Denial can be an ill-advised, if effective, strategy for temporary coping over the holidays, and it’s one that the White House is reportedly contemplating as part of its impeachment messaging. Like a spouse going off to “work” post-layoff, the White House may soon be arguing that everything is fine and nothing of particular note has happened in the past few weeks. According to CBS News, the Trump administration is considering arguing that Trump has not yet officially been impeached.
The idea comes down to a technicality: Because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not transmitted the two articles of impeachment to the Senate, Trump officials may claim that the process has not yet been finalized in the House. The argument emerges from an op-ed by Harvard Law professor and House Judiciary Impeachment witness Noah Feldman. “If the House does not communicate its impeachment to the Senate, it hasn’t actually impeached the president,” Feldman, who has endorsed Trump’s impeachment and removal from office, wrote in Bloomberg. “If the articles are not transmitted, Trump could legitimately say that he wasn’t truly impeached at all.”
But as Feldman’s colleague at Harvard Law Laurence Tribe notes:
Though, in fact, Trump was impeached on Wednesday night on one count of abuse of power and one count of obstruction of Congress, Pelosi has hinted at delaying her handover of the articles until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to parameters for the Senate trial. “The next thing for us will be when we see the process that is set forth in the Senate, then we’ll know the number of [impeachment managers] that we may have to go forward and who we will choose,” Pelosi said on Thursday. Providing some rationale for her apparent attempt to delay, she added, “I don’t think they suspected that we could have a rogue president and a rogue leader in the Senate at the same time.” Congressional Democrats want more documents and witnesses — including former National Security Adviser John Bolton and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney — to be featured in the Senate trial, after the White House blocked their appearance before the impeachment inquiry. “I told Leader McConnell that we would not support any trial without witnesses or documents,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Thursday.
But according to CBS News, Republicans are taking the delay in stride:
The sources told CBS News that the White House views Pelosi’s delay as “a Christmas gift.” They plan to use the delay to argue that the Democrats have so little faith in their own case for impeachment, they are too scared to trigger a trial they know they will lose. The two sources also say that the president, while “angry” about what he views as an unfair process, is actually in a “very good mood,” and feels confident he can win the messaging war via Twitter while lawmakers are back home for the holidays.
Because it rests on a delay in the process, the nascent “impeachment hasn’t happened” defense isn’t as concerning as other administration denials of basic truths — like in September when the president drew on a map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to prove his false statement that Alabama was in the potential path of Hurricane Dorian. And though this particular strategy, if implemented, would only last as long as Speaker Pelosi hangs onto the articles, other recent messaging from Trump supporters and allies will likely endure throughout the trial — including comparing impeachment to heinous acts of war and rejoicing when an A.I. voice states the president’s name as a confirmation that he has not been removed from office: