. “I don’t hate anybody,” she said, returning to the podium. “This is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the president’s violation of his oath of office. And as a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone… So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”

The moment, involving an unusual display of strong emotion from the Speaker, highlighted the atmosphere of tension surrounding congressional proceedings during a time when the ideological and partisan divide that characterizes American politics has perhaps never been so wide. Shortly afterwards, the hashtag #DontMessWithNancy trended on Twitter, and while some commentators on the right criticized the Speaker for her passionate answer, others praised Pelosi for her response to a question that was characterized as accusatory and unfair.

While Pelosi may not wish to be remembered for impeachment, given the import of the present moment, it is likely that historians will consider the reluctant choice to impeach the most important decision of her career and indeed among the most important decisions made in American history.

Last night, Pelosi participated in a town hall event hosted by CNN during which she answered questions from the audience and from CNN reporter Jake Tapper. Predictably, most of the questions concerned impeachment, though at one point Pelosi requested that the audience ask about other topics. In response to a question about how she wanted to be remembered for her role in the impeachment process, Pelosi replied that she did not want to be remembered for impeachment but instead for her role in passing legislation like the Affordable Care Act which had a positive effect on people’s lives. That being said, Pelosi explained that she hoped people would understand that she is not happy about impeaching Trump, but that his actions left her with no choice, as she believes that the president had directly violated his oath of office and that American democracy is in jeopardy as a result. Forebodingly, she warned that “civilization as we know it is at stake” in the 2020 election.

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Pelosi had long resisted the idea of impeaching Trump, despite immense pressure from within her own party to hold the president accountable for obstruction of justice offenses as outlined in the Mueller Report. She considers impeachment to be a constitutional remedy to be employed only in the most dire of circumstances, and had nine months ago expressed that President Trump was “just not worth it.” Indeed, Pelosi is no stranger to pressure from Democrats to impeach a president, as calls for impeachment were made during the Bush administration in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq despite the lack of good evidence that weapons of mass destruction existed in the country. During this episode, while Pelosi understood clearly that insufficient intelligence existed to justify invading Iraq, she did not consider impeaching Bush for it, as she thought that this was not a matter that involved violations of the Constitution.

Pelosi, however, articulated the circumstances that led her to change her mind by quoting Thomas Paine, who during the American Revolution opined that “the times have found us.” While Pelosi may not wish to be remembered for impeachment, given the import of the present moment, it is likely that historians will consider the reluctant choice to impeach the most important decision of her career and indeed among the most important decisions made in American history.