According to multiple news outlets on Monday, House Democrats have conceded that they are very unlikely to conclude their impeachment inquiry and vote on articles by Thanksgiving, their original preferred timeline. They cited scheduling difficulties and new evidence of potential wrong doing by the White House as main reasons for the delay.
Democrats now say that they hope to be ready for a vote by Christmas, but waiting that long to resolve the matter in the House and send it over to the Senate is rife with problems, which was why Democrats wanted it to be wrapped up by Thanksgiving in the first place. If articles of impeachment were passed near Christmas, the Senate would be unable to begin a trial until inside of one month before the Iowa caucus on Feb, 3rd.
With 5 of the top Democratic contenders serving currently in the Senate, an impeachment trial could badly gum up the works in the Democratic primary.
According to the New York Times, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries addressed the delay by saying, “Just the facts, baby. If we tell that story with simplicity and repetition, the American people will understand why the president must be held accountable. If we don’t then there is great uncertainty, and in that vacuum Donald Trump may find himself escaping accountability again.”
With all due respect to Rep. Jeffries, the Democrats and their allies in the media have been repeating “the story,” that Donald Trump held up military aid in exchange for assurances that Ukraine would investigate 2016 election meddling, and investigate Hunter Biden, among other concerns, for weeks now. It is difficult to see how calling additional witnesses and adding elements to their allegations can simplify the story, especially since Democrats insist they already have the goods on Trump.
There are a few things that could be going on here. It may be that Democrats, beginning to see cracks between the White House and some Senate Republicans over Syria and the plan to host the G7 at Doral, feel a delay might help them reach the unlikely goal of a Senate conviction and the president’s removal.
But another just as likely explanation is that the Blitzkrieg approach they have taken to this round of impeachment ball, has stalled after some initial success in moving public opinion. Currently a slim majority of Americans support the vague idea of the impeachment inquiry, but a minority believes that Trump should be removed from office, which is, of course, the very purpose of impeachment.
After the grueling, two-year Mueller investigation that failed to produce evidence that Democrats were willing to impeach upon, the pure speed of the Ukraine impeachment effort is remarkable. In essence, the Democrats are running what in football is called a 2-minute drill. Trying to get the ball down the field as fast as possible. But 2-minute drills are fraught with danger and difficult to pull off. Any mistake can blow the whole thing up.
The Democrats also face a political problem, while overall the country is split on impeachment and removal, their base is not. Democrats across America not only support impeachment, most desire it with every fiber of their being, not just intellectually, but emotionally. If Christmas arrives and progressives don’t have a nicely wrapped impeachment under the tree it could be a real problem.
To be sure, the Democrats still hold all the cards here, at least in the House, but this latest change to the timeline gives them little margin for error. This is especially true since the closer we get to the general election, the easier it is for the GOP to argue that impeachment, itself a political maneuver, is an inferior remedy to letting the voters decide on the president themselves.
Is there possibly still a third way out? There could be. The House could vote on some form of censure, without actually charging the Senate to conduct a trial. That would be merely a symbolic gesture, and might not satisfy the base, but it also might be preferable to all the problems that a Senate trial during the primaries could create.
Whatever happens, it will happen soon. If Trump makes it to the New Year without impeachment it is hard to imagine it would be forthcoming after that. So Democrats have about two months to do this. The question is, will anything happen that puts them in a better position to call for the removal of the president than they are in right now? They should hope so.