How House Democrats pulled a bait and switch on impeaching Donald Trump

Trump, Pelosi, Schumer spar in Oval Office

President Donald Trump reiterated a threat to shut down parts of the government over his promised border wall with Mexico, and said the military could build the wall if Democrats refuse to vote in favor of the project.
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President Donald Trump reiterated a threat to shut down parts of the government over his promised border wall with Mexico, and said the military could build the wall if Democrats refuse to vote in favor of the project.

One of the more striking characteristics of modern American politics is the irresponsible willingness of inattentive voters to be played over and over again by both major political parties.

Very few citizens seem willing these days to take responsibility for their actions or inactions. So, instead of confronting their own ignorance, voters automatically blame politicians for being two-faced. Then, these same voters overwhelmingly return their political incumbents to office.

Small wonder then, there’s small change in Washington. And large frustration outside.

Because bait and switch routinely works so well, both parties employ it. For a good laugh, ask tea party survivors how satisfied they are with the fiscal stringencies their elections imposed on the Capitol.

Following President Trump’s announcement to reopen the government for three weeks, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a news conference.

Or ask Democrats how disappointed they are with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s rejection of an immediate Trump impeachment the other day. Her party raised millions and restored a Democratic House majority last fall on visceral opposition to President Donald Trump stirred by an enduring inability to accept the stunning 2016 election results.

Attempting to rein in the youthful but inexperienced ambitions of her enlarged caucus, Pelosi hinted in January that impeachment might be acceptable to her, though inevitably unsuccessful with a GOP Senate blocking conviction.

Earlier this month, she said:“I’ve been thinking about this. Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path because it divides the country.”

Then, she added as Trump-bait: “And he’s just not worth it.”

Pelosi is correct. Impeachment, which begins in the House, is incredibly divisive. Two times lawmakers succeeded — in both cases, Republican legislators went after a Democrat — with the Senate then failing to muster the necessary two-thirds vote for conviction.

In 1868, the House impeached Abraham Lincoln’s successor, President Andrew Johnson, for defying its likely-unconstitutional stricture about firing a certain Cabinet member. One more vote in the Senate could have added a parliamentary vote-of-no-confidence flavor to congressional precedents.

Tom Steyer, founder of Need to Impeach, says Congress isn't doing its job in overseeing President Donald Trump. He is calling for impeachment, which is creating a rift within the Democratic Party.

In 1998, the GOP House impeached Bill Clinton for lying to a grand jury about his Monica Lewinsky relationship. A Senate conviction would have made Vice President Al Gore an incumbent when he faced George W. Bush in 2000.

But the Senate vote wasn’t close.

And anyway, voters had already issued their own verdict on the GOP’s impeachment drama, giving Clinton’s party five new House seats in the midterm elections for only the second time since the Civil War.

Pelosi, who turns 79 next week, clearly has a longer view than her 62 rookie caucus members, some of whom were in elementary school in 1998.

The speaker’s savvy goal is to show that Democrats are capable of governing, at least in the House. In 2020, she hopes to increase her majority and help Democrats capture the Senate, where the GOP must defend 22 seats this time, Democrats only 12.

Notice she precluded impeachment without overwhelming “bipartisan” support, so it wouldn’t seem like political revenge for Hillary Clinton’s loss.

This, despite flat-out vows to oust Trump from the likes of House Budget Committee chairman John Yarmuth, who says impeachment is “not a matter of whether, it’s a matter of when.”

US President Donald Trump reacted to a freshman Democratic congresswoman's diatribe predicting his impeachment while using a vulgarity, by saying "You can't impeach somebody doing a great job."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff sees abundant evidence of impeachable Trump offenses “in plain sight.” If true, that would seem to compel an impeachment attempt asap. But Schiff fell in line behind Pelosi “in the absence of graphic evidence.”

Instead, Democrats are launching fishing expeditions via numerous committee probes of Trump, his family and business. These have the advantages of creating long-running bad publicity through sympathetic media coverage without the need to actually prove any case in a court of law.

If committees stumble across any real evidence of Trump wrongdoing, which they haven’t yet, that would be a bonus.

And there’s always a chance the special prosecutor’s upcoming report could deliver something directly linked to the president, instead of to a gaggle of unsavory, disposable aides.

Of course, there’s also a good chance that won’t happen. In which case by this time next year Pelosi and gang can continue the dodge by making a credible case for leaving a verdict on a renewed Trump presidency to the voters on Nov. 3, 2020.

For his part, the president will continue pointing to a strong economy and making his valid case that it’s all a witch hunt because Democrats in the swamp remain incapable of accepting the 2016 voter verdict for his kind of change.

And once more, America’s inattentive voters on both sides will see in all this what they want to see and again buy their preferred brand of political hokum.

Since the news broke of Michael Cohen’s guilty plea, we received lots of questions from our readers. Adam Liptak, the New York Times’s Supreme Court Reporter answers them.