When Nancy Pelosi held her press conference announcing that the House of Representatives would move forward with impeaching the President of the United States, like most Americans tuned into this ordeal, I wasn't surprised. At this point, they really had no other option.
Once Pelosi had committed to an impeachment inquiry, the die was cast. After calling in a litany of witnesses, giving impassioned declarations of the president's guilt, conducting countless media interviews providing justification for their inquisition, think of the message that would have been conveyed by any announcement to not pursue impeachment.
A decision to not impeach would have been interpreted as Pelosi's culminating failure. It would have been her lasting legacy as the seething hordes of angry leftists either overthrew her tenuous grasp on the party's power structure, or abandoned the "do-nothing Democrats" entirely, bringing electoral disaster in November.
Not to mention it would have offered Trump the ultimate victory lap. You can imagine the tweets now about Representative Schiff, Pelosi, and the whole gaggle of Trump-hating Congressmen who spent excessive amounts of time and money to produce nothing of substance. "Total exoneration" would have been Trump's sloganeering as he reveled in their most recent failure to bring him down.
So again, once the inquiry began, the writing (of impeachment articles) was on the wall. But what will surprise me is if this now-inevitable impeachment trial doesn't end up politically backfiring on the Democrats big time.
Here's why I say that. To this point, the only Americans paying attention to the saga are those who are politically engaged. Average Americans are too busy, too preoccupied with life, too immunized from the relentless bickering of D.C. political culture to tune in. They know what's happening – Democrats who hate the president are trying to get rid of him, while Republicans who support the president are trying to keep him. Same old, same old.
But an actual impeachment trial will draw more attention. It will put on full display the amount of "evidence" Democrats really have for convicting Trump of a "high crime or misdemeanor."
Ask yourself what truly dispassionate, politically moderate Americans will think of the coming Matt Gaetz moment in the trial. Gaetz was the Republican representative who a few days ago asked all of the Democrat witnesses a simple question:
"To all of the witnesses: If you have personal knowledge of a single material fact in the Schiff report, please raise your hand."
After none of the witnesses — a collection of law professors, only one of which was called by Republicans — raised their hand, Gaetz said, "And let the record reflect: no personal knowledge of a single fact."
The fiery congressman then got to his point: "And you know what, that continues on the tradition that we saw from [Intelligence Committee Chairman] Adam Schiff. Where Ambassador [William] Taylor could not identify an impeachable offense. Mr. [George] Kent never met with the president. Fiona Hill never heard the president reference anything regarding military aid [to Ukraine], Mr. [David] Hale was unaware of any nefarious activity with aid, Colonel [Alexander] Vindman even rejected the new Democrat talking point that ‘bribery' was invoked here. Ambassador [Kurt] Volker denied that there was a ‘quid pro quo.' Mr. [Tim] Morrison said there was nothing wrong on the call."
The only witness who had direct knowledge was Ambassador Gordon Sondland who testified the President specifically stated he did not want what the Democrats accuse him of wanting. Anyone who thinks that is going to convince fence-sitters to jump on the Trump hate train are duping themselves.
Remember too that most eligible and likely voters were alive the last time a president was impeached. And that impeachment of Bill Clinton was based on the actual proven crime of perjury and obstruction of justice. Clinton lied about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky under oath (perjury) and attempted to get others to do the same (obstruction of justice). Despite that, the American electorate broke heavily in favor of Clinton, and the Republicans attacking him ended up with a black eye.
Fast forward to 2019 where American voters have been listening to 3 years of relentless "impeach Trump" talk that started the day after his election. They will now see a far weaker case (legally speaking) presented purely along political lines than they saw against Clinton.
Prudent Democrats should be concerned not just with a black eye from what's coming, but a TKO.
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