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Pelosi’s poor choices helped sink her impeachment gambit

As House votes to send articles to Senate, McConnell can put a check in the win column

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and others spoke last month about the urgency of impeaching the president, but they were fine with holding the articles of impeachment for 28 days, Winston writes. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and others spoke last month about the urgency of impeaching the president, but they were fine with holding the articles of impeachment for 28 days, Winston writes. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — What a difference 28 days makes.

On Dec. 18, House Democrats rushed to impeach President Donald Trump on charges of obstruction of Congress and abuse of power, with chief prosecutor Adam Schiff actually calling him a “clear and present danger” to the nation. Speed was of the essence, they told us. So critical, in fact, that the very security of the nation depended on it.

There wasn’t time to call people who Democrats now say are essential witnesses and to fight the president’s likely claim of executive privilege in court. There wasn’t time to allow the president’s legal team to participate in the hearings or give Republican members the ability to call their own witnesses. Democrats were in such a hurry, they said there wasn’t time to go to court and resolve the constitutional conflict between the executive and legislative branches.

So instead, they blamed the president, redefined a common executive-legislative branch conflict as criminal and created a new, precedent-free article of impeachment.

Schiff’s chief investigator on the Intelligence Committee, Daniel Goldman, told the Judiciary Committee, “To the extent that other witnesses would be able to provide more context and detail about this scheme, their failure to testify is due solely to the fact that Trump obstructed the inquiry and refused to make them available.”

Or as Schiff himself put it, “We are not willing to let the White House engage in a lengthy game of rope-a-dope in the courts, so we press ahead.”

Short memories

It seems Schiff and Goldman have forgotten President Barack Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to refuse to hand over documents requested by Congress pertaining to the “Fast and Furious” scandal. That claim to executive privilege seems to have been deemed acceptable or certainly nonimpeachable by the same crowd that now finds Trump such a threat to the security and stability of the nation that their “solemn” constitutional duty and deep concern for the safety of the country requires them to act and act quickly to move impeachment forward.

And so they did, voting to impeach the president and promptly heading home for the Christmas break that left the nation in the so-called peril of the Trump presidency for 28 days.

But while Speaker Nancy Pelosi has sat on the articles of impeachment for the past month, the world has, apparently, decided that the “imminent” threat another 11 months of Donald Trump in the Oval Office poses isn’t quite as imminent or as dire as Democrats would have you believe.

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In fact, in contrast to the Democrats’ overwrought warnings, the world continued to turn, the sun came up every morning, and more than a few positives have characterized the last 28 days.

Drum roll, please

On Dec. 19, the long-awaited United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement passed the House by a vote of 385-41 after languishing on Pelosi’s desk for more than a year. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, hardly a Trump supporter, called its passage a “huge win for working people in North America.”

On Dec. 20, pigs flew as a CNN Business analysis reported, “As 2019 winds down, the economy is getting its best rating in almost 20 years. Overall, 76% of those polled rate the economy very or somewhat good, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. That’s up nine points from last year and the highest percentage since February 2001.”

It closed on a rarely seen positive CNN report on Trump by saying, “For markets, Trump’s impeachment is a non-event. … For now, the economy is clearly advantage-Trump.”

On Jan. 3, a powerful U.S. military airstrike took out the world’s most dangerous terrorist, Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, responsible for the deaths and maiming of hundreds, if not thousands, of American soldiers. Democrats and media pundits were happy to applaud the end of a terrorist but just as quick to blame Trump for failing to inform Congress in advance and lacking a Middle East strategy they approved of. Their solution, as the administration was in the midst of a delicate military situation, was a quick rewrite of the War Powers Act to try and tie Trump’s hands in dealing with Iran, though the rewrite had no teeth. Really?

Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly jobs report saw the unemployment rate remain at 3.5 percent, which marks 22 straight months of 4 percent unemployment or less and 11 straight months of 3.8 percent or lower unemployment, while record minority employment continues to hold. Just for a point of context, Bill Clinton got unemployment down to 3.8 percent just once in his presidency.

Tuesday, the Dow hit another 52-week high, reaching 29,054.16.

Also Tuesday, Pelosi, under pressure from her own party and without the trial rules, threw in the towel and announced a vote Wednesday to send the articles of impeachment on to the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can put a check in the win column on this one.

And Phase One of the newly completed China trade deal is expected to be signed Wednesday, with Beijing agreeing to increase U.S. imports by $200 billion over two years including significant increases in farm goods.

A poor choice

Of course, the last 28 days weren’t without challenges; but for a nation whose national security, Democrats contend, is under constant threat from a “clear and present danger” named Trump, the past month belies their argument.

In her speech on the House floor before the impeachment vote, 28 days ago, Pelosi said, “It’s tragic the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice.”

Democrats have always had a choice. They chose not to resolve their constitutional differences with the White House over executive privilege in court where it belonged and, instead, redefined the argument as obstruction. They chose to pass impeachment suddenly, only to later claim that without further witness testimony, the Senate trial would have no credibility.

Pelosi chose to demand that McConnell do the job she should have done. It was a gamble she lost.

David Winston is the president of The Winston Group and a longtime adviser to congressional Republicans. He previously served as the director of planning for Speaker Newt Gingrich. He advises Fortune 100 companies, foundations, and nonprofit organizations on strategic planning and public policy issues, and is an election analyst for CBS News.

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