We have reached the “LOL, nothing matters” stage of impeachment. What could be done, has been done. Now politicians are just making mouth noises, trying to show “toughness” to their bases, even as nearly everybody has tuned out for the Holidays.
In a world where this old people staring contest was “important,” Mitch McConnell, of all people, seems to have made the first blanch. McConnell came out this weekend to say that the Senate was at an impasse and everybody should go home. But the way he did it showed that he fundamentally accepted the premise of the Democratic proposition. From the Washington Post:
“The papers have to be physically brought over to the Senate, and we can’t go forward until the speaker does that,” McConnell said during an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.” “She’s apparently trying to tell us how to run the trial. You know, I’m not anxious to have this trial, so if she wants to hold onto the papers, go right ahead.”
“Look, we’re at an impasse. We can’t do anything until the speaker sends the papers over, so everyone enjoy the holidays,” McConnell added.
Well, well, well. It might not sound like it, but that there is McConnell fundamentally agreeing with Larry Tribe, that the Senate cannot move forward until the House delivers the impeachment papers.
I’ll just remind people that McConnell did not have to agree to that position. If McConnell just wanted to start a Senate trial, with or without the formal transmission of the Articles of Impeachment, who would stop him? Iron Man? The media would cover a “fake” impeachment trial just as breathlessly as it will cover the “real” one. The Republican Senators who have debased themselves to committing to protect Trump, no matter what, would still act like Trump has been “acquitted,” transmission of papers be damned. McConnell acceding to the parliamentary game here is news.
Of course, McConnell is letting Pelosi’s argument win the day for a couple of reasons. First of all, McConnell is a Republican. Never forget the nihilist nature of the Republican party. Doing nothing IS A VICTORY in Republican logic. It always is. Like a swallow to Capistrano, Republicans always default to getting nothing done over something done. Making government not work usually plays to Republican advantages, so it’s actually not all that surprising that McConnell’s instinct here is to do nothing and see how that works out for him.
McConnell also likely believes he can get some mileage out of Professor Noah Feldman’s argument that the President isn’t really impeached until the House sends the articles over. I think Professor Feldman has the wrong of the argument. Feldman came out over the weekend to say that if the President has been impeached, then the Senate could start its trial now. He used the argument to highlight his position that the President hasn’t really been impeached yet. But, as I just said, the Senate could start its trial now, and literally nobody would show up to stop them.
McConnell is choosing not to start the trial because of McConnell, not because of the laws. As I’ve written previously, we are well beyond the safety and protection of the rule of law. All of this is just an exercise in raw political power. Right now, Nancy Pelosi has the power to make things difficult for McConnell, and McConnell evidently agrees. For now, McConnell thinks he’s better off letting impeachment hang over the President, while arguing to Republicans that the time we all saw the President impeached was just a false memory. Hey, it’s worked for Republicans before. Their ability to get their stupid voters to believe whatever McConnell and Trump wants them to believe is legendary.
Still, I think McConnell will eventually lose this particular battle. McConnell’s strategy requires patience, but his overlord, President Trump, is one of the most impatient men on the planet. Every day that Pelosi holds the articles is another day we talk about the thin-skinned President being impeached, without allowing any of his sycophants the opportunity to officially defend him. Remember when Republicans hired a “female assistant” to handle the questioning during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings? But Republican men became annoyed about not being able to scream their rape apologist defenses into the camera? So, they eventually sidelined the assistant so Lindsey Graham could have a nutty and then all the Republican men felt a lot better? You could see the same thing playing out here. Trump is a small, stupid man, the Republicans are small, angry men, being denied their opportunity to scream and yell “on the record” really pisses them off.
As it is right now, Pelosi has the power to… “re-impeach”(??) Trump whenever she damn well pleases. Maybe it’ll be after she gets some pro forma concession from the Senate? Maybe it’ll be after the Democratic primary field has settled to the point where half the Senators won’t have to stop campaigning to be at the trial? Maybe it’ll be at the time where Pelosi determines it will do the most damage to Trump’s re-election campaign? I was highly critical of how Pelosi handled the Mueller impeachment potential, but it turns out that Trump did in fact “self-impeach.” I’d be a fool who was unable to learn to assume anything other than the fact that Pelosi will send the Articles over, precisely at the best time to do so. “A wizard is never late, nor is [s]he early, [s]he arrives precisely when [s]he means to.”
So yeah, enjoy the holidays. There’s nothing to see here, folks. And really, I can’t think of a better present than not having to think about Trump for a couple of weeks.
McConnell accuses Pelosi of holding ‘absurd position’ [Washington Post]
Elie Mystal is the Executive Editor of Above the Law and a contributor at The Nation. He can be reached @ElieNYC on Twitter, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will resist.
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