Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) finally bowed to pressure from Republicans and notified colleagues Monday that the House would vote on making the Democrats’ impeachment investigation official. Having insisted that such a vote was not necessary, Pelosi likely understood that the procedure already underway would not be viewed by either the White House or congressional Republicans as legitimate until the full House voted.
Assuming a majority of representatives vote to affirm the impeachment investigation, Republicans will have more influence over the proceedings that have, until now, been almost entirely partisan and somewhat secretive. Democrats also will benefit as the vote will lend more weight to the investigation, making it harder for subpoenaed individuals to avoid testifying.
For Democrats, of course, the initial goal has been achieved: They had time to carefully select witnesses they believed would tilt the case against the president and, through selective leaks, sway public opinion towards supporting the Democratic Party position.
Settling the Legitimacy Question
In a letter announcing her intention to hold a vote, the speaker said the measure would “eliminate any doubt” about the legitimacy of the investigation. Though the Democrats have had a certain amount of cooperation from witnesses, several current and former government officials have defied subpoenas to appear – the latest among them Charles Kupperman, who was deputy to John Bolton when the latter served as President Trump’s national security advisor.
The White House has, thus far, refused to cooperate with the three House committees conducting so-called impeachment hearings. Certain individuals have, however, testified in defiance of White House direction.
Democrats Trash Executive Privilege
Kupperman is pursuing legal action to have a federal court provide clarity over whether he should honor a congressional subpoena or claim immunity as a former advisor to the president. For perhaps the first time in American history, the majority party in the House of Representatives has essentially refused to recognize executive privilege – potentially shredding the confidentiality of all future discussions between presidents and their advisors.
The timing of Pelosi’s announcement might also be tied to the fact that the Justice Department’s administrative review of the opening of the now-discredited Russia collusion probe has just been escalated to a criminal investigation. It is not unreasonable to speculate that the Democrats feel a new sense of urgency to draw up articles of impeachment before John Durham, the prosecutor heading up the DOJ investigation, impanels a grand jury – which seems very likely, at some point in the next month or two.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who heads up the Senate Judiciary Committee, is claiming victory after Pelosi’s move on a vote. Graham just days ago held a press conference to rip the Democrats’ conduct and introduced a resolution condemning the impeachment effort.
Ultimately, Democrats may be playing Russian roulette: If the House impeaches Trump, The Senate is almost certain to acquit the president, since a vote to convict would need every Democrat plus the two independent Senators and 20 Republicans. Having been impeached by Democrats who vowed to impeach him from the moment he set foot in the White House, Trump would head into the 2020 election with a base more determined than ever to reelect him.