How to Finesse a Rogue Majority Leader
Madam Speaker, keep in mind the 293 days Mitch McConnell blocked Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination, in order to get what he wanted: an archconservative justice instead.
If you can stomach following suit, adopting McConnell’s delaying tactic will open an unprecedented opportunity: a chance for you alone to cause Donald Trump’s removal from office.
At the moment Mr. McConnell is negotiating with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to set the rules for the Senate trial, and in a brilliant move you are withholding the Impeachment Resolution until a fair and impartial proceeding is assured. But no agreement with McConnell’s name on it can be trusted, even if he accepts Schumer’s demand for witnesses. He will game the system again if he has to, as he did in the Garland episode, so please do not transmit the Resolution any time soon. Withholding it is the only way to finesse McConnell, to prevent a sham trial. Don’t budge.
No one expects Trump to be convicted, because today McConnell really doesn’t need trickery: he has the votes in his pocket for a finding of innocence. But the case for conviction will gather strength in the weeks and months ahead, as Trump’s stonewalling of evidence crumbles in one court decision after another. You will need to let this happen, Madam Speaker.
So take a cue from the Majority Leader: sit on the Impeachment Resolution until you get what you want—an open-and-shut case to convict the president and remove him from office. This will take some time; you might have to remain sitting for say, 293 days, but there is no legal barrier prohibiting that if need be.
Madam Speaker, your task will be difficult. Not before in modern history has the nation endured so dangerous a president, not before has the Republican Party displayed such mindless obeisance to its leader, and not before have we had so unscrupulous a Senate Majority Leader as Mitch McConnell.
There was a time when both parties honored three rules of partisan jousting. The first was a primal commitment to the welfare of the nation, first and foremost. The second was legality: you could do only what the laws allow. The third was allegiance to the long-held norms of civic discourse, negotiated compromise, and timely action.
Driven by rancid partisanship Mitch McConnell violates all three rules. His primal concern is not the nation’s well being, but the dominance of the Republican Party and the interests of its wealthy clients and corporate benefactors. He sees civic discourse, negotiated compromise, and timely action as irrelevant. And he is not constrained simply by what the law allows. Mr. McConnell will do anything not specifically prohibited in law: ask Merrick Garland. And for this reason, Speaker Pelosi, be wary of an impeachment trial any time soon: no law prohibits Mitch McConnell from abjectly reneging, during the trial, on any promise he might have made to Chuck Schumer beforehand.
McConnell has ushered in an age of power solutions in public affairs. Recall his Tax Cut and Jobs Act. Written behind closed doors without a single Democratic Senator present, moved to the floor without a hearing of any sort, passed with unanimous Republican support, and rubber stamped in the Republican House, it cut taxes on corporations and high-bracket individuals. It served the interests of the Republican Party and its clients, but savaged everyone else.
More recently he personally vetoed some 400 House bills, by refusing to bring them to a Senate vote. McConnell then imposed his own agenda: stacking the federal judiciary with archconservative judges. What he does is not prohibited by law, but he transfigures hideously the traditional legislative process by which, through their elected officials, the American people are served.
Power solutions, however, need not serve parochial interests exclusively. There us no reason they can’t be applied to advance the welfare of the American people.
So Speaker Pelosi play the cards you’ve been dealt. Impose a power solution for the benefit of the country.
The first prerequisite is an unassailable position of power, and yours is huge. Since the Senate trial cannot take place until you transmit the Impeachment Resolution, you can schedule it for a time when the likelihood of conviction is greatest.
Now is not the time, however.
Committee chairs Schiff and Nadler claim the evidence to convict is “overwhelming,” but 53 Republican Senators vigorously disagree. Far more importantly roughly half the American people, according to recent polling, remain unconvinced of the President’s culpability.
But a mountain of damning evidence remains hidden from public view, some because of Trump’s frenetic stonewalling, much contained in ongoing litigation. Public support for Trump’s removal is sure to mushroom as this evidence is pried loose and publicized. Madam Speaker, you must marshal this mountain of evidence, and delay the Senate trial until it is fully displayed.
From his first days in office Donald Trump’s behavior has been so incompetent, so corrupt, so duplicitous, so tawdry, so illegal, and so mortifying on the world stage a single mind is challenged in comprehending all the damage. The Mueller Report and the Ukraine scandal are recent reminders, but the President is the defendant in another four dozen lawsuits as well. They address violations of the 1st, 5th, and 14th Amendments and the Foreign Emoluments Clause; issues regarding sanctuary cities; immigration restrictions; the Mexican border; transgender rights; compliance with the Mueller investigation; the Presidential Records Act; the Federal Advisory Committee Act; the Dodd-Frank Act; environmental concerns; Grand Jury records; and the U.S. Census. Six cases concern Trump’s political campaigning, five his financial and tax information, and five more address issues of sexual misconduct and assault.
Many of these cases will be decided in the months to come. The drumbeat of damaging news will continue.
More immediately, the absurd notion of “absolute immunity,” is crumbling. The Trump Administration asserted this in defying subpoenas for testimony and documentation, but the claim has been vigorously rejected by federal judge Ketanji Brown. She has stayed her decision temporarily, but soon the testimony of Don McGahn, Charles Kupperman, John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, Rudy Giuliani and many others is likely to be compelled by court orders. Grand jury files and other documentary evidence will come to light.
John Bolton’s book will appear. The emoluments litigation will conclude, not likely in the President’s favor. And three lawsuits concerning his income tax returns will be heard by the Supreme Court in March and decided, apparently, in June.
Six months of mounting evidence will dominate the evening news. The unconvinced half of the American people won’t escape its impact, as the scope and content of Trump’s misdeeds becomes more and more apparent—and appalling. Now informed and persuaded, many more voters will come to support the President’s removal. And many of those voters will be constituents of Republican Senators: they will be ignored at great peril.
Already there are hints of Republican defections in the Senate, and as the damning evidence builds there will be more. Madam Speaker, you are a consummate nose-counter, and when you have the 20 Republican votes needed for conviction, then send the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate and let the trial begin, probably in early summer.
Republican Senators, however, have magnificent histories of intransigence, willful ignorance, and duplicity. Many still deny any wrongdoing by the President, and they might continue, even as the damning evidence builds. What if 20 Republican Senators simply will not place the nation’s well being over their party’s?
Speaker Pelosi, transmit the Resolution anyway. Mr. McConnell is obligated only to acknowledge it, and to inform you the Senate is ready to receive the Articles and your managers. But nothing else is explicitly required of him, and neither is anything else prohibited. So he will indeed game the system in any number of ways. He will simply add the resolution to the other 400 dead House bills and hold no trial at all; or open the trial and call for an immediate vote to dismiss; or conduct the trial and let his majority of obeisant Republican senators vote acquittal.
Any of these mockeries will ignite a political firestorm of public opposition, because the American electorate will fully comprehend by then the spectrum of Trump’s appalling transgressions. Donald Trump will be crushed on election day in a tsunami of outrage.
So Speaker Pelosi if you cannot make it happen, then step aside and let it happen.
For now, stand firm. Don’t rush to trial. Let the whole truth of the Trump presidency emerge. He cannot survive it. If irresponsible Republican senators refuse to remove him from office the American people will.