House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not want to take up impeachment,
but Donald John Trump, President by grace of the electoral college, forced her hand.
Trump did not want to be impeached, bluster and bombast notwithstanding, and so his interests and Pelosi’s were identical.
Trump, of course, could not see the constitutional line he had crossed in Ukraine that forced Pelosi to act in the interest of the institutional status of the House of Representatives even when waiting for the election was better for the Democratic Party. Even if the line were within his field of vision, it was unlikely he could understand her protectiveness toward the House as an institution — -because he does not exhibit a similar responsibility to the presidency as an institution.
Pelosi claims the House can walk and chew gum at the same time. Perhaps so. At least as long as Moscow Mitch McConnell keeps the Senate jammed up, the House is under no pressure to legislate with care. But the nation has a long litany of problems that demand legislative answers. Before the 2016 election, Trump claimed that only he could do it, “it” being solve those problems. His election did not improve the nonsense he uttered.
Except for legislation that must pass or the government shuts down, it’s unlikely there will be consideration of many House bills leading to a robust debate on the floor and followed by passage of Senate versions, requiring appointment of a conference committee to hammer out versions with which the Democratic House and the Republican Senate can live.
You know, like government used to work back when it worked?
With all due respect to the Speaker, impeachment needs to get done because it just sucks up too much political oxygen. Not in the House — in the country.
Imagine the horde of constituent phone calls, emails, snail mail letters, and even a couple of telegrams for old times’ sake — all of them demanding action on the infrastructure bill that has been promised by both political parties. Or resurrection of comprehensive immigration reform….all right, let’s not go crazy, but maybe there could be a little bill to establish a path to citizenship for the Dreamers. Couldn’t we all agree that it would be a tragedy to kick them out of the only home they’ve ever known, a tragedy government has the power to prevent?
As long as we are dreaming, what about a healthy debate on a new AUMF, Authorization for Use of Military Force? Presidents Bush and Obama and now Trump stretched the 2001–2002 versions to transparency — chasing down organizations that did not exist on September 11, 2001 with weapons not yet deployed then — and now we have a POTUS treating the strongest military in the world as his personal toy.
The need to govern is not an itch President Trump wants to scratch, so impeachment sucking up the political oxygen is not problematic on his end. But what about the issue of how the impeachment trial will be conducted in the Senate?
Senator John Neely Kennedy, Democrat until 2007 (when he became Republican), said of the impeachment trial:
There is no standard of proof; there are no rules of evidence.
This retired judge says the standard of proof part of that statement is not possible. The standards of proof in criminal law lack much objective reality, but they are handy conceptual hooks on which to hang raw chunks of evidence. They are:
Preponderance of the evidence
Clear and convincing evidence
Beyond a reasonable doubt
I lied about that last one to see if you were paying attention and whether you support the death penalty.
The easiest standard of proof to apply is preponderance of the evidence, the standard in a civil case. Just about anyone can decide which scenario is more likely than not. If you can’t, having you on a jury could waste a lot of money, so maybe you should tell them you’re a lawyer.
It is theoretically possible to have no rules of evidence, but that opens up the theoretical possibility of reading the contents of the Library of Congress into the record. One is about as likely as the other.
Should there be rules of evidence, whether they are civil or criminal can matter a great deal. Under criminal rules, you can’t comment on the failure of a defendant to testify. The exclusionary rule in criminal cases means that no evidence can be used that was acquired by a violation of the law.
Speaker Pelosi is stalling on forwarding the articles of impeachment to the senate for two reasons. The stated reason is to have a gander at the procedures so as to know whom to appoint to prosecute the case for the House. The unstated reason is to parade Moscow Mitch McConnell’s intent to flush the impeachment with a party line vote before the voters, blowing off any trial, fair or unfair.
It’s obvious that Pelosi’s interest is in a real trial, with testimony and documents.
It’s less obvious that Trump’s interest is identical.
Always assuming that the presumption of innocence is in Mr. Trump’s case more than an evidentiary formality. That is, Mr. Trump is actually innocent.
If Trump is not convicted in the Senate, he will claim vindication. Everybody on Fox News will agree. But even Donald Trump knows that a failure to convict is not vindication.
How can Mr. Trump in fact be vindicated, assuming he is innocent? Easy peasy. Put on a defense.
All the documents that would demonstrate Mr. Trump’s innocence are under his direct control.
The testimony that would demonstrate his innocence is mostly the testimony of people who still work for the President. The rest would come from people who recently left White House employment, and if they try to hang him out to dry, his lawyer can easily demonstrate their bias by showing the circumstances that ended their White House employment.
The impeachment trial will be televised and the American people will be able to see the operation of the Witch Hunt Railroad.
Revealing the Witch Hunt Railroad to the voters is the only way the President can really be vindicated. This puts Mr. Trump’s interest once more directly in alignment with Ms. Pelosi’s.