Editorial: Dems tell Senate to do as they say, not as they did

The Detroit News

There's so much disingenuity in the Democratic delay in sending to the Senate the House-passed articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

When this all started, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deemed Trump such an imminent threat to the Republic that the impeachment process had to be fast-tracked to get the articles passed by the end of the year.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters on the morning after the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 18, 2019. Pelosi refused to say when she'll send the impeachment articles against Trump to the Senate for the trial.

To serve that timetable, the hearings before the House Intelligence and Judicial Committees were highly partisan affairs, with GOP lawmakers given only limited access to depositions and documents and no ability to call witnesses.

The Republican request was denied to question the whistleblower who revealed the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that led to the hearings and the abuse of power charges. 

They also were refused the opportunity to question Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff about his interactions with the whistleblower and the reasons he subpoenaed and made public the phone records of a GOP lawmaker, House Republican staffers and a member of the press.

Neither Schiff nor Judicial Chair Jerrold Nadler made any concessions to Republicans in moving the articles of impeachment on Pelosi's hurry-up schedule.

Now, the urgency has apparently dissipated. Pelosi says she will not move the articles to the Senate for trial until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reveals in detail how the process will unfold.

Her counterpart in the Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, wants assurances that McConnell will demand appearances by the administration witnesses who refused to testify before the House. Those witnesses were not subpoenaed by Schiff or Nadler in their rush to bring the articles to a vote.

Pelosi says she won't appoint House managers  to prosecute the case before the Senate until McConnell answers her questions. 

The Constitution gives the House the sole power to bring articles of impeachment, and that's how Pelosi handled the process when it was in her court. The Senate has the sole power to hold the impeachment trial. There's no reason to expect McConnell to use his powers any differently than Pelosi used hers.

The slowdown by Pelosi and Schumer is not about protecting national security or the welfare of the nation. It's about maximizing the damage to Trump's reelection bid.

Pelosi got the House vote out of the way quickly to give Democrats in districts Trump won in 2016 time to recover from any voter backlash before the 2020 election.

But the longer it takes for Trump to be tried and acquitted by the Senate, the greater the opportunity to distract the president from making his case for reelection. If he remains under the impeachment cloud until Election Day and never gets to boast that he was exonerated by the Senate, it serves Pelosi's true objectives well.

McConnell has the leverage here. As he's said, he'd rather not receive the articles of impeachment, and if Pelosi dallies too long in sending them to the Senate, Republicans can dismiss them on a simple majority vote.

He should let the Speaker know that's what he intends to do if she continues to stall.