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Amid Rising Opposition To Impeachment, New Democrat Strategy Emerges: Withhold Impeachment Articles
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill December 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. Pelosi fielded multiple questions about the impeachment inquiry. The articles of impeachment charge President Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. House Democrats claim that Trump posed a 'clear and present danger' to national security and the 2020 election in his dealings with Ukraine over the past year. (Photo by Drew Angerer/GettyImages)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

With reports of increasingly “nervous” Democrats amid rising opposition to impeachment, a growing number of Democrats and their supporters on the left have begun to seriously push a new strategy: vote on the two articles of impeachment against the president in the House but then refuse to send the articles to the Senate, where they’re destined to die a quick death.

In a piece for his website, The Bulwark Editor-in-Chief Charles Sykes spells out the strategy that more Democrats and their supporters are beginning to embrace: Accuse Republicans of intending to “violate their impeachment-trial oaths” and refuse to send over the articles so the Democrats can maintain some “leverage” over Republicans.

With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham having already made clear that there’s “no chance the president will be removed from office,” Sykes accuses the Republican leaders of having “literally said that they intend to violate their oath as judges/jurors.” House Democrats, he urges, should play up McConnell and Graham’s public assertions.

“House Democrats should treat these comments as game changers,” Sykes states. Noting that there is “no requirement that the House immediately send the articles of impeachment to the Senate,” Sykes recommends that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi play her “final card” (formatting adjusted):

So here is a modest proposal: the House should (1) vote to impeach on Wednesday, and (2) withhold sending any articles which pass to the Senate unless and until a majority of senators commit to holding an open and fair trial in accordance with the Constitution.

Speaker Pelosi could highlight Trump’s continued cover up and obstruction, while also noting that his abuse of power is a crime in progress. She could also explicitly link the referral to Chuck Schumer’s demands for key documents and the testimony of senior White House officials, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; Mulvaney’s senior adviser Robert Blair; and former national security adviser John Bolton.

Sykes even goes so far as to provide Pelosi with a script for how to frame this delay tactic as a “constitutional moment.”

But the “hold the impeachment articles” ploy is not just a theory by a left-wing editor, it’s already being pushed by some Democrats, as The Hill highlights (formatting adjusted):

Senate Democrats are quietly talking about asking Speaker Nancy Pelosi(D-Calif.) to hold articles of impeachment in the House until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) agrees to a fair rules package for a Senate trial. Democratic senators are concerned by talk among Senate Republicans of holding a speedy trial without witnesses, which would set up a shorter time frame than when the Senate considered President Clinton’s 1999 impeachment. They want to hear from Trump’s advisers and worry that if they don’t use their leverage now, they’ll have little say over how a Senate trial is run.

“If we don’t agree on a set of rules before the articles arrive over here, I think we’re cooked. I think McConnell has his people totally in line. It will be a procedural thing,” said one concerned Democratic senator. The senator said there’s growing alarm in the Democratic Conference that McConnell will pass a resolution that would prevent witness testimony or the displaying of posters or playing of videos on the Senate floor. Videos and posters were both a part of the televised committee hearings in the House.

“They’ll pass whatever rules they want, and so we need to determine for a fair trial what witnesses we want, what documents we want. Are we going to allow videos? Are you going to allow boards that go up with votes so you explain things to the audience that is watching out there in a really powerful way?” the lawmaker added. “I think our maximum leverage of getting what we want is now, before the articles come over.”

In a letter sent to McConnell on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer laid out a series of demands for this “fair” trial in the Senate, though Schumer doesn’t specify what Democrats will do if those demands are not met.

“In the trial of President Clinton, the House Managers were permitted to call witnesses, and it is clear that the Senate should hear testimony of witnesses in this trial as well,” Schumer states in the three-page letter sent Sunday (below). “I propose, pursuant to our rules, that the Chief Justice on behalf of the Senate issue subpoenas for testimony by the following witnesses with direct knowledge of Administration decisions regarding the delay in security assistance funds to the government of Ukraine and the requests for certain investigations to be announced by the government of Ukraine: Robert Blair, Senior Advisor to the Acting White House Chief of Staff; Mick Mulvaney, Acting White House Chief of Staff; John Bolton, former National Security Advisor; and Michael Duffey, Associate Director for National Security, Office of Management and Budget.”

“We would of course be open to hearing the testimony of additional witnesses having direct knowledge of the administration’s decisions regarding the delay in security assistance funds to the government of Ukraine and the requests for certain investigations to be announced by the government of Ukraine, if the president’s counsel or House Managers identify such witnesses,” Schumer adds.

While the “withhold the articles” strategy gains momentum, the Democrats have announced another impeachment gambit: continue investigations into Trump after they vote on impeachment this week and regardless of the outcome in the Senate.

“In a filing to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, House General Counsel Douglas Letter argued that the House’s demands for grand jury materials connected to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were still urgent because such evidence might become relevant to the Senate’s expected impeachment trial next month,” Politico reported Monday. “But Letter went further to note that even apart from the Senate trial, the House Judiciary Committee intends to continue its impeachment investigation arising from the Mueller probe on its own merit.”

Related: Democrats Vow To Continue Impeachment Investigations Regardless Of Senate Outcome

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