The Democrats frequently criticize President Donald Trump for getting ideas about policy from watching Fox News, but it seems at least one key Democrat, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), also gets direction from 24-hour cable news networks.
According to an extensive profile of the House Democrats’ leader in Time Magazine, Pelosi got the idea to withhold the House Democrats’ articles of impeachment from the Senate until Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed to allow witnesses to testify at the Senate impeachment trial from CNN legal expert John Dean.
Dean, who pleaded guilty to participating in a breaking at the Watergate hotel — an incident which eventually lead to President Richard Nixon’s resignation — told CNN back in December that Pelosi had “leverage” over McConnell, and that she could refuse to submit the articles of impeachment to the Senate until McConnell caved to Democrats’ demands.
“She doesn’t have to send articles of impeachment to the Senate,” Dean told CNN host Don Lemon. “What happens, Don, after there’s a vote on the articles, they adopt a resolution where they select managers, and then they decide when they’re going to send the managers over to the Senate. So there’s a flexibility in the process where she could say, ‘listen, let’s just hold these articles here until the Senate gets its act together,’ and that could last right through the campaign as far as her powers.”
There are “no rules” Dean added in a second appearance on the network, that specify that Pelosi absolutely has to give McConnell a copy of the House’s impeachment materials.
There was some key information missing from Dean’s assessment, however — specifically that the Senate does not have to hold a hearing on the president’s impeachment without having the House’s articles in hand, and that McConnell has such good control over his caucus that Pelosi’s partner in crime, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who saw the strategy as a clever “wedge” between conservative and moderate Republicans, wouldn’t be able to split off enough “moderate” members of the GOP to force Republicans to the bargaining table.
It’s also not clear that Trump would be considered truly “impeached” until the Senate held its hearing. Constitutional experts, including one the testified during the House impeachment inquiry, are split on the issue.
But Pelosi was adamant, reportedly, that Dean was correct.
“Somebody said to me today that he may not even take up what we send. [But] then [Trump] will never be vindicated,” Pelosi, according to an aide that spoke to TIME. “He will be impeached forever. Forever. No matter what the Senate does.”
“In the committee meeting” where the aide heard Pelosi first mention the idea of withholding the articles, “she added that she believed McConnell would be motivated to move,” according to TIME.
The tactic didn’t quite work. Although it stalled Senate Republicans for several weeks while McConnell marshaled his caucus, just this week McConnell announced that he had the votes to move forward with the Senate trial as soon as Pelosi was willing to transmit the articles without any concessions on witnesses. In response, Senate Democrats told media on Thursday that they believe Pelosi should simply give in to McConnell and get the Senate trial moving.
Those same Democrats eventually withdrew their criticism of the Speaker, but the damage was already done.