On a quick administrative note, this is the last newsletter for this year. I’m taking off the week of Christmas and New Year. Columns will still come out, and I should crank out podcasts, but no newsletter. I’ll see you guys in the new year!
Good Friday Morning! Democrats finally did it: they voted to impeach Donald Trump. Is it an official impeachment? There’s some weird chicanery going on with that question that I’ll get into below. I’ll also talk through some things I missed in my analysis of the impeachment question and hit on what comes next — links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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This week on the show, host Daniel Vaughan talks through the 2019 United Kingdom election results, what members of parliament are saying about Jeremy Corbyn, and what lessons US Democrats can take from it. Finally, he wraps up talking about the three big votes this week: 1) funding for the US government, 2) the USMCA (the new NAFTA), and 3) impeachment.
UK rejects socialism — American Democrats should take note – The Conservative Institute
Some thoughts on the massive electoral win for the Conservative Party in the UK.
The House impeachment vote will put an end to Democrats’ partisan process – The Conservative Institute
Pre-impeachment vote thoughts.
Democrats impeach Trump
Donald Trump is now the third President ever to get impeached, joining Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. And like those two, he will not get removed by the Senate. Conventional wisdom ended up being right on Democrats pushing for impeachment in the first year of their House majority.
The problem for Democrats: Republicans gained seats in the Senate in 2018. And Adam Schiff, who headed up the House impeachment inquiry, was so lousy at his job that he turned the polls on impeachment towards Trump. It the RealClearPolitics average of impeachment polls, opposition to impeachment took the lead by around 0.8 – 1.2 points, for the first time since the Ukraine story broke, just days before the House vote. The FiveThirtyEight tracker showed a similar break towards Trump, with the gap narrowed below a point.
Political fundamentals held true
One of the points I hammered relentlessly throughout this process was to watch the fundamentals on the ground. I pointed to polls showing that impeachment was unpopular in swing districts and battleground states, the areas that would decide the 2020 election. That point held and remains valid as we debate the Senate trial.
What I missed was a fundamental point that I should have caught: primaries. The final vote showed Pelosi only losing two Democrats. Ironically, while this means that there was more bipartisan opposition to impeachment than for the actual impeachment vote — it’s still a party-line vote. And the reason everyone held their spot was simple: they didn’t want a primary challenge.
Jeff Van Drew, the Democrat who switched parties just before the vote, switched parties because his opposition to impeachment made him a primary target for Democrats in 2020. The party base, for both sides, pushed everyone to mostly hold a party-line vote on impeachment to avoid the threat of a primary, and everyone will handle the general election when that time comes.
Impeachment may be unpopular with the people in swing districts and states, but it’s not necessarily unpopular with primary voters in those same states. Josh Kraushaar hit this same point in his column entitled, Pelosi’s Political Peril:
Rampant tribalism is shaping the politics of the impeachment. Red-district Democrats are now nearly united behind impeachment, even though many members recognize they may take a political hit for doing so. Even if they wanted to vote no out of political expediency, the backlash from their base would be severe. Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey learned that lesson the hard way, deciding it was easier to switch parties and become a Republican than remain one of the only House Democrats to oppose articles of impeachment. Local Democratic leaders in his district already had begun to abandon him as a result of his opposition to the initial impeachment hearings.
That dynamic is the same on the Republican side, where the few remaining swing-district Republicans—even among those who have criticized the president’s conduct—have united against impeachment. After last year’s wipeout, there simply aren’t many House Republicans left who face political peril.
That tribalism isn’t going away, but the pressures Trump places on vulnerable Democrats won’t go away either. It’s a hard balance if you’re a Democrat running in Trumpland.
Democrats slow their roll
After all the talk about the need to get an impeachment vote over with, Democrats are now pulling back. Pelosi and crew appear to be following the advice of Harvard Law professor, Laurence Tribe: Impeach and withhold. The idea is to withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate, to avoid an acquittal.
If you’re sitting there and asking yourself if that’s possible, you’re not alone. It’s never been attempted. The proponents of this idea liken it to a prosecutor withholding an indictment. They want to allow the vote they held on impeachment to get stuck over Trump’s head, without giving him a chance to defend himself. You can read about Tribe’s argument here.
Have Democrats actually impeached Trump?
I think this is precisely wrong. The Constitution gives the House the sole power on impeachment but provides the Senate with the sole authority to try impeachments. The House has no power to dictate when and how a trial takes place. Once they’ve voted, that’s it. McConnell can declare the articles dead on the spot if he wants to do so — there’s nothing in the Constitution prohibiting that kind of action.
When the Constitution is silent on how the chambers of Congress operate, they have sovereignty in those affairs — courts will not rule against them (and if they do, an appeals court will strike it down). I’m not alone in this thinking, Noah Feldman, who testified for Democrats that Trump needed to get impeached, wrote an op/ed in Bloomberg saying the same:
But an indefinite delay would pose a serious problem. Impeachment, as contemplated by the Constitution, does not consist merely of the vote by the House, but of the process of sending the articles to the Senate for trial. Both parts are necessary to make an impeachment under the Constitution: The House must actually send the articles and send managers to the Senate to prosecute the impeachment. And the Senate must actually hold a trial.
If the House does not communicate its impeachment to the Senate, it hasn’t actually impeached the president. If the articles are not transmitted, Trump could legitimately say that he wasn’t truly impeached at all.
That’s because “impeachment” under the Constitution means the House sending its approved articles of to the Senate, with House managers standing up in the Senate and saying the president is impeached.
So the million-dollar question is this: will Pelosi send the articles over? Democrats don’t want Trump to get acquitted, but if they keep those articles, anyone not named Laurence Tribe says that Democrats haven’t impeached Trump.
What do you think Trump will tweet from now till election day? Democrats are chickens who didn’t actually impeach me. VERY UNFAIR.
A Senate trial is coming
All of that is fun conjecture, but I think Pelosi will end up sending the articles over. McConnell won’t push her to do so, and the House doesn’t have the leverage to force the Senate to do anything. Senate Republicans will happily sit back and say they can’t do anything until the House sends them the articles, and until they’ll push through more judges.
Impeach and withhold has got to be the most stupid idea I’ve heard lately — and I include the secret ballot floated by some of these same people.
Trump will want a more extended trial. McConnell will want a short one. If he can get the votes, McConnell will shoot the articles down at the door. McConnell won’t want his vulnerable members exposed to heat, as the House did with its members. The only way Republicans push a more extended trial is if they’re going to toy with Democrats and keep Presidential candidates from campaigning.
McConnell says the Senate is at an impasse, and the House hasn’t sent over the articles of impeachment — yet. That means you won’t see anything on the impeachment front while everyone is out of town for Christmas/New Years’ break.
Something to watch in the meantime: Trump’s approval rating is near all-time highs, opposition to impeachment has peaked alongside his approval rating. Trump usually does something to lower that approval rating because that’s just his thing. Any good week or day for him can get ruined by a news cycle.
He will use that popularity to mock Democrats endlessly. That Noah Feldman piece will end up getting a lot of airtime for the next two weeks. I’d expect Pelosi to break eventually. Every day they delay sending the articles over to the Senate benefits Trump and Republicans.
Links of the week
The ‘Animal House’ Impeachment – John Podhoretz, Commentary Magazine
Liberals Rewrite the History of the Clinton Impeachment – David Harsanyi, National Review
Of Course Last Night’s Impeachments Had the Most ‘Yes’ Votes in History – Jim Geraghty, National Review
Federal study confirms racial bias of many facial-recognition systems, casts doubt on their expanding use – Drew Harwell, The Washington Post
J. K. Rowling Indicted by Woke Enforcement Agency – Kyle Smith, National Review
Don’t Sleep on Bernie – Sean Trende, RealClearPolitics
National Lampoon Plots Comeback With ‘Radio Hour’ Podcast and No Trump Jokes – Cynthia Littleton, Variety
Does the Movie Industry Need an Unsafe Space? If so, the micro-studio Cinestate—and its burgeoning media arm—is here to make us a little less comfortable. Meet the merry band of ultraviolent genre enthusiasts trying to upend independent movies. – Scott Tobias, The Ringer
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire piece of the week
DALLAS,TX—Prophecy experts gathered at Dallas Theological Seminary today and confirmed what many have long feared: the Cats movie is the beginning of the end for humanity.
In a theological forum debating the end times, eschatology scholars said they believe the new movie is the first bowl of God’s wrath to be poured out on mankind.
Thanks for reading!