Reprinted with permission from Alternet
I should say from the outset that I was not a fan of the idea, popularized by legal scholar Laurence Tribe, that Democrats should withhold the impeachment articles of President Donald Trump from the Senate to force Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to force him to hold a fair trial. While I’m concerned as anyone that McConnell just wants a sham acquittal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi objectively has no leverage over him. McConnell doesn’t want to hold a trial of the president at all, and a later trial isn’t necessarily worse for him, so the delay wouldn’t seem to give Democrats any advantage.
But the tactic is having at least one effect Democrats might welcome: It’s infuriating the president to no end.
It’s not even really clear how far Pelosi is willing to deploy this tactic. She hasn’t explicitly said she’s delaying sending the articles to the Senate. She just said that she has to see what the Senate trial will look like before she formulates a strategy for selecting impeachment managers and officially passing on the charges. And this all happened right before the House was dismissed for its winter break, and the Senate wasn’t expected to convene during the holidays either, so the “delay” could just end up being much ado about nothing.
And yet, Trump can’t stand it.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close ally of the president, said Trump is “mad as hell” about the delay.
“He is demanding his day in court,” Graham said.
And as many Americans prepared their celebrations of Christmas and Hanukah, Trump still couldn’t get impeachment out of his head.
“Nancy Pelosi, who has already lost the House & Speakership once, & is about to lose it again, is doing everything she can to delay the zero Republican vote Articles of Impeachment,” Trump raged on Twitter. “She is trying to take over the Senate, & Cryin’ Chuck is trying to take over the trial. No way!”
He continued: “What right does Crazy Nancy have to hold up this Senate trial. None! She has a bad case and would rather not have a negative decision. This Witch Hunt must end NOW with a trial in the Senate, or let her default & lose. No more time should be wasted on this Impeachment Scam!”
Again, this didn’t really make much sense. Nobody expected the Senate trial to begin before January. And it’s not clear at all how long after the chambers of Congress are back in session that Pelosi will actually delay sending the articles. And even if she delays for a while, it’s not clear if waiting actually gives her any advantage.
But if the goal is to make Trump mad, get under his skin, and perhaps prompt him into an overreaction, then the plot seems to be going off without a hitch.
“This is precisely the reaction that is emboldening Democrats to keep the process in suspense, even if they ultimately move ahead when Congress comes back in January,” said Politico reporter Kyle Cheney of Trump’s tweets.
Even still, I’m not sure what having Trump rattled really accomplishes either. Maybe it keeps him from focusing on parts of his destructive agenda. And perhaps for some, his reaction is its own reward.