by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Has any political ploy failed as spectacularly as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to delay sending the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump over to the Senate. Even Democrats are now telling her the jig is up.
Pelosi had hoped to use the delay as leverage to get the Senate to agree to the Democrats’ demand for witnesses at the trial. It was a foolhardy plan that, had the leadership not been in the grip of Trump Derangement Syndrome, it never would have attempted.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell always had the upper hand. His position was that the Senate trial would be conducted under the same rules that the Senate approved for President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial.
Namely, the House managers and the White House lawyers would make their presentations and answer questions from senators. Then, the Senate would vote on whether it needed to hear from any witnesses. The Senate, by the way, unanimously approved those rules in 1999.
In the Clinton trial, after the presentations and Q&A, senators voted to 56-44 to depose three witnesses. They later decided – by a 70-30 margin – that they didn’t need to call those witnesses to testify on the Senate floor because excerpts from their depositions would suffice.
On Tuesday, McConnell announced that he had the votes needed to proceed with the Clinton-era impeachment rules. And soon after, Senate Democrats, in a rare show of bipartisanship, started pressuring Pelosi to stop her pointless delay.