Turnabout is fair play, but don’t bet on this ploy working for long with House Democrats. In a meeting on Tuesday, Politico reports, Pelosi tried to forestall impeachment talk by telling Jerrold Nadler she had other plans for Donald Trump:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi told senior Democrats that she’d like to see President Donald Trump “in prison” as she clashed with House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler in a meeting on Tuesday night over whether to launch impeachment proceedings. …
Nadler pressed Pelosi to allow his committee to launch an impeachment inquiry against Trump — the second such request he’s made in recent weeks only to be rebuffed by the California Democrat and other senior leaders. Pelosi stood firm, reiterating that she isn’t open to the idea of impeaching Trump at this time.
“I don’t want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison,” Pelosi said, according to multiple Democratic sources familiar with the meeting. Instead of impeachment, Pelosi still prefers to see Trump defeated at the ballot box and then prosecuted for his alleged crimes, according to the sources.
They said she was expressing solidarity with pro-impeachment Democrats who want to hold the president accountable while disputing the idea that it is now time to take that step. Pelosi has long argued that certain conditions must be met before Democrats begin impeachment — public support and strong bipartisan backing, neither of which have so far materialized.
And neither of which will, either. Democrats hyped Robert Mueller’s investigation and promised that he would produce smoking guns that proved collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. When Mueller failed to find any evidence of collusion with Russia and delivered an ambiguous conclusion on obstruction, most Americans lost confidence in the idea of impeachment. After all, if the 2016 election was legitimate, why reverse it?
This confrontation with Nadler explains Pelosi’s incoherent meltdown yesterday, blaming people for supposedly not grasping the nuance of impeachment. It also explains her insistence on characterizing impeachment as an indictment. That’s a roughly accurate analogy, but it appears that Pelosi’s hoping for indictments of other kinds. If so, she’s raising expectations again that can’t be met, at least not in relation to the Mueller report. The Department of Justice has already concluded that the obstruction allegations are not supportable, so what is left to prosecute?
The implication is that Pelosi’s trying to dig up anything that could be charged against the president after he leaves office. So far courts have allowed House Democrats to press forward on investigations by claiming that they have some legitimate legislative purpose. Statements like these could be used to demonstrate that the purposes of some investigations — particularly those into Trump’s business and personal records from prior to his presidential campaign — are part of a political vendetta. Expect Trump’s attorneys to start making that argument in the next round of subpoena challenges.
It has the aroma of payback, but let’s not kid ourselves. “Lock her up!” wasn’t exactly a chant of reasoned governance and apoliticized jurisprudence, either. We are getting to a point where turnabout goes beyond fair play and into hardened tactical choices. That does not bode well for self-governance, nor for recruiting good men and women to public life.
Beyond that, don’t expect that this will hold off the impeachment brigade for long. They don’t want to wait years to get their vengeance on Trump. They want it now, Mueller report be damned. And that, too, sounds awfully familiar.