Donald Trump’s true opponent is not Joe Biden or any of the other Democrats vying for the nomination. It’s Nancy Pelosi. Her announcement that a formal impeachment inquiry is beginning should come as a nasty shock to Trump. Pelosi is the one Democrat he has been unable to cow and bully. Instead, she has repeatedly outmaneuvered him. In her lapidary statement today she emphasized that ‘no one is above the law’. That was basically it. The message was clear. She came across as calm, reassuring and understated.

No doubt Trump may have inadvertently bolstered Biden’s chances to gain the nomination by targeting his candidacy for destruction with the help of the Ukrainian government. If he plays his cards right, Biden can go on the offense. He can rightly ask just why Trump is so terrified of his candidacy.

For his part Trump may enjoy the fight. But an impeachment inquiry will make it more difficult for the administration to defy Democratic subpoenas. The most pressing question for Trump will be the loyalty of Senate Republicans, including majority leader Mitch McConnell. They would not hesitate to bolt to Mike Pence, though Trump may well sack him sooner than later. Can he appoint an acting vice president, the better to quash him or her?

The administration will go all out to tout its transcript of its call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky while seeking to muffle the deep state whistleblower. It will take all of Attorney General William P. Barr’s pettifoggery to accomplish the task but the betting has to be that his or her piercing cries will eventually be heard. The Senate also unanimously approved a non-binding resolution today urging the administration to disgorge the whistleblower complaint.

In sanctioning a formal inquiry, Pelosi is leveling the playing field. Trump is likely to become increasingly frenzied. Maybe impeachment hearings will blow up in the face of the Democrats but for now they appear to have caught Trump napping.