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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.