House Democrats have flunked impeachment, but now Chuck Schumer(D-N.Y.) is going for extra credit. The Senate minority leader hopes to undo the damage done by his colleagues’ bungling of the House impeachment drive by painting Republican senators into a corner.
Schumer knows Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has a critical decision to make. In response to what appears an inevitable House vote to impeach, the Senate Majority Leader has three options. McConnell could introduce a motion in the Senate to dismiss the case, which would likely pass with a simple majority; he could push through a speedy bare-bones trial; or he could allow President Trump to seek vindication, or even vengeance.
Schumer has come out in favor of a full-blown impeachment trial in the Senate, demanding the appearance of at least four witnesses, none of whom testified before the House, and copious documents. In a letter to McConnell, he claims his recommendations will allow the trial to “pass the fairness test with the American people.”
Do not be deceived. Schumer no more wants a long, messy, drawn-out proceeding in the Senate than Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wants a cozy dinner for two with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Schumer simply wants McConnell to take the heat for expediting the necessary trial, and for putting this whole distasteful episode behind us.
Schumer is no dummy. He knows that Republicans were wildly successful in branding Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) impeachment push in the House as “unfair.” For more than a month, the GOP rightly accused the House intelligence chair of holding “hidden” hearings away from the public and the media, orchestrating selected leaks damaging to the president and not allowing Republicans in the House equal time and consideration.
That Schiff apparently lied about his contacts with the whistleblower, that he pressed for that individual’s appearance and then deemed him inconsequential to the proceedings as word spread of the latter’s Democratic affiliations, undermined his committee’s claims of impartiality.
A recent CNN survey shows a slim majority thinks that Trump abused his office by asking Ukraine to investigate a political rival. But that offense evidently does not, for many, constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Of the 51 percent who oppose impeaching the president, some two-thirds think he has been “the victim of an unfair investigation.”
Schiff’s hearings were a study in partisan malpractice, and Americans were not pleased. Much as Speaker Pelosi and her colleagues donned sack cloth and frowny faces to express how very, very sad they were to execute a hatchet job on President Trump, voters saw through their phony piety and moved solidly against deposing a duly elected president.
Americans are fair-minded, and they do not approve of impeaching a president just because the opposition party does not like his personality or his politics. Voters know that Pelosi has propped open a door that may never close; every future president will now face the threat of being impeached for minor offenses. This is indefensible.
Schumer doesn’t want a lengthy Senate trial, mainly because it would hurt many of the leading Democratic candidates hoping to replace Trump. Five senators are running for president, and they would be penned up in the Senate during a trial, unable to campaign leading up to the February 3 Iowa caucuses. You can imagine their message to Schumer.
Or imagine the wrath of black Democrats, solidly in former Vice President Joe Biden’s camp, if he is pressed to testify. Does anyone think that Joe Biden under oath would be any more controllable or cogent than Joe Biden on the campaign trail? His response to legitimate questions about son Hunter Biden’s lucrative Ukraine gig has been bluster and outrage, not reasonable answers.
At the moment, Republicans have the high ground. Fundraising and polling show voters’ growing disenchantment with the impeachment push.
A recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll suggests declining support for impeachment, with 51 percent of registered voters opposed and 45 percent in favor, down from a 47-46 split a month ago. Worrisome for Democrats, 52 percent of independents oppose impeachment while only 41 percent approve.
Meanwhile, donations are flooding into the GOP. Axios reports that the Republican National Committee has received donations from more than 600,000 new donors since the impeachment push began. Last week alone, the Trump campaign raked in more than $10 million in small contributions.
McConnell needs to keep the high ground by moving the impeachment trial through the Senate as quickly as possible. Yes, Democrats will howl, but the sooner it is over, the less they get to set the narrative.
Republicans can remind voters, as McConnell recently did in response to Schumer’s demands, that if the process really required the testimony of former national security adviser John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney or others, Adam Schiff should have pursued their testimony through the courts. Instead, he rushed the process through, realizing his hearings were a political dud.
McConnell may have to stand tough against Trump as well as Schumer.
The White House is itching to make Hunter Biden squirm on the stand, to force Adam Schiff to come clean about his interactions with the whistleblower and to make Joe Biden explain why he allowed his son to team up with Burisma, an allegedly corrupt company in a definitely corrupt country.
Those inquisitions would be most enjoyable. Many Trump supporters, and the president himself, want their time at bat. After three years of deeply partisan investigations and bogus accusations, Republicans are angry. But a trial could further test Americans’ patience, and could go off the rails in unpredictable ways. Most of the country is ready to move on.
Trump would be well advised to focus on the good news of the economy, the booming jobs market and his recent successes on trade. Winning never grows old; it will see him reelected in 2020.
Published on The Hill