Editorial | Pelosi says no

Editorial | Pelosi says no

While not disguising her contempt for President Donald Trump, the Democratic House leader has urged her party to abandon their efforts to run him out of office.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got everyone's attention this week, particularly her fellow Democrats, when she announced she's opposed to initiating an impeachment effort that would remove President Donald Trump from office.

That must have come as shocking and disappointing to members of her caucus who are chomping at the bit to impeach Trump — not today or tomorrow, but yesterday.

Pelosi has a big influence on her caucus, but her announcement won't go down easy. Perhaps that's why she argued it's smarter politics to try to defeat Trump's re-election effort in 2020 rather than waste time and resources to remove him from office between now and next year.

"I'm not for impeachment. Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there's something compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he's just not worth it," she said.

It's not clear what Pelosi meant when she said that "he's just not worth it." It appears to suggest that going after a hated foe, for a good reason or not, is not worth the risk to Democratic chances of capturing the White House next year.

Pelosi is certainly correct on one point. Impeachment is divisive. But while it's no guarantee of achieving substantial political gains, it's also no guarantee of wandering forever in the political wilderness.

Republicans fared poorly in the 1998 off-year elections after their doomed attempt to impeach President Bill Clinton for his perjurious acts to cover up his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

But Republicans won the White House in 2000, one reason being the baggage of the Clinton scandal that undermined the campaign of Al Gore, Clinton's vice president and designated successor.

Pelosi's comments come after U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler stated that he's convinced Trump has committed impeachable offenses and that he would initiate an impeachment investigation to come up with evidence to back up his accusations. Other legislators have not gone so far as to accuse Trump of impeachable behavior but justified the multiple ongoing Democratic House Committee investigation of Trump by saying they've "seen enough" to continue their inquiries.

Of course, a major factor in determining whether Democrats heed Pelosi's advice depends on the report filed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Since May 2017, the former FBI chief has been conducting a criminal/impeachment investigation of the Trump administration in connection with alleged Russian collusion with Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

So far, he has revealed nothing in his voluminous legal filings that support Democrats' charges that Trump criminally colluded with the Russians to win the presidency. His report — no doubt — can be expected to shed further light on whether investigators found any evidence to support that theory.

That's what Pelosi was referring to when she said that "unless there's something so compelling or overwhelming" uncovered, impeachment efforts should be dropped.

There is, of course, more to impeachment than just impeachment.

Democrats have the votes in the U.S. House of Representatives to impeach Trump for anything or everything. But that is just the first act of a two-act play. Impeachment in the House is followed by a trial in the Senate on the charges that make up the impeachment indictment — conviction requires a two-thirds vote.

That was a bridge too far in the Clinton impeachment trial, and Pelosi is suggesting the results would be no different in a Trump impeachment trial. It's a fair warning, one Democrats would be well-advised to heed — if they're capable of doing so.

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