Here are the three main arguments that Democrats are making about why it’s not all a loss, with our analysis.
1. They brought attention to how Republicans plan to hold a Senate trial. Particularly how McConnell has said he’ll work “in total coordination” with the White House on this.
This is true. Even though they couldn’t change the trial, Democrats were able to seize the conversation around it by holding up the articles. In Democrats’ best-case scenario, they even undermined the trial itself — and called into question its likely outcome, an acquittal of Trump on abuse of power and obstructing Congress. “If the president is acquitted at the end of a sham trial with no witnesses, no documents, his acquittal will not carry much weight,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday on the Senate floor.
But: In a divided nation, how many minds were really changed about whether Trump should be removed from office?
2. They made Trump sweat. The president said he wanted a Senate trial, where his acquittal by Senate Republicans is likely, to clear his name. So the sooner, the better for him.
But: The wait risked undermining Democrats’ logic for impeachment in the first place. They were the ones who said they needed to rush to impeach Trump, to prevent him from asking for foreign help with his reelection again. But then they held back a Senate trial for three weeks, which would seem counterproductive to that goal. “Speaker Pelosi is now sitting on the very same articles she claimed were so urgent,” McConnell said Monday.
3. They put pressure on moderate Senate Republicans to support witnesses, by allowing time for new White House emails to come out that further connected Trump’s holding back Ukraine aid to his desire for Ukraine to investigate his political opponents. And during the hold, Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton changed his mind and said he would testify if called.
A House Democratic leadership aide said Democrats finished the week with Senate Republicans “in an impossible position of refusing new evidence and key witness testimony.” Democrats point out that a majority of Americans do think Trump’s top aides should testify.
Pelosi directed her tweets Friday exactly to those moderate Senate Republicans.
By joining a resolution to dismiss, Sen. McConnell showed his true colors. Americans have now seen what is at stake in a fair trial with witnesses & evidence, and new evidence has emerged. Every Senator will have to vote: is their loyalty is to the President or the Constitution?— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 10, 2020
But: Once the trial gets started, it will take four Senate Republicans to join all Democrats to allow witnesses such as Bolton to testify. Are there that many? Only one, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), has said he wants to hear from Bolton. Two others, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have said they would be open to it.
Which is to say the game isn’t lost for Pelosi yet. At some point after the trial gets started, the Senate will take a vote on whether to allow witnesses and who those witnesses should be. If a majority of senators do vote to allow them — which is a possibility — then maybe we’ll be looking a bit differently at what Democrats got out of holding up these articles.