Has Trump really been impeached?

Professor Noah Feldman, whose biography of James Madison I admire, embarrassed himself when he testified about impeachment before the House Judiciary Committee. Now, he is embarrassing Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi is withholding the articles of President Trump’s impeachment from the Senate. Feldman argues that the House has not impeached President Trump until it sends along those articles for trial.

If Feldman is right, then the supposed “indelible mark” on Trump’s presidency has not yet been stamped, and won’t be unless Pelosi bites the bullet and sends along the impeachment articles.

According to Feldman:

Impeachment as contemplated by the Constitution does not consist merely of the vote by the House, but of the process of sending the articles to the Senate for trial. Both parts are necessary to make an impeachment under the Constitution. . . .

If the House does not communicate its impeachment to the Senate, it hasn’t actually impeached the president. If the articles are not transmitted, Trump could legitimately say that he wasn’t truly impeached at all.

Is Feldman right about this? Beats me. The Constitution doesn’t provide a clear answer, in my view.

Right or wrong, I assume Feldman is taking this position in good faith. However, I also suspect that Feldman wants the case to advance to the Senate.

I assume the Trump-hating Democratic base wants this, too. They are fine with Pelosi trying to push Mitch McConnell into holding the kind of trial the Democrats want. But they can’t want her to withhold the impeachment articles indefinitely.

Doing so would make the impeachment effort seem halfhearted. It would confirm the claim of many Trump supporters that this was a farce all along.

Regardless of whether, as a technical matter, Trump would stand “impeached,” he could, as Feldman says, plausibly claim he wasn’t. He could also ridicule endlessly and effectively the Democrats’ willingness to drop the matter.

I would pay to see him do it.

That’s why I continue to believe Pelosi will send up the articles, and why the threat not to do so carries little or, more likely, no punch.

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