Trick or treat, Mr President?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to deliver the former with the House resolution — passed today entirely on party lines — outlining rules for the impeachment inquiry she announced more than a month ago. Ignoring precedent and the fact that every other presidential impeachment inquiry began with a House vote to authorize it, Pelosi insisted that because there was no constitutional requirement for a vote, she was under no obligation to hold one. She made sure to point out that today’s resolution wasn’t a vote to authorize the inquiry either — that would be admitting that the month of work Democrats have done so far wasn’t fair.
Yet even after she announced the resolution earlier this week, the text of which calls for ‘open and transparent investigative proceedings,’ Democrats continued their closed-door depositions, with the public only knowing what the Democrats decide to leak from them.
The trick is that though Pelosi herself finally gave in, reluctantly, after months (years?) of trying to stave off a possibly unpopular impeachment, Democrats in swing districts — especially those who in the midterms won seats in districts that voted for Trump two years before — still weren’t sold on the idea. That is likely the real reason Pelosi refused to allow the vote that preceded every other impeachment inquiry in history: those Democrats don’t want to go on record supporting something their constituents don’t want. Polls have repeatedly shown that support for impeaching President Trump doesn’t have even a plurality in battleground states.
But the trick is really a treat, giving the lie to those endless memes stating Pelosi has repeatedly ‘owned’ Trump. While Trump might have caved in the government shutdown battle — you’ll have seen the memes showing a confident Pelosi in a power-red coat — it was Pelosi who caved here. Every section of the House resolution responds to a complaint about the impeachment process so far. The very first item calls for ‘an open hearing or hearings,’ a tacit admission that the Democratic argument for keeping the public out of the loop in what is at base a political process was bogus.
The resolution also requires House Intelligence Committee chairman and impeachment inquiry leader Adam Schiff to release transcripts of his secret depositions and allows Republicans on the committees to subpoena their own witnesses, though with Democratic approval. This is no longer Adam Schiff’s one-man show.
But what’s happened to the real entertainment of impeachment, the Rudy Show? Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, has been the president’s personal lawyer since the Robert Mueller Russia-collusion investigation, and it’s his outreach to Ukraine that has, along with Trump’s July 25 telephone call to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky — in which the president mentioned Giuliani — been at the center of the inquiry. Giuliani’s media appearances have been the only thing worth watching throughout this process, but he’s been making fewer and fewer of them. He’s ‘banned’ himself from CNN, he told The Spectator, but he hasn’t been seen lately on Fox News Channel either. Should we be worried about America’s Mayor?
I think he’s simply switched strategies — to the president’s. Giuliani hasn’t been on television as much, but he has increased his presence on the president’s medium of choice. Like Trump, Giuliani has been using Twitter to get out exactly the messages he wants to get out, without having to worry about being interrupted or eye-rolled by Chris Cuomo. He’s also using it to let us know he’s having a better time than everyone else in Washington. He watched the Washington Nationals clinch their first World Series win with, it seems, Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher. And he’s still getting approached by fans of his tenure as New York mayor, including some who aren’t even yet American citizens.
As the impeachment inquiry continues, will Democrats finally let the president have representation at the hearings? Let’s hope so. And let’s hope the president picks Rudy to cross-examine witnesses — that would make having an impeachment process just a year before the election a lot more worthwhile.