Top Republicans — and even some Democrats and members of the media — now believe Democrats may pull back on officially impeaching the president, particularly as polls haven’t borne out a clear advantage for Democratic candidates.
After two weeks of impeachment hearings, which yielded little in the way of evidence that the president most definitely offered Ukraine a “quid pro quo” agreement trading an increase in foreign aid for an investigation into “corruption” involving former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is left with a choice: call off the impeachment and look weak or keep going and risk failure at the ballot box.
Multiple polls taken last week reveal that the impeachment hearings are having their most marked effect on independents, who are supporting the impeachment in ever-declining numbers, leaving moderate Democrats at risk of losing their seats and Democratic presidential contenders at a loss going into 2020.
The Hill reports Sunday that “public opposition to impeachment has some Republicans … voicing skepticism that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will go through with a vote on impeachment.”
Even President Donald Trump expressed skepticism, telling Fox News late last week that he doesn’t expect to face any true impeachment trial.
“I think it’s very hard for them to impeach you when they have absolutely nothing,” he said.
Pelosi hasn’t guaranteed a vote, but not taking one will put her in hot water with progressives and activist voters, who have been waiting since January 20 of 2017 to impeach Trump. She also runs the risk of handing Trump a major victory in his battles against a “witch hunt” right before he hits the campaign trail.
But polls show voters aren’t enthusiastic about impeachment, and a subsequent multi-state media push from Republicans ripping vulnerable Democrats for supporting Pelosi’s crusade has those same moderate Democrats reportedly begging the Speaker to halt the process.
Worse still, the media is now fretting that the impeachment hearings weren’t the slam dunk Democrats are saying they were and it will cost them support.
The New York Times reports that the hearings lacked the damning evidence Democrats like Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) promised, partly because the White House pushed back on Schiff’s claims and released primary sources to refuse Schiff’s version of events, and partly because, the Times says, the hearings featured no witnesses with first-hand accounts of the president’s malfeasance.
Lawmakers haven’t interviewed Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, even though he emerged as a key figure in inking any supposed deal with Ukrainian legislators. They haven’t interviewed Vice President Mike Pence or former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, both of whom were mentioned in testimony. They haven’t interviewed former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney or even former senior White House official John Bolton.
They also haven’t interviewed the whistleblower.
“Democrats have opted for expeditious over comprehensive,” the Times says, sadly, “electing to complete their investigation even without filling in major gaps in the story.”
The Dems’ strategy in clipping testimony is, of course, carefully crafted to prevent the White House from mounting any kind of defense and to keep Republicans from cross-examining important witnesses.
If impeachment goes forward, the White House will be able to put on any witnesses they choose in a Senate trial, and that defense will be well-timed for the president, who will be on the campaign trail just as the trial is kicking off.
For now, Dems are staying the course, the Hill says.
“The hearings were nearly flawless and extremely damning for the president,” one Democrat aide told the Hill. “While no decision has been made to proceed with impeachment, the key facts are uncontested and not proceeding at this stage will be called a ‘total exoneration’ by the president.”