I’m no expert in political strategy but the current thinking by the Democratic Majority in the House, as explained Sunday by Democratic whip James Clyburn, seems...well, kinda brilliant.
As reported by the New York Times:
The No. 3 House Democrat said on Sunday that the chamber could vote as soon as Tuesday on an article of impeachment charging President Trump with inciting a violent mob that attacked the Capitol — but then delay sending it to the Senate for trial.
Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democratic whip, said that the vast majority of House Democrats believed the president must be impeached for his conduct but that top leaders were still trying to determine how to punish Mr. Trump without hamstringing the first days of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidency with an all-consuming Senate trial. They recognized it would be impossible to impeach and hold a trial before Mr. Trump leaves office in 10 days, he said.
And all that makes sense. But what also makes sense is holding off on a trial for Trump until we have a Senate that can assure it won’t be a farce, such as the original impeachment go-round featuring the obstructive talents of Mitch McConnell, and can make as comprehensive a record of this administration’s crimes as possible.
Remember that trial? No? That’s because there really wasn’t one. No witnesses. No evidence to speak of. It was a pre-ordained fiasco from the get-go, designed to cause Trump as little embarrassment as possible, with a result never in doubt. It was a joke, in other words.
In fact, the Republicans’ bad faith during that impeachment trial, coupled with their adamant, cowardly refusal to convict a president obviously guilty as charged, is one of the main reasons the United States capitol was desecrated this week.
And do you remember how quickly McConnell wanted to get it over with? How he kept badgering House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to send the Articles of Impeachment to him so he could get on with the business of exonerating the Republican Party’s leader right quick?
Now Democrats can go ahead and impeach next week, and let Trump twist in the wind waiting to be tried for as long as they want. He’ll still be the only president impeached twice in history, but without being a distraction to the new administration in its first few weeks of existence during a global pandemic and economic crisis. Meanwhile, Biden’s team will take stock of exactly who within our federal agencies (DOD I’m looking at you!) abetted this travesty, and at whose orders. There’s a whole lot of material to review, I’m sure.
In a separate interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Mr. Clyburn suggested that Speaker Nancy Pelosi was considering impeaching now but not sending the article to the Senate for trial for weeks — possibly until after Mr. Biden’s first 100 days in office. The Senate must immediately begin a trial when it receives impeachment articles, but it cannot begin one without them.
100 days is a whole lot of time, but that number is hardly written in stone. It could be four weeks, or six. But whatever the interval is, it will provide time to trace who made those phone calls, when they were made, and why they went unanswered. Time to find out what was known, by whom and when, about this seditious riot. Plenty of time to restore “deleted” emails and texts (because nothing is really deleted), and plenty of time to build a case for incitement and whatever other dereliction of duty comes to light against the Traitor-in-Chief. Time to make it as painful a vote as possible for those Republicans who are still unlikely to convict under any circumstances. There will be lots of witnesses to interview and subpoena, many eager to exonerate themselves from this catastrophe and distance themselves from its perpetrators. And as for Trump himself, he will have been impeached twice, and he can twist in the wind for a few weeks, hundred days-- or whenever Democrats decide they have enough information to do him the most damage-- all the while wondering (probably along with several Republican lawmakers) what the incoming administration will find.
And Mitch McConnell won’t be able to do a damn thing about it.