Ok so hear me out for a second.
There has been a lot of talk about impeachment the past couple days and I just want to try and clarify something
There are only two things set in stone as of right now, 12/21/19
1) the house has passed articles of impeachment against President trump
2) Nancy Pelosi has said she plans to withhold the articles of impeachment from the senate
That’s it. That’s where we’re at. Articles of impeachment have been passed, but not between hands. They’re now in constitutional limbo, stuck in between the house and the senate
So what happens next?
To answer that, take everything you’ve heard about how this impeachment will end. All the news pundits, news article spins, and direct words of our elected officials. Take all of that, and toss it out the gotdamn window
Because the simple fact is nobody knows what happens from here.
There are wayyyyyyy to many variables at play to even make a guess, let alone an educated guess. There is no historical precedent for the House of Representatives witholding articles of impeachment against a president from the senate. This has literally never happened in the 243 years the United States has existed. And while precedent dictates that the house turn over articles of impeachment immediately after being passed, precedent is not law. The constitution is what is law. And the constitution is horribly vague.
The constitution lays out the general rules for impeachment. It says that the house has the sole power of impeachment, and the senate has the sole power to try all impeachments. It says that a 2/3 vote is required in the senate to convict. And… that’s about it. It doesn’t say what needs to happen if the house refuses to turn over the articles. It doesn’t lay out a plan for an impartial or biased senate. The constitution was designed to be a guideline, not a goverment GPS that can hone in on specific situations and give you the directions on how to end them.
And because of this, we have TONS of unanswered questions about this very specific situation that we have never been in before.
Can the senate hold the trial without the articles? How long can Nancy hold on to the articles? Would a senate trial without the articles be legit or would it get tossed out? Has trump technically been impeached? Will the Supreme Court have to get involved before the trial even begins?
All of these questions can be classieifed under one of the biggest unknowns right now. What will the constitution allow? Constitutional scholars and law professors are doing their best to answer this question, but they simply cannot decide on what powers, exactly, the constitution grants, and to whom. They disagree with each other because the constitution can be interpreted in many different ways, and there is no historical rulings or situations to compare the current impeachment to.
Luckily, the judicial branch was created for this exact situation. They interpret the law, and it will most likely be up to them to decide who gets what powers and when they can be applied. But this route raises even more questions. Does the Supreme Court have the right to rule on what the house and senate can do? If so, how long will it take them to cast a ruling? They schedule out months in advance. Maybe they will prioritize it and will rule on it next week? Can a lower court chime in? Only time will answer these questions.
But don’t worry! There’s plenty of other layers and arguments to this impeachment process beyond just legal analysis. Impeachment is both a constitutional and a political process, and the politics of the situation are just as important as the legality of it.
Nancy’s decision to withold the articles has put the democrats and republicans in a political corner neither wants to be in. Both sides have everything to gain and everything to lose with this impeachment. Washington DC and our government quite literally hangs in the balance of power between republicans and democrats right now, and both sides are going to be playing their cards extremely carefully from here on out, afraid and unknown of what the other side will play, and what the effects of their actions will be.
If Mitch decides that not having a trial benefits him and trump, then he may simply accept that Nancy is holding the articles and say “ok, no trial is fine with me”, and political limbo ensues. He may want a trial tomorrow, because maybe he thinks that is what will benefit him and trump the most. Maybe his desire for a trial will override the leverage he holds by not having a trial. We just don’t know what action he will decide to take, or the effect his actions will have.
On the other hand, if Nancy can hold the articles indefinitely, does that give her the advantage of being able to secure a fair trial? Does she hold the articles so the house can continue to investigate? Her position, with the articles of impeachment pocketed and their release at her control, gives her a good bit of leverage. But will it be enough? And how will she use it?
The politics of the situation are far reaching and almost impossible to nail down. Each situation and analysis raises questions upon questions that we just don’t have the answers to. There are going to be debates, and people will tell you that what they say is true, but the simple fact is that nobody knows what the end result will be.
The only this that is assured, though, is that if either side misplays their hand over the next few weeks or even months, they could seriously damage their position leading into…
2020. Because this political cluster f**k doesn’t already have enough twists and turns in it.
We can’t forget that there is a presidential election in under a year. Primaries are supposed to start within the next few months, and our congress is locked in a battle over how they are going to put the president on trial. This elevates the impact the 2020 elections will have on impeachment, and vice versa.
Once again, there are hundreds of unanswered questions about how the 2020 elections will play in to this process, and how the impeachment process will play into the elections. I can rant on for hours about what if’s and possible scenarios, and each and every one has a possibility of coming true.
And the thing is… John Bolton could decide to testify tomorrow morning. Trump could tweet out later tonight that he wants to testify. The house could start drafting additional articles of impeachment. Mulvaney and Pompeo could resign. The senate could subpoena trump. Trump could resign. There are still hundreds of other variables that can be put into play that I haven’t even mentioned.
So. I know this was a lot. I know I just threw out a lot of different rhetorical questions and hypotheticals for what boils down to “we don’t know what will happen”. But the reason why I did this is to prove that absolutely nothing is set in stone, and that there is way too much going on to make a guess as to how this will end.
The next few steps in Donald trumps impeachment are breaking into new political and historical ground that this country hasn’t seen in a very long time, if ever. And it’s important for you and me and everyone else to remember that no matter what the news or your friends or even the president himself says, there are going to be unexpected twists and drastic turns. There are going to be moments that everybody saw coming, and there are going to be moments that nobody saw coming. We are wading through a political minefield while blindfolded, and the process of impeachment isn’t even halfway over. This could drag on for months. Or it could end tomorrow.
And, as of right now, the only thing that’s guaranteed is nothing