That’s the smart play. She said: “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country.”
This echoed the words of 443 legal scholars who wrote a joint letter to Newt Gingrich in 1998. It read:
“The House’s power to impeach, like a prosecutor’s power to indict, is discretionary. This power must be exercised not for partisan advantage, but only when circumstances genuinely justify the enormous price the nation will pay in governance and stature if its President is put through a long, public, voyeuristic trial.”
I agree with that, but I would add one more clause to the last sentence: “especially one which offers absolutely no possibility of a conviction in the existing Senate.”
And the Senate will not change until Trump himself is up for re-election, so the only way to beat him is at the ballot box.
Pelosi may be standing on a correct principle, but more important, she is being pragmatic. The House Democrats can only lose by impeaching Trump. A show trial in the Senate is not only divisive, but it could not produce a conviction, and might energize Trump’s supporters for the next election. Moreover, the ultimate verdict would allow Trump to crow that he was totally exonerated, offering him political advantages, and solidifying his supporters’ perception that he has been unfairly harassed.
Absolutely no possibility of conviction. Let’s suppose there was a tape of Trump and Putin talking. Trump says, “You help me win the election and I’ll remove the sanctions.” Would the Senate convict with that perfect smoking gun? Maybe. Maybe not.
Think about that. That’s the world we live it, where the answer to a question like that is “maybe.”
If such evidence involved any other president, he would be removed. But this is not 1974, or even 1998. Even if such a convenient smoking gun magically appeared, I’m not convinced that 67 Senators would vote to convict. Yes, I know I’m jaded and cynical. I have always been jaded and cynical, which means that I seemed to have too little faith in our leaders in the past. They sometimes shocked me and did the right thing. But the world has changed so much that I now seem to have exactly the right amount of faith.