There are more important revelations contained in this report than what is reflected in my headline, but the Speaker’s reported belief helps contextualize her increasingly isolated stance against impeachment. Per The Daily Beast:
The Speaker, according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting, expressed concerns that the public still doesn’t understand how the process of impeachment would play out. She noted that in her time over the recess in California well educated voters didn’t seem to understand that impeachment proceedings would not necessarily result in Trump’s immediate ouster from office.
So then…tell voters that it will not immediately remove Trump. The Democrats have their own cable news network. They can call a press conference to explain it any time they want. Being second in line for the presidency means you have a very large platform to explain this process to the anecdotal folks who believe the end of impeachment starts at the beginning. It’s okay. This country does not prioritize teaching civics, and so we are largely misinformed about the specifics of uncommon processes like impeachment. This is supposed to be a conversation, not a directive.
This portion of the report is instructive for two reasons. First, either Pelosi lets anecdotal evidence drive her decision-making, or she has no problem citing anecdotal evidence to justify her position on this. Second, if it is the latter (she’s not stupid), it makes it clear that she begins at “don’t impeach because politics,” and then reverse-engineers her argument to fit that conclusion. When we read reports like this which describe “some of the party’s moderate members and top leaders [who] have resisted the push to move more aggressively on impeachment,” Pelosi is included in those moderate members and top leaders.
Not included in those top leaders is House Judiciary Chairman, and the man who would oversee impeachment proceedings in the House, Jerry Nadler. Impeachment gained serious momentum in the Democratic caucus the moment he and other members of Democratic leadership on the Judiciary Committee asked the Speaker to begin impeachment proceedings. Now, The Daily Beast is reporting that:
Even within Pelosi’s own leadership ranks there have been murmurs of a desire to give impeachment proceedings a more sympathetic reception publicly. During the Monday meeting, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.)—the only member of leadership to explicitly endorse an impeachment inquiry—challenged lawmakers to push two messages during TV appearances: the party’s domestic agenda and their belief that the president wasn’t above the law. Pelosi, pointing back at him, said: “Everyone should heed your advice, including you”—in what was interpreted as a shot at the congressman’s penchant to emphasize the latter and not the former during his own TV hits.
CNN released a poll two days ago that asked “Based on what you have read or heard, do you believe that President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, or don’t you feel that way?”
In mid-March, just before Attorney General William Barr released a misleading summary of the Mueller Report, 36% responded that Trump should be impeached and removed versus 59% who did not. Their latest polling post-Mueller Report, but pre-surprise Mueller (hypocritical) press conference last week, has seen support rise to 41% in favor of impeaching and removing Trump, to 54% against.
That may not seem like much, but that 41% figure is higher than it was for Richard Nixon about six months before he would step down in the face of impeachment, and it’s higher than it was after the famed Saturday Night Massacre in October 1973 where Nixon fired his top DOJ officials. In early 1973, just 19% favored his impeachment and removal. When President Nixon finally stepped down to avoid being impeached in August 1974, a clear majority—57%—of the country favored removing him.
The whole point of impeachment is to put the president on trial and make a case to the public, and then the Senate votes to convict. Of course the American people are not completely certain of the case against Trump, because it’s not their job to know every single detail about the machinations of D.C. That’s why we have representatives to represent us. Trump commits a new impeachable offense damn near every day and it’s wild that the Democrats don’t talk about this more often. Last week he did something that was in Nixon’s articles of impeachment and today he did it again. The constitution is very clear as to whether Trump deserves to be impeached, and that is why Robert Mueller refused to say whether Trump committed a crime—only Congress has the power to do so.
Either we are a nation of laws or we are one where political calculations can overrule the oath our representatives took upon gaining office. The Speaker contextualizing impeachment as something that the people have to bring to their representatives is not just ahistorical—as is her assertion that it would be politically perilous (the GOP gained seats in Congress and won the 2000 election after impeaching Bill Clinton)—but it is also a misrepresentation of Congress’s oversight power laid out by the constitution.
This is not a choice. This is how this works. Either we are a nation of laws or we are not, and by refusing to respect the will of her party and the commands of the constitution, the Speaker of the House is effectively agreeing with President Trump’s assertion that he is above the law right now.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.