The House impeachment of President
is only a day old and it has already moved from folly to farce. Speaker
is now threatening to withhold the articles of impeachment that Democrats just passed until the Senate sets trial terms that she and her left-wing faction deem adequate.
“We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side,” Mrs. Pelosi said Wednesday night after the impeachment vote, referring to the House Members who would present the case for removal to the Senate. “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us.”
The Constitution gives the House “the sole power of impeachment.” It also gives the Senate “the sole power to try all impeachments.” Mrs. Pelosi nonetheless wants to use the articles the House has passed as leverage to force the Senate to do what she wants. The idea was floated this week by Harvard Professor
Tribe and has been picked up on the left, apparently as a way to discomfit Senate Republicans.
This further trivializes the impeachment power that the Pelosi Democrats have already done so much to diminish. The House raced to an impeachment vote to please swing-district Members who wanted it over before Christmas. Democrats barred GOP witnesses and truncated questioning.
Rep. Adam Schiff
even said speed was essential and the House couldn’t wait for court rulings on witnesses, lest Mr. Trump steal the 2020 election.
But now Mrs. Pelosi says speed isn’t essential because Senate Republicans might not hold the kind of trial she wants. She is running interference for Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, who is demanding that the Senate call witnesses the House refused to call. The goal seems to be to turn the Senate trial into a second impeachment investigation ad infinitum. Keep the machinery running, and who knows what else might turn up that pressures Republicans to convict.
This isn’t what the Founders intended for the Senate trial, which is supposed to judge the President based on the charges in the House articles. The Senate can call any witnesses it thinks will shed light on House claims, incriminating or exculpatory, but Mrs. Pelosi can’t dictate which witnesses the Senate calls or anything else about the trial.
the Senate Majority Leader, ridiculed all of this in remarks on Thursday. “Speaker Pelosi suggested that House Democrats may be too afraid to even transmit their shoddy work product to the Senate. The prosecutors are getting cold feet in front of the entire country and second-guessing whether they even want to go to trial,” he said. “They said impeachment was so urgent that it could not even wait for due process but now they’re content to sit on their hands. It is comical.”
He’s right, but the harm from Mrs. Pelosi’s impeachment shenanigans is too serious to dismiss as comic relief. The Senate needs to quarantine the damage by taking the trial more seriously than the House took impeachment.
Mr. McConnell may be tempted to let Mrs. Pelosi delay naming managers for as long as she wants, figuring that she’ll look increasingly cynical to the public. But now that the House has voted to impeach, Republicans should honor the Constitution by holding a trial. It needn’t be long, but the President deserves the chance to marshal a defense that he didn’t get in the House, and to get a Senate verdict.
Mr. McConnell should put Mrs. Pelosi on public notice that she has a certain period of time, perhaps until the end of the year, to name House managers. If she still refuses, he should declare that the Senate will appoint managers to make the House impeachment case for the Democrats.
The House will howl, but there are plenty of lawyers who could make a better argument for removing Mr. Trump from office than Mr. Schiff or
Rep. Jerrold Nadler
would. If Mrs. Pelosi wants her Members to make the case, stop the unconstitutional meddling with the Senate’s prerogatives and appoint them.
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