Stop Freaking Out Over Nancy Pelosi's Comments on Impeachment
Not that it’s a new hysteria, but it’s a renewed hysteria that’s sweeping the Interwebs. OMG didjah hear Nancy Pelosi is against impeaching Trump? She said impeaching Trump isn’t worth it! Everybody panic!
First, the quote in its context. The Speaker gave an interview to the Washington Post, in which she talked many things, including impeachment. Here’s the relevant question and her answer, in full:
Q: There have been increasing calls, including from some of your members, for impeachment of the president.
A: I’m not for impeachment. This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.
Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House. She is the only elected official, other than, ostensibly, the president, with the authority and the responsibility to represent the whole country, not just her party. She cannot just play Newt Gingrich and run around supporting everything in the party’s Left flank. What she can do, however, is issue clear guidance and set proper expectations. That is what she did here.
Let’s read the bolded part again, taking in account the time and context. Pelosi is saying she wouldn’t support impeachment at this moment, but she is very explicitly leaving the door open to it, saying we should not go down the path of impeachment unless compelling and overwhelming evidence emerges. That is pretty much the standard for impeachment of any president.
How would one go about gathering that evidence? Through the investigative powers of the House, of course. To that end, Pelosi has appointed committee chairs beyond reproach and known for their investigative brilliance: Elijah Cummings at Oversight, Adam Schiff at Intelligence, and Maxine Waters at Financial Services. Cummings held blockbuster hearings with Michael Cohen last week, Schiff is expanding the intelligence investigation and handing over transcripts to Mueller for prosecution, and Waters dropped a bombshell when she revealed that Deutsche Bank is cooperating with her Committee’s inquiry into Trump’s finances.
A Speaker that wants to stop expansive investigations from taking their due course would not appoint these chairs, and would not allow these activities. But Pelosi also needs these committees to be able to work unimpeded, without allowing the White House to close everything down under the guise of preparing a legal defense against impeachment.
This point is important. Remember that impeachment is the bringing of charges against the president. The moment there is formal impeachment, Trump’s lawyers would be able to slow down the process of evidence gathering from non-White House sources with the excuse of his legal rights like a criminal defendant, even if the tactics don’t ultimately hold up. The point is, the process of gathering evidence is much smoother under normal committee process than under impeachment. Bringing charges is much closer to the end of an investigative process than the beginning by prosecutors for this very reason.
As for seeking bipartisanship, Pelosi’s comment leaves enormous room for movement. She said support for impeachment needs to be bipartisan, but did not define how bipartisan. A single Republican in Congress supporting impeachment could fit this criteria. Heck, the Speaker didn’t even say bipartisan support has to exist in Congress. It’s possible that should overwhelming and compelling evidence emerge from the hard-charging investigation and it convinces a certain portion of the Republican electorate, or even conservative intelligentsia, that would suffice the bipartisan criterion.
In a nutshell, Nancy Pelosi has given us no reason not to trust her judgment. She knows what she’s doing. Let’s give her some running room.
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