Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a “rogue leader” on Thursday, but based on what we saw last week, a more accurate assessment would be that Pelosi is the rogue leader presiding over a runaway Congress.
In her actions and words, Pelosi looked more like a wannabe Third World dictator than the hope of her nation, or even of her party. It was not enough for her to try to cut the president off at the knees with her sham impeachment vote; she also had to insult the Senate leader and try to assert House authority over the constitutionally mandated Senate role in trying any federal impeachment. To top it off, she implicitly dismissed the third branch of government by bypassing the judiciary’s traditional role as the broker between the legislative and executive branches.
That was the week that was, and it should be the final nail in Pelosi’s political coffin.
Dressed appropriately in black, she engineered the third impeachment of a president in United States history on a party-line vote with little evidence and a magical mystery timeline that oscillated between “clear and present danger” and “no big deal.”
Remember, Pelosi has been telling us for months that it was an urgent matter to unseat President Trump before he did permanent damage to the nation. Her designated impeachment czar, fellow Californian Adam Schiff, invented two non-criminal charges to be brought against the president — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — and rammed them through three committees and the full House. We were told that the nation could not possibly wait for a court to decide on the legality of the president’s assertion of executive privilege. Too long! Too late! Trump would collude with some new foreign power to interfere in our sacred elections — possibly with Latvia now that he has used up Ukraine and Russia! It was like a giant version of Risk, the game of world domination. Pelosi was going to roll the dice until she took all of Trump’s armies off the board — at least the ones in Eastern Europe.
But then something remarkable happened. As soon as Pelosi had Trump where she supposedly wanted him, skewered by impeachment, she reversed course. Within minutes of her victory in delivering a one-party vote, she announced that the House would not transmit the historic articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial anytime soon. The problem? Well, it seems Pelosi found something more urgent than impeachment — Christmas break. (Someone get Chevy Chase on the phone. He can’t pull off Nancy Pelosi, but he will be perfect as bumbling Joe Biden. Isn’t it time for a sequel to “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”? Maybe “Impeachment Takes a Holiday”?)
Of course, we shouldn’t have been surprised by the delay. Turns out that during the urgent mission to save the nation from the dire threat of Trump’s wicked sense of humor, there had also been time for a weeklong Thanksgiving break as well. Maybe Nancy thought the Donald would retreat to Mar-a-Lago with his tail between his legs and never come back. She must have been very disappointed. But maybe she thinks Trump didn’t really return at all. Didn’t she call the president an imposter? Or is that just another debunked conspiracy theory?
Doesn’t matter. If anything, Pelosi’s stated reason for refusing to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate on a timely basis was even more ludicrous than my “National Lampoon” scenario. The bottom line is that in trying to circumvent the constitutional role of the Senate and trying to delegitimize its leader, she has entered territory that is radical even for a “rogue” (her word again) political party.
“We are not sending it ... because it is difficult to determine who the managers would be until we see the arena in which we will be participating,” Pelosi said on the night when the articles were passed on a strictly partisan vote. Of course, she knew the arena because it is spelled out in the Constitution. (It’s the Senate, stupid!) And though Pelosi had a moment of clarity when she acknowledged, “It is up to the Senate to say what their rules will be,” she did everything in her power to shame, cajole and extort McConnell into running the trial according to the House’s rules — namely, that Trump gets no due process and the coddled whistleblower shall not be named.
Unbelievably, Pelosi told the truth the following morning when she admitted the entirely partisan reason why she is not transmitting the impeachment to the Senate: “Just to get this off the table right away, if we impeach the president immediately, everybody moves on to the next thing.”
D’oh! You already did impeach the president, Madam Speaker. And since when did “moving on to the next thing” become a problem? Are you admitting that the Democratic House is really just an obstructionist tool of “the Resistance”?
Trump’s subsequent summation on Twitter was concise and on point.
“So after the Democrats gave me no Due Process in the House, no lawyers, no witnesses, no nothing, they now want to tell the Senate how to run their trial. Actually, they have zero proof of anything, they will never even show up. They want out. I want an immediate trial!”
Pelosi made one other mistake in her political gambit. In her zeal to attack McConnell, she apparently forgot the Constitution mandates that the Senate trial of a president shall be presided over by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. So she’s also thumbing her nose at John Roberts by suggesting he’s unable or unwilling to run a fair trial. Based on what?
This is no surprise. There is no such thing as “obstruction of Congress” as a high crime — or even a low crime. Obstructing Congress is what all presidents do when they think Congress is wrong. It’s called the balance of power. The arbiter of that never-ending battle between the executive and legislative branches is the judiciary. Yet, as I mentioned at the outset, the House Democrats refused to seek court guidance on how to proceed when President Trump invoked executive privilege to prevent the delivery of documents and testimony to the Congress. That’s because the Supreme Court has long upheld that the executive branch does not automatically have to submit to congressional subpoenas or demands.
If Pelosi took Trump to court, she would very likely lose, and then be left with nothing but her stupid “abuse of power” complaint against Trump when clearly it is Pelosi and the House Democrats who have abused their power time and again.
Verdict: Trump wins again.
Frank Miele, the retired editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell Mont., is a columnist for RealClearPolitics. His books — including “The Media Matrix: What If Everything You Know Is Fake?” — are available from his Amazon author page. Visit him at HeartlandDiaryUSA.com to read his daily commentary or follow him on Facebook @HeartlandDiaryUSA or on Twitter @HeartlandDiary.