Nancy Pelosi’s Delusions of Grandeur
David Catron
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly portrayed President Trump as an existential threat to the republic. As she put it when announcing the House impeachment inquiry, “The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution.” She later justified her mad rush to hold an impeachment vote in December by claiming it was necessary “to defend democracy.” In reality, by presiding over the hyper-partisan passage of two inscrutable articles of impeachment and holding them hostage until the Senate allows her to dictate how it will conduct the president’s trial, Pelosi has revealed that she is the genuine menace to our unique system of government.

The speaker of the House has no authority to impose conditions on the Senate in return for transmitting articles of impeachment to that body. The Constitution unambiguously invests the upper chamber with the sole power to conduct presidential impeachment trials, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it abundantly clear that he has no intention of acceding to Speaker Pelosi’s unconstitutional demands: “There will be no haggling with the House over Senate procedure. We will not cede our authority to try this impeachment. The House’s turn is over. The Senate has made its decision.” Yet Madam Speaker continues to issue high-handed ultimatums:

The President & Sen. McConnell have run out of excuses. They must allow witnesses to testify, and produce the documents Trump has blocked, so Americans can see the facts for themselves. The Senate cannot be complicit in the President’s cover-up.

By presuming to dictate what the president and Senate Majority Leader “must” do, Pelosi is deliberately undermining the checks and balances built into the system by the Framers. The Constitution provides for the separation of powers among the three branches of the government, and none of the three is constitutionally permitted to usurp the prerogatives of the other two. Likewise, each house of Congress has powers that may not be arrogated by the other. All spending legislation must originate in the House, for example, and only the Senate has the power to approve judicial nominations. More to the point, only the Senate possesses the power to conduct an impeachment trial.

Nancy Pelosi has evidently lost patience with such pesky constitutional limitations. As recently as Tuesday evening Pelosi, produced a “Dear Colleague” letter that takes issue with McConnell’s plan to conduct President Trump’s impeachment trial using the same rules that were followed in the Clinton impeachment trial: “Leader McConnell’s misleading claims about the Clinton trial process  are being used to justify the GOP’s decision to cover up witnesses and documentation that would fully expose the President’s wrongdoing.” This is a transparent stall tactic, of course, and that is abundantly clear to the voters according to the latest Harvard CAPS/Harris survey:

A majority of respondents said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should send the articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate, according to a new Harvard CAPS/Harris poll released exclusively to The Hill. The poll showed 58 percent of respondents believe Pelosi should send the articles, while 42 percent said Pelosi should hold up the articles in the House.

Even worse, Senate Democrats are growing impatient with Pelosi’s stall tactics. Politico reports that a number of them have admitted that they have very little real leverage and that Speaker Pelosi’s temporizing is undermining the party line that impeaching Trump is a matter of great urgency. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) put it, “The longer it goes on the less urgent it becomes. So if it’s serious and urgent, send them over.” Other Democratic senators noted Pelosi’s lack of leverage. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said, “I don’t know what leverage we have. It looks like the cake is already baked.” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) put it like this: “I do think it is time to get on with it.”

Madam Speaker received more bad news when Majority Leader McConnell announced that he had enough GOP votes (51) to approve rules for President Trump’s impeachment trial without acquiescing to Pelosi’s demands regarding which witnesses will be called and when. It won’t be hard to guess who the last two GOP holdouts were: “Centrist Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska publicly backed starting the trial, then deciding on witnesses.” Now that McConnell has the backing of these two senators, Nancy Pelosi’s attempt to usurp Senate prerogatives has failed. If she deigns to transmit the articles to the Senate, the trial will go more or less as follows:

  • The Senate will vote on the general procedures to be followed. Because McConnell has secured 51 votes, the process will look much like the Clinton trial. This means there will be no decision about witnesses until after the arguments for and against removal are made.
  • The trial will open with Chief Justice John G. Roberts presiding. The senators will swear an oath to listen impartially to the arguments of both sides. Opening arguments for removal will be made by the “House Managers,” and the president’s attorneys will make their arguments against removal.
  • Mercifully, the senators are not permitted to talk during the opening arguments. Any senator who has a question will be required to write it down, whereupon Chief Justice Roberts will read it aloud, and it will answered by the appropriate party. There were over 100 questions during the Clinton trial.
  • Only at this point will a vote be held on whether to allow witnesses or hear additional evidence. The Republicans will presumably vote against both motions, and they will prevail pursuant to the amorphous nature of the impeachment articles, their Senate majority, and the inevitability of acquittal.
  • Finally, a vote to acquit or convict the president will be held, and the trial will end. This took about six weeks in the Clinton case. It will probably take less time to dispose of the frivolous  charges concocted against Trump.

None of this will come to pass, however, until Nancy Pelosi realizes she has no leverage over the Senate and finally relinquishes the abstruse articles of impeachment that she and the Democratic caucus cooked up during their bizarre impeachment inquiry. In the end, her claims that the president constitutes a threat to the Republic and must be removed from office to defend democracy aren’t taken seriously by the electorate. Moreover, the result of the Senate trial is a foregone conclusion. The real danger to our uniquely successful system of government is Nancy Pelosi’s delusions of grandeur.

David Catron
David Catron
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David Catron is a recovering health care consultant and frequent contributor to The American Spectator. You can follow him on Twitter at @Catronicus.
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