House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must have felt pretty slick with her latest surprise maneuver in impeachment.
The Democratic Congresswoman, at the conclusion of the House’s vote to pass two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, declined to immediately send those articles to the Senate, as is the established precedent. This, Pelosi likely believed, would give her some leverage with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been stonewalling the Democrats’ effort to call further witnesses in the higher chambers’ coming trial.
Of course, McConnell has snapped back at Pelosi, stating that “it’s fine with him” if the articles never make it to the Senate, as this would work to dismantle the Democratic argument over the “clear and present” danger that they claim Donald Trump represents.
And this isn’t the only issue with Pelosi’s plan, either, at least according to one of the Democrats’ own impeachment witnesses, who just happens to be a constitutional scholar.
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.
As for the headlines we saw after the House vote saying, “TRUMP IMPEACHED,” those are a media shorthand, not a technically correct legal statement. So far, the House has voted to impeach (future tense) Trump. He isn’t impeached (past tense) until the articles go to the Senate and the House members deliver the message.
If the House votes to “impeach” but doesn’t send the articles to the Senate or send impeachment managers there to carry its message, it hasn’t directly violated the text of the Constitution. But the House would be acting against the implicit logic of the Constitution’s description of impeachment. A president who has been genuinely impeached must constitutionally have the opportunity to defend himself before the Senate.
How’s that for liberal logic?
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