To put the Democrats’ newest plans for the impeachment of Donald Trump into perspective, consider this: Nancy Pelosi backed an impeachment inquiry before ever reading the whistleblower’s complaint or the transcript of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. She had absolutely no idea what the president said or didn’t, and it didn’t really matter to her.
Pelosi’s support for an “impeachment inquiry”—really, the status quo—was also contingent on the reporting of media outlets that were consistently and spectacularly wrong about alleged Russian collusion, even if many of their debunked stories congealed in the Twitter hive-mind as truths. In this world, every tweet and utterance is an impeachable offense.
In the pre-Twitter era, a political party that saw scores of supposedly game-changing stories blow up in their faces might have adopted a more judicious strategy for impeachment than “if it’s true.” In Twitter politics, there’s no political or professional price exacted from those perpetuating conspiracy theories. If the Ukrainian collusion story turns out to be a dud, everyone will just move on to the next outrage.
Some liberals are already suggesting that Trump might doctor the Zelensky transcripts. Not that the transcripts are important anymore. America only needs the whistleblower’s report, they say. You might find this contention somewhat confusing, since Democrats are also on record arguing that Trump’s alleged comments in the conversation with Zelensky were more than enough to move forward with an impeachment of the president.
When Pelosi was asked if Trump’s decision to release transcripts of the Zelensky call—something Twitter Democrats were demanding up until the very moment the president acquiesced—might push her party to reassess the impeachment position, she answered: “No. This is about the Constitution of the United States. We have many other candidates for impeachable offenses.”
Well, if that’s true, and impeachment isn’t contingent on new information connected to Ukraine, why did Pelosi wait until now to publicly support an inquiry? Why not move ahead with the actual impeachment, instead of pretending to move forward?
It’s certainly not about principles. The notion that Pelosi, or any of the other leftist clamoring for impeachment, are interested in preserving the republic is undermined by the array of policies they support that directly conflict with the Constitution. Moreover, Pelosi knows Trump almost surely won’t be removed, and all of this is about creating an investigation to dominate the 2020 election cycle.
It’s not about a national appetite for impeachment, either. Although public attitudes can be fickle, polls show widespread “meh” on the idea of impeachment. A recent Monmouth Univ. poll, mirroring many others, puts support for impeachment at around 35 percent—hardcore Democrats, basically.
Then again, by my rough calculation, approximately 100 percent of progressive Twitter media and MSNBC Republicans are fully and immediately on board. (And, hey, a scandal that pulls in aging neoliberal Joe Biden and Trump … well, that is just a home run for the media.) Pelosi is placating the far-left, the hysterical podcasters, the CNN hosts, and WaPo bloggers who believe everything Trump says is an existential threat to democracy. Democrats convicted Trump the day he was elected.
This isn’t 1999. Politics is increasingly tribal and fewer minds are likely to be changed by any impeachment effort, anyway. Although I’m not sure there is anything that would galvanize Trump fans more than impeachment.
At this point, even if Republicans find out that Trump personally bribed the Ukrainians to investigate Hunter Biden, they won’t trust the activist press to make the case—and they have every reason to be skeptical.
Pelosi surely understands that after the embarrassing Russia collusion whiff, the non-Twitter voter might be less swayed to invest in yet another round of convoluted outrage. Today, for example, CNN had to run a six-minute long explainer on the “Ukraine/Biden/Trump story.” Liberals better be prepared to explain why the duly elected president needs to be removed from office in under 30 seconds if they want this to work. Something like, “Bill Clinton lied under oath about an affair with an intern that he was trying to cover up.” (Not a good enough reason, either.)
Who knows? Maybe they finally got him. We have no idea what the truth is yet, but Trump has relatively quickly agreed to release both the whistleblower’s report and the transcript. Pelosi, on the other hand, has already walked back her core rationalization for an inquiry, arguing that “quid pro quo is not essential to an impeachable offense.” This is has now solidified as a Twitter talking point: The mere intimation of favor trading is enough, even if no favor was traded. “We don’t need proof” is an exceptionally convenient standard for impeachment.
In the end, of course, impeachment is a completely legitimate constitutional tool, and the House has every right to move forward for any reason it desires. But Democrats always seem to forget that these new precedents they create will almost certainly be used against them in the future. Trump has no business asking foreign leaders to investigate his political opponents (this job, as Democrats have shown, is best left to intelligence agencies), but if there’s no quid pro quo the crux of impeachment rests on the president saying something tactless about investigating a political opponent—in much the same way Democrat senators have done in the past.
If that’s the case, the mechanism for firing him, or anyone else, can found in the ballot box. Leave the hair-trigger impeachments to the Twitter mob.