Almost six weeks into the Ukraine impeachment farce, Democrats find themselves maneuvering into a “strategic repositioning” (translation: “retreat”). One of the “main talking points to rebut impeachment,” as the Washington Post characterized it, is that the “House Democrats’ inquiry isn’t legitimate because the members didn’t vote to start one.” A “talking point” is what corporate media calls an argument for which it has no ready response.
The Post article cited a Democrat House aide who said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has no intention of taking a vote, no matter what demands President Trump makes. This aide called the “full vote” argument “pathetic” and “bogus.”
Pelosi doesn’t need a full house vote, Ramsey Touchberry insisted in in Newsweek. Legal experts assured Touchberry, “President Trump is wrong in saying that it is not a legitimate impeachment inquiry without a floor vote.”
The New York Times “fact checked” the claim that past presidential impeachment inquiries have always started with a House vote, writing, “This is misleading. Though the full chamber voted to start impeachment inquiries against Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard M. Nixon, nothing in the Constitution or House rules requires it.” “Misleading” is code for “true but we don’t want it to be.”
Well, well, well. The Democrats have “Schifted” course and now say they plan to hold a formal impeachment vote this week. The purpose of the vote will be to establish rules (there have been none thus far) under which the inquiry, now six weeks old, may proceed. In a completely related announcement, “House Democrats will forgo using the federal courts to try to compel testimony from recalcitrant witnesses in their impeachment inquiry.”
Why are the two announcements related? Recall what I wrote when the farce began: “Congress’s authority to request documents [and subpoena witnesses] is dependent on whether it has a legitimate legislative purpose for the documents. The purpose of the House invoking the phrase ‘impeachment inquiry’ is to create a pretext to argue in court that it has a right to the documents.”
But, as I predicted, “The absence of a declaration by the full House sets up the argument for the president that this ‘inquiry’ is a mere political stunt by a rogue committee and not a legitimate legislative purpose endorsed by the full House.”
Like many retreats, this one is marked by chaos and confusion. Politico bemoaned, “Democrats’ internal squabbles overshadow damning testimony.” The author added, “the impeachment obsession on Capitol Hill — in the media, within the GOP, and even among vulnerable members of their own caucus — ended up turning the resolution into a glaring example of Democrats’ messaging struggles on impeachment.”
Indeed, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer refused to commit to a Thursday vote as he might not have the votes then to proceed. As noted by Sean Davis, the proposed resolution attempts to retroactively stuff the genie back in the bottle-referring to the “ongoing investigations into whether sufficient grounds exist to exercise its Constitutional power to impeach…the President.”
So now Democrats are now abandoning any effort to seek court enforcement of past subpoenas issued under Rep. Adam Schiff’s Ukraine charade? It’s hard to argue the inquiry has a “legitimate legislative purpose” when the only three votes on impeaching President Trump have all gone against impeachment.
“We are not willing to let the White House engage us in a lengthy game of rope-a-dope in the courts, so we press ahead,” Schiff told reporters. It’s a rope-a-dope that Schiff now appears to concede he would lose. So instead of enforcing the subpoenas, Schiff is simply going to make up what the information would have been.
In legal phraseology, this is called, “drawing an adverse inference,” a practice borrowed from civil litigation in which a judge responds to the unauthorized withholding of evidence by instructing jurors “that they can presume the missing evidence would have been bad for the side that didn’t provide it.” This notwithstanding the fact that an Obama-appointed judge has ruled the voteless impeachment inquiry to be a valid exercise of House power for a legislative purpose. But Schiff appears to understand that this victory cannot weather the appeal process.
Impeaching and removing the president requires bipartisan support. One can practically hear Schiff stomp his foot in frustration: “What I find harder to understand is why the Republican members of this body in this House don’t want these witnesses to come forward…Where is their duty to this institution? Where is their duty to the Constitution? Where is their respect for the rule of law?”
Where, one might ask, is Schiff’s bipartisanship in the investigation of the origins of the Russia collusion hoax, of which he recently said, “[Attorney General] Bill Barr, on the president’s behalf, is weaponizing the Justice Department to go after the president’s enemies. He’s demonstrating once again that he is merely a tool of the president, the president’s hand, not the representative of the American people.”
Never mind that the collusion hoaxsters “weaponized the Justice Department to go after political enemies” by repeatedly illegally leaking classified information, unmasking American targets of warrantless surveillance, and spying on a presidential campaign. Should a Constitution-loving lawmaker insist upon consequences to bureaucrats who lawlessly abused law enforcement and intelligence powers for political advantage? According to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the answer “Schifts” depending on the team with which the misfeasors align.
Another prediction of mine is now proving true: the Ukraine hoax has not brought down Joe Biden, as his critics might have hoped. As I wrote before, “One thing that Trump has proven in the last five years is that bad media publicity has a way of helping the target in a primary contest because it starves his competitors of attention.”
Schiff is sucking all of the oxygen out of the Democratic primary process, which is locking in Biden’s name-recognition advantage. As I predicted, the scandal has not tanked Biden’s numbers and has repressed the competition other than Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. If Democrats are unhappy with that outcome, they know where to Schift the blame.
One final note: The voters, particularly the independent voters, are not sold on the impeachment project. According to a jaw-dropping Suffolk University/USA Today poll, only 36 percent of voters think the president should be impeached, and 37 percent think Congress should drop impeachment. If only Democrats would listen to their voters. We might be able to move on to solving real problems that face our country.