The Democrats should test that proposition, get their cameras ready for incriminating video to be used in 2020 Senate elections and then restart hearings in the House. They also should consider offering stipulation of facts on the basis that the blocked witnesses’ testimony would have been unfavorable to President Trump (e.g., “Trump was told holding up aid was possibly illegal”).
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) promised to force votes on individual witnesses and documents. In comments to reporters, he was right to praise House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for delaying transmittal of the articles of impeachment, thereby putting the spotlight on Republican senators willing to join the coverup and giving space for damning news reports and John Bolton’s declaration he will testify. What now?
The Post reports, “Pelosi told Democrats in a closed-door meeting Tuesday night that she would not move to transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate until she learns more about how the other chamber would conduct the trial, according to three people present for her remarks.”
At some point, Pelosi will have little choice but to send the articles. However, when that time comes she should attach an addendum making two points.
First, she should declare that if the Senate does not conduct a fair and complete trial calling witnesses and seeking evidence, it will be a sham. In that case, the House will pass a resolution finding Trump did indeed commit impeachable acts. A sham trial is no trial.
Second, Pelosi should warn the Senate that the House Intelligence Committee will reopen hearings and pursue the testimony of Bolton and others. She can do so immediately or after the Senate trial is over. The facts will come out one way or another. There is no cognizable basis for Bolton to be willing to testify before the Senate but not the House. The House should reserve the right to vote on additional articles of impeachment and/or supplement its impeachment report.
The action now must shift to the Senate, where Democrats need to pick up their game. They need to take the fight to senators in their own states, running ads and conducting a full-blown campaign to demand that they call witnesses after the opening arguments. (Here is one of the dozens of things Mike Bloomberg could spend his money on rather than a quixotic presidential campaign.) Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah) and others say they would consider the need for witnesses after the opening arguments. Now is time to hold their feet to the fire, insisting that they call witnesses and find documents that are now available.
This is not an ideal outcome, but no satisfying result is possible so long as Republican senators put party over country and the Constitution. Public pressure may influence their thinking, but more likely the reckoning will come at the ballot box in November. In the event they participate in a sham trial in violation of their oaths, we can at least dispense with the notion that Collins and others are principled moderates.
What matters now is not furrowed brows or expressions of deep concern, but action in defense of the Constitution. In that regard, Collins, as she was in the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, may deliberately choose to blind herself to evidence. As a result, she and other Republicans will face the real possibility that conclusive evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing will come to light after a sham trial. That would make for a disastrous, humiliating legacy.