A constant refrain of House and Senate Republicans during the House Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee impeachment inquiries has been that Democrats are rushing to judgment, seeking a preordained outcome at breakneck speed without bothering to marshal sufficient evidence or give the minority due process or standard courtesies. One popular conservative narrative is that Nancy Pelosi, who knows better, was forced into going down the road to impeachment by “radicals” in her caucus and in her party, and is trying to get through the process as quickly as possible (knowing the Senate is sure to acquit Trump) so she and her vulnerable members can get back to what they were doing before the Ukraine scandal broke.
The latter part of this narrative, as it happens, is broadly shared among progressive Democrats who suspect Pelosi was never fully onboard, and is sacrificing the opportunity and the duty to conduct a broader and more thorough impeachment inquiry to an “artificial deadline” dictated by a desire to get it done with and move on.
Now it’s hardly surprising that those who wanted to impeach Trump before the Ukraine scandal think that impeaching him strictly for his misconduct in the Ukraine scandal is inadequate. The New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg is hardly alone in begging Pelosi to at least include the Mueller report’s obstruction-of-justice examples in the articles of impeachment in order to establish a “pattern” of presidential involvement in foreign election-tampering (it’s unclear at this point whether the articles will include or exclude these charges).
But beyond the question of scope, there are those who fear that the high-speed nature of the House proceedings is making even the narrow case for impeachment on grounds of the Ukraine scandal shaky and less compelling than it ought to be, as Andrew Prokop explains:
[T]here’s still much that remains unresolved. Key witnesses like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Attorney General Bill Barr haven’t testified. Government agencies haven’t handed over any documents. These witnesses and documents could tell unknown parts of the story about what happened and could theoretically strengthen an impeachment case further.
The problem is that getting them would entail court battles that could take months and may end in failure. So Democrats have decided to declare victory and say they already have enough evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing to move forward. They also argue that new information is unlikely to change Republican senators’ minds at this point — which, fair enough.
But their decision to cut off the investigation here is largely being governed by an artificial timeline based on the assumption that impeachment “has to” be wrapped up quickly. They don’t know what other evidence is out there or what a prolonged investigation might turn up. And if they finish the inquiry now, they’ll lose an important argument that has had some success at winning over judges already — that they’re in the midst of exercising their constitutional powers with an impeachment inquiry.
So it seems that if their goal was really to get to the bottom of what happened, making as strong a case as possible, they’d keep going. But they aren’t.
And the unhappiness of those who want a really broad scope for impeachment, taking in a large swath of Trump’s vast catalogue of misconduct, is even more palpable. Protests began the moment Pelosi announced a Ukraine focus back in September.
Now that Pelosi has confirmed she wants to wrap up impeachment by year’s end, which might serve the purposes of people in both parties who don’t want the 2020 election to revolve around Trump’s impeachable misconduct, Beutler indulges in some sarcasm:
Andrew O’Hehir of Salon articulates the full-voiced complaint about Pelosi and her motives, using the very lengthy Watergate proceedings that eventually pushed Nixon to resign as the principled model she has rejected on short-term political grounds:
Many House progressives, Nadler likely included, wanted to pursue an impeachment of Trump on the widest possible terms: for the corrupt and unethical conduct exhaustively detailed in the Mueller report, for his many violations of the emoluments clause and blatant self-dealing, for his usurpation of congressional appropriations to build his stupid wall, for his campaign-finance violations, for his relentless efforts to undermine or defy the constitutional separation of powers. I mean, we could keep going. That approach would have had the obvious merit of seeking full transparency and exposing a widespread pattern of criminality that would be impossible to explain away, and would not have relied exclusively on anti-Russia hysteria or the contentious “collusion” questions surrounding the 2016 campaign.
It also, without doubt, would have taken a long time, quite possibly as long as the 16-month investigation of Sam Ervin’s Watergate committee. For Pelosi, whose primary goal was and is preserving the House majority in 2020, that looked like an unacceptable risk. No one disputes that she’s good at political arithmetic, but this kind of short-term calculus was precisely not what the moment required.
Presumably this sentiment will eventually be placed in the rearview mirror once the impeachment saga is done. But the underlying disagreements over anti-Trump strategy and tactics are likely to continue, particularly if and when Pelosi develops an election-year message deemed by progressives to sacrifice still more principles to the interests of the handful of swing-district members she seeks to defend at all costs. And if Trump wins in 2020, this argument about impeachment will be one of the, well, articles of impeachment of Pelosi and the Democratic Establishment as party leaders that we will hear early and often.