Pelosi’s Blunder: How The House Destroyed Its Own Case For Impeachment

Below is my column in The Hill Newspaper on the blunder by Speaker Nancy Pelosi of not submitting the impeachment case to the Senate — a mistake that now threatens not just the trial but the rules for impeachment trials.

On Sunday, Pelosi went largely unchallenged in her obviously incorrect claim that the House is still in court seeking witnesses in the impeachment. The House is litigating pre-impeachment witnesses, but has never sought to subpoena, let alone compel, key witnesses in the impeachment from John Bolton to Rudy Giuliani to others with direct knowledge of any alleged quid pro quo. Indeed, the House has done nothing for four weeks after the vote – a vote that I strongly discouraged in favor of spending a couple months seeking these witnesses and/or court orders. Now Pelosi is actually suggesting that they could still seek the witnesses while the House does nothing. It remains the most baffling blunder of the impeachment.

Here is the column:

“Situation quiet. The captain has been put away for the night.” The words from the movie “The Caine Mutiny” came to mind on Friday when House leaders announced that Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not move until next week in submitting the impeachment of President Trump to a Senate trial. While various Democrats have publicly grumbled about the delay, going into its fourth week, without any sign of success in forcing the Senate to call witnesses, Pelosi continued a strategy that could jeopardize not just any trial but the rules governing impeachment. Indeed, Pelosi may force the Senate into a couple of unprecedented but well deserved rulings.

From the outset, the ploy of Pelosi withholding the House impeachment articles was as implausible as it was hypocritical. There was no reason why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would make concessions to get an impeachment that he loathed. More importantly, just a couple of days earlier, House leaders insisted that some of us were wrong to encourage them to wait on an impeachment vote to create a more complete record. Pelosi previously insisted that House committees could not pursue direct witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton because there was no time to delay in getting this impeachment to the Senate. She then waited a month and counting to send the articles over to the Senate.

The delay now seems largely driven by a desire to preserve the image of Pelosi as a master strategist despite a blunder of the first order. Senator Dianne Feinstein expressed the frustration of many members in saying, “The longer it goes on, the less urgent it becomes. So if it is serious and urgent, send them over. If it is not, do not send it over.” But she and other members were quickly pressured to “correct” their earlier statements by stating the exact opposite and praising the brilliant strategy of Pelosi.

Perhaps the most pathetic change was House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, who correctly stated, “At the end of the day, just like we control it in the House, Mitch McConnell controls it in the Senate. It does not look like that is going to happen. I think it is time to send the impeachment to the Senate and let Mitch McConnell be responsible for the fairness of the trial. He ultimately is.” It took just a few hours for Pelosi to get Smith to say that he “misspoke” and praise her inspired strategy.

Now what started as a demand to guarantee Senate witnesses has been downgraded to a demand to “know the rules” while waiting for the Senate to take a vote that it indicated weeks ago. In the alternative, sympathetic media figures insisted that Pelosi succeeded in “forcing a discussion” of Senate witnesses despite the fact that we had the same discussion in the trial of Bill Clinton without the House deciding to withhold the articles.

The fact is that Pelosi played into the hands of McConnell by first rushing this impeachment forward with an incomplete record and now giving him the excuse to summarily change the rules, or even to dismiss the articles. Waiting for the House to submit a list of managers was always a courtesy extended by Senate rules and not a requirement of the Constitution. By inappropriately withholding the articles of impeachment and breaking with tradition, Pelosi simply gave McConnell ample reason to exercise the “nuclear option” and change the rules on both majority voting as well as the rule for the start of trials. That is a high price to pay for vanity.

It could get even worse for the House case. I previously discussed that the Senate had an excuse to simply declare that a trial will start next week and either the House will appear with a team of managers or the case will be summarily dismissed. McConnell is now moving toward a summary vote in the Senate, in light of the House failing to comply with its own procedural obligations. That is what happens when prosecutors defy a court and fail to appear for a trial. It is known as “dismissal for want of prosecution.”

The Senate also is faced with two threshold problems that could create lasting damage to this process. First, the obstruction of Congress count, as I previously discussed, raises a troubling position that a president can be impeached for going to the courts rather than turning over evidence, even when the House set a ridiculously brief period for an investigation. The Senate could summarily reject that article as making the request for judicial review into a high crime and misdemeanor while allowing little time for deliberation. Second, if the Senate agrees to the Democratic demand for witnesses, it invites future rush impeachments where the House sends woefully incomplete and inadequate cases and demands witnesses it never bothered to subpoena, let alone compel to appear.

The Senate is, therefore, caught in a tough position of enabling the House in such slipshod impeachments or refusing to hear witnesses who, unlike the witnesses called by the House, could have direct evidence to share on the allegations. One possibility is that, as in a real court, the Senate could allow witnesses but give the House a set trial schedule. If the House wants to belatedly go to court to try to enforce a subpoena, the Senate will hear the testimony of witnesses like Bolton when that expedited litigation is complete. However, it will not extend the trial schedule of the Senate.

Trials will usually last a fraction of the time of an investigation, but few investigations are as hurried or heedless as the House investigation was. The House wasted four months after the whistleblower complaint without issuing a subpoena to Bolton or Rudy Giuliani or others. Had it sought to compel such subpoenas, it would have had rulings from the courts by now. Indeed, it took only three months for the appeal over the Watergate tapes to be ruled on by the Supreme Court in the case of Richard Nixon.

The Senate could set a generous period for the trial of three weeks. That is in addition to the four weeks the House wasted on the poorly conceived ploy by Pelosi. If the House is ready to present these witnesses, they can be heard. But if those witnesses are not ready to testify due to ongoing litigation, they will not be called and the Senate will proceed to its verdict. In that way, future Houses are now on notice that it is in their interest to complete their records before sending an impeachment to the Senate.

It would send a message for future impeachments, as the author Herman Wouk wrote, “Remember this, if you can. There is nothing more precious than time. You probably feel you have a measureless supply of it, but you have not. Wasted hours destroy your life just as surely at the beginning as at the end, only in the end it becomes more obvious.” It is now obvious.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law for George Washington University and served as the last lead counsel during a Senate impeachment trial. He testified as a witness expert in the House Judiciary Committee hearing during the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. He also serves as CBS and BBC legal analyst.

368 thoughts on “Pelosi’s Blunder: How The House Destroyed Its Own Case For Impeachment”

  1. Parnas says Jay Sekulow was in the loop, though he opposed the shakedown. This raises a serious question as to whether he can act as a Trump attorney in the impeachment, since he is allegedly a party to the events in question. Similarly Rep.Nunes, who now admits to talking to Parnas, who mysteriously had his cell number, was the ranking minority member during the intelligence committee hearings while also a party to these events and he names Fox News legal commentators Toensig and DeGenova (so?) as a also involved with the effort.. Parnas also said that as part of his work on Ukraine he reviewed collected evidence on VP Biden. “He did nothing wrong”.

    Those hoping that Parnas will be shown to be lying should keep in mind the corroborating evidence he is turning over, and should also welcome his appearing before the Senate were presumably he can be exposed on cross examination.

    1. PS Parnas said that U. Prosecutor Lutsenko required Amb. Marie’s firing before he would attack Biden publicly. She was removed and Lutsenko made his statement.

    2. “Parnas says”

      This sounds like Avenatti all over again with a bit of Michael Cohen. Anyone remember what Anon said at the time. He has been wrong so many times he can’t remember.

    3. PS In a text (now in evidence) to a GOP donor who was funding some of his travels, Parnas told him on April 23 “the bomb drops tomorrow.” Ambassador Marie was removed on April 24. That evidence corroborates his centrality to the Trump machinations in the Ukraine.

    4. well I guess if Parnas says so it ALL must be true. too bad he wasn’t around during the Sham Schiff Show when he easily could have been a witness. Now that impeachment has moved to Senate where new witnesses are not guaranteed he is chomping at the bit all but begging let me get in there to testify. all the while crossing his fingers behind his back hoping the Senate will vote against any new witnesses. Just so unfortunate the timing of all this. Parnas would have been such a solid witness during the Sham Schiff show yet he was too busy to provide us with all these truths.

  2. The feminists of the left are going to have a hard time dealing with this if they accept the word of this 8 year old girl. After all the individual involved believes himself to be that person. That means he is an year old girl according to the feminists of the left.

    45-Year-Old Man Caught With Child Pornography Says He Identifies as an 8-Year-Old Girl

  3. Interesting opinion piece in the WSJ yesterday by Daniel Henniger. Here’s a snippet:

    Can Trump Earn Black Support?
    Biden, Sanders and Warren would say these new minority jobs fell like manna from heaven. The workers getting them may credit the president.

    He goes on to say regarding 3 recent opinion polls Emerson, Marist and Rasmussen registering 30% support among black voters:

    The reason this unlikely 30% number breaks the seals in Democratic heads is that for years it has been a rule of thumb in politics that if black support for Republicans ever reached 20% of the total vote, a Democratic presidential candidate would not be able to win, ever.

  4. Have you ever seen a personality disorder as bad as N. Pelosi? Few have. And its a good thing.
    She is Queen Monarch over the elected Dem’s of the House.

    If you ever say anything bad about her governing style, she threatens to withhold any reelection campaign funds. Even worse she will fund a same party opponent.

    Senator Dianne Feinstein expressed the frustration of many members in saying, “The longer it goes on, the less urgent it becomes. So if it is serious and urgent, send them over. If it is not, do not send it over.” But she and other members were quickly pressured to “correct” their earlier statements by stating the exact opposite and praising the brilliant strategy of Pelosi. What a B**ch she is.
    Oh, and don’t forget she hides behind the Catholic shield, too.

  5. As the world advances (?) there is more evidence than ever before of way too many people (mostly liberal politicians) who think of themselves above the rest of us. And even God. Their behavior is easily described as ego maniacs, self absorbed, self centered, very egotistical, self-infatuated and clearly evident of Narcissist personality disorder. N. Pelosi thinks she is above the Pope when she pushed abortion to the 9th month. There are many examples but for some reason the ones that come to mind seem to be liberal elected Democrats. I am old enough to remember that Democrats stood for something other than displaying an out of control TDS.

  6. MJ correctly throws shade on JT’s “precedenr” fixation for an event roughly outlined in the constitution – time is not mentioned, nor are witnesses – and only occurring twice before in our history. Pelosi could do what she wants within the constitution and she has to great effect. Since the House voted to impeach Bolton has announced he would testify, more evidence going to intent and the timeline of the alleged charges have become available, Senators have had time to feel the heat of the country’s desire for more witnesses, and now Trump/Guliani goon Parnas has told his story and released corroborating evidence.

    Among his allegations are that the Joe Biden, not “corruption in Ukraine” was always Trump’s target, that Trump knew exactly what he was doing, no one in the Ukraine would have given him the time of day if he was not known to be Trump and Guliani’s guy, that Bolton does have corroborating evidence, and that Pence, Pompeo, and Barr were all in the loop. Oh yeah, Nune’s finally admitted remembering talking to Parnassus last night, though his Fox “News” interviewer did not press him on what about, or how Parnassus had his cell number.

    This will get more interesting, not less, and of course the fear of GOP Senators should be what will come out after they ramrod the case, if they do, which will make them look like fools – that would be the upside – or complicit in a cover up.

    As a citizen who doesn’t want future presidents feeling free to muscle foreign governments for personal gain, thanks Nancy for not reading or listening to JT.

    1. bythebook – I just listened to Sen Graham and he seems to think there will be no witnesses and no new evidence.

      1. Pelosi’s embarrassing theater in the hallowed US House, at the expense of Americans, coupled with Lieawatha’s smear of Sanders, CNN bias, Schiff lying, and all of other truly sordid examples, have coalesced to choose Sanders as the antiDNC candidate

        expect a bloodbath that dwarfes the Hillary-Debbie-Donna Brazille DNC fiasco


      2. bythebook – I just listened to Sen Graham and he seems to think there will be no witnesses and no new evidence.
        There will be witnesses and new evidence, but it will not happen until right before the election when it will have the greatest impact in helping Trump get re-elected.

          1. blame the opposition for Democratic stupidity
            It might be stupidity, but I suspect that Trump has cut a deal with the Democrats. Trump gets four more years in the WH and the Dems get the House and Senate. To make this deal work the Dems will have to throw their presidential candidate under the bus and Trump will have to throw a couple of Rep. Senators under the bus.
            A good time will be had by all.

            1. Trump tries to do what Trump thinks is in the best interests of the United States people. Since when elected he was neither a Typical republican or a typical Democrat the Democrats had a chance to make deals with him that could have provided some of the things they wanted until the total breakdown of morality afflicted the Democratic Party. They didn’t and Trump learned that if he were to give in to Democratic desires a type of chaos would occur since Democrats are not known to keep their word.

              We see that with you Anon since everytime a good counter argument is presented at your request you don’t deal with it and all too frequently your facts are wrong. That makes you a waste of time in political debates and to date you seem unwilling or unable to change your modus opperandi.

              1. Trump tries to do what Trump thinks is in the best interests of the United States people.
                When you see what I predicted come true I am confident you will say it was in the best interests of the United States people
                Democrats had a chance to make deals with him that could have provided some of the things they wanted
                What makes you think the Dem leadership is not getting what they wanted?

                1. “When you see what I predicted come true I am confident you will say it was in the best interests of the United States people”

                  Anon we have already seen at least a dozen things you said that turned out completely opposite to what you believed. Do you wish to defend any of them or just let them go so that in a passive way you admit how wrong you have been.

      3. ” he seems to think there will be no witnesses ”

        Paul, is that because Hillary will get to them first? 🙂

    2. Seriously? So when Biden bragged on air that he wouldn’t release money to Ukraine unless they fired the prosecutor looking into his son and Burisma…oh wait. He’s a Democrat. His words weren’t his words, he was possessed. The cognitive dissonance in some of you people just amazes me.

      1. Seriously? So when Biden bragged on air that he wouldn’t release money to Ukraine unless they fired the prosecutor looking into his son and Burisma…

        That is not what he bragged.

  7. SMITH! Knowing all the players as I thought I did, who the hell is Adam Smith? Twice in the same paragraph it says SMITH- Adam Smith.

  8. “breaking with tradition”

    Is this a legal opinion? It sure doesn’t sound like one. A statistical would suggest there is zero “tradition” for an event that has only occurred twice before.

    As for the rest, what does it matter? DeLay used to (figuratively) whip the heck out of his caucus, and was considered a master strategist himself. It’s standard procedure for political parties to suggest things that are false and refute the inconvenient. Legally it makes no difference, so this isn’t much of a scholarly opinion. If you’re still in doubt, look no further than all the Republicans defending Trump.

  9. Oh please, Professor. It seems you see everything about Pelosi’s strategy as lacking any unstated purposes. Further, analogies to court trial procedure are only analogies. And suggesting Pelosi should follow the process indicated, if at all, by prior impeachments, when McConnell ignores much stronger precedent in regard to the confirmation process denied to Judge Garland is a bit rich. It will enfold as it will, but it will now include evidence from Parnas that should weigh heavily on any senator with an ounce of loyalty to the constitution. It is truly silly to think that Pelosi believed she could force McConnell to do anything; but she forced the public to learn his independence is matched by his partiality that cannot be squared with the oath he will take when the trial begins. if you want to make a trial analogy of that, then go there: he would be dismissed from the jury panel for cause.

    1. Parnas – Seriously? He’s about as good a witness as Hunter Biden when it comes to believability.

    2. “… his (McConnell) independence is matched by his partiality…”
      Yeah, and Schumer/Warren/Spartacus/Kamala ARE INDEPENDENT AND FAIR-MINDED!!!!

    3. “when McConnell ignores much stronger precedent in regard to the confirmation process denied to Judge Garland”

      Let’s not forget it was Harry Reid a Democrat who decided to use the nuclear option. It is amazing how easily Democrats forget what they did and then complain when Republicans use the same tactics on them. Look at impeachment. Totally political and should never have been considered especially since impeachment has been brought up since the first days of Trump’s win. Then look at the one sided House hearings that didn’t permit Republican witnesses and Republican interrogation. Democrats will invariably complain if Republicans use the same tactics. They are a bunch of whiners that today care little about the nation.

  10. Obstruction of Congress and abuse of power are not enumerated High crimes or misdemeanors. And since no bribery or treason was alleged these are not even articles of impeachment. They are nebulus word salads set forth to try and appease the radical left. President Donald J. Trump has not been impeached, he never will be, Angie is going to be re-elected November of 2020. So enjoy your night, PDJT will still be your President tomorrow, and all the way through 2025. The difference will be, his MAGA/KAG agenda will now have an overwhelming mandate.

    1. Yes, those are high crimes because the House of Representatives so voted. Donald Trump is impeached.

      1. The House could pass a bill stating that you’re a ham sandwich. It wouldn’t make it true. Pushing this to the Supreme Court – you’d find probably a 9-0 ruling that Obstruction of Congress (technically, just one half of Congress) and Abuse of Power are not impeachable offenses, as they are not crimes NOR misdemeanors.

        1. Shanghaid Dan, the Supreme Court has already pointed out precisely what the Constitution states: high crimes are for the House of Representatives to determine. A high crime is not a statutory crime but whatever the House of Representatives finds is a violation of high office.

          Donald Trump is impeached on two accounts of high crimes. The House of Representatives so voted.

          1. No. The House of Representatives did not vote on this. The Democratic Party in the House voted for this. In which they will pay heavy and grave price in November 2020. Nancy Pelosi days as Speaker are numbered. History will judge her harshly for this idiocy.

          2. “ high crimes are for the House of Representatives to determine.”

            It doesn’t make it true however. For being a mathematician or whatever academic career you once had, you consistently betray any semblance of objectivity and the use of facts to make rational arguments

            Is Yale Psychiatrist, Dr Bandy Lee, your kin?

        2. true that they are not “crimes or misdemeanors” literally,

          not true that these articles are per se invalid bases as “high crimes and misdemeanors” for impeachment purposes– simply because they are not literal crimes. the point has been made and i believe i correctly understand that IN THEORY a non-criminal abuse of power COULD be a convict-able article of impeachment, IF the Senate agreed. Not likely in this situation but possible. So, for example, the House could impeach (indict) a POTUS as an AUSA could indict a ham sandwich, but it might have a snowball’s chance of leading to conviction, if I can mix metaphors.

          I don’t think they are bad or even serious allegations approaching what WOULD suport a conviction, but they “could,”

          these are semantic points but valid distinctions nonetheless

      2. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-two citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after fifty-nine weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – Just because some of the Democratic members of the House said so, does not make it so.

    2. Rather irrelevant. The constitution does not enumerates ANY high crimes or misdemeanors. It just says high crimes and misdemeanors. You’d LOVE article 10 for Andrew Johnson’s impeachment:

      “10. On numerous occasions, made “with a loud voice, certain intemperate, inflammatory, and scandalous harangues, and did therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces … against Congress [and] the laws of the United States duly enacted thereby, amid the cries, jeers and laughter of the multitudes then assembled and within bearing””

      Considered a “high crime and misdemeanor”. And in case there is any confusion, being loud and intemperate was no more a crime then than now.

        1. When Ben Franklin was asked what type of government we had he responded: “A Republic, if You Can Keep It”

          He didn’t have a name for those who should be blamed for destroying a good thing. Today we do have such a name. They are called Democrats.

    3. “They are nebulous word salads…..”

      Word salad is a defining trait of Democrat leaders today, enabled by their adoring sycophants in the liberal media.

      AOC spoke word salad on MSNBC and Chris Hayes’ response was classic. The following video captures the AOC MSNBC exchange. It is sponsored by a mental health organization and uses the AOC word salad interview to offer their counseling services!




      AOC: I think a lot of it has to do with changing our strategy around governance you know there’s a lot of inside baseball and inside the beltway as you you know you always share that term thrown around but there are very few organizers in Congress and I do think that organizers operate differently it’s a different kind of strategy and what it is is really about organizing and and really thinking about that word organizing segmenting people being strategic in their actions in really bringing together a cohesive strategy of putting pressure on the chamber instead of only focusing on the pressures inside the chamber

      MSNBC Chris Hayes: that’s really interesting

      1. Lol. Did you hear Trump talk about windmills? It’s the least coherent discussion of windmills since Don Quixote.

  11. The Senate should slap Pelosi in the face with her document and tell her to go back to her desk and do it again, properly this time.
    AND then set a time limit for that process under threat of holding her and her entire gaggle in contempt of court.

    1. It is proper. The House of Representatives sets it’s own rules & standards for impeachment. It is now done; Donald Trump has been impeached.

      1. True. There are no rules regarding impeachment articles. A biased house could impeach a bowl of soup for being too hot. Trump has been impeached, but only a mindless slug would think it meant anything.

        1. Trump has been impeached, but only a mindless slug would think it meant anything.

          I believe that warrants repeating.

  12. OT, but related to a convo down-thread —

    Ali Soufan:

    “Just as the misguided American invasion of Iraq in 2003 revitalized Al Qaeda, some 17 years later, a return to chaos in the same country may yet do the same for the Islamic State. My take in @NYTOpinion … via @NYTOpinion”

    Why ISIS Is Delighted That Suleimani Is Dead

    The jihadists are poised for a comeback.

    By Ali H. Soufan

    Mr. Soufan is a former F.B.I. special agent and the author of “Anatomy of Terror.”

    Jan. 14, 2020

    “Like all terrorist groups, the Islamic State draws fuel from chaos and division. The killing of General Suleimani promises much of both to come. The Islamic State still has deep pockets, affiliates around the world, and a knack for recruitment. General Suleimani’s death will have its leaders rubbing their hands in anticipation.

    “The damage is done. Without a major cooling of tensions, a jihadist resurgence might now be all but inevitable.”

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