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Memo to Democrats: What's the rush?

Memo to Democrats: What's the rush?
© Greg Nash

Last  week, a lawyer for Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiLawyer for accused Capitol rioter says client had 'Foxitis,' 'Foxmania' Giuliani lays off staffers: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney MORE who has been indicted for violating federal campaign finance laws, told The Daily Beast that his client was willing to testify to Congress that Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesMcCarthy unveils House GOP task forces, chairs Former GOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer resigns Sunday shows preview: Russia, US exchange sanctions; tensions over policing rise; vaccination campaign continues MORE, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, asked former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin to dig up dirt on the Bidens. At about the same time, a State Department response to a nonprofit’s Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Secretary Mike Pompeo had contacts with Giuliani just prior to the firing of Ambassador Maria Yovanovich for largely-discredited accusations. And former National Security Adviser John Bolton, irked that the White House might have suppressed his Twitter account, hinted he might be ready to tell his “backstory.” On Monday, Federal Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson dismissed as “fiction” the claims of the Trump administration that presidential advisers are immune from being compelled to discuss their official duties and ordered former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify to Congress.

These news items, which are not surprising and may not be all that important, serve to remind us that many more shoes relevant to the impeachment investigation are likely to drop  — and that raises an important question: “Why do House Democrats — including Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump backs Stefanik to replace Cheney Gender politics hound GOP in Cheney drama Senate Intel vows to 'get to the bottom' of 'Havana syndrome' attacks MORE (D-Calif.) — seem intent on plunging ahead now with articles of impeachment?

To be sure, the Intelligence Committee’s hearings produced plenty of evidence of a quid pro quo bribe: a meeting at the White House for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as well as release of a military aid package for Ukraine in exchange for a public announcement of an investigation of the Bidens. The House leadership, moreover, is reluctant to interfere with the Democratic presidential primaries and caucuses that begin in Iowa and New Hampshire in February. Chastened by the muddled outcome of the Mueller probe, many Democrats — with good reason — want to keep the storyline of the impeachment trial simple.

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We think this rush to judgement is a mistake — and that an announcement of a pause in the investigation would be plausible, principled, and politically advantageous. Here are four reasons that support our argument:

First, a pause would allow Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July MORE (D-Calif.) to remind Americans that the courts will soon decide whether to order Giuliani, Bolton, Pompeo, Secretary of Energy Rick PerryRick PerryTomorrow's special election in Texas is the Democrats' best House hope in 2021 Overnight Energy: Michigan reps reintroduce measure for national 'forever chemicals' standard |  White House says gas tax won't be part of infrastructure bill Trump alumni launch America First Policy Institute MORE and Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceGOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories McConnell amid Trump criticism: 'I'm looking forward, not backward' Cheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts MORE — all of whom have been implicated by EU Ambassador (“everyone was in the loop”) Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandAmerica's practice of 'pay-to-play' ambassadors is no joke Graham's 'impeach Kamala' drumbeat will lead Republicans to a 2022 defeat GOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' MORE —  to cooperate with duly authorized congressional investigations. A favorable decision, she could add, is vital to protect our system of checks and balances against executive overreach.

Second, a pause will prevent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week GOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture MORE (R-Ky.) from orchestrating a trial in the Senate that is likely to constitute a defense of President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE and include subpoenas to compel Adam Schiff and Hunter Biden to testify. A pause, of course, will also prevent President Trump from claiming victory when the Senate fails to vote to remove him from office, perhaps with every Republican voting to exonerate him.

Third, a pause might enable Democrats to scrutinize President Trump’s tax returns for evidence relevant to their investigations. Early last week, Chief Justice John Roberts ordered a delay in a federal appeals court order for the immediate release of Trump’s  financial records. Even a conservative court, in our judgment, will probably eventually rule in favor of the House of Representatives.

Fourth, a pause might enable Democrats to build support during the spring and summer of 2020, especially among Independents (who at the moment are split, at best, over impeachment), for claims that President Trump is corrupt, has abused presidential power for his own personal and political gain, and does not deserve re-election.

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In our judgment, a decision about when or whether to schedule a House vote on articles of impeachment should follow definitive court decisions about witness testimony and the release of documents. In the meantime, Speaker Pelosi should assure Americans that the House of Representatives, in contrast to the Republican-controlled Senate, where legislation goes to die, will continue to do the people’ business.

Though zealous for a vote on impeachment, savvy Democrats, we predict, will come to see the wisdom of “a pause that refreshes.”

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of Rude Republic:  Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century

Sidney Tarrow is the Maxwell Upson Emeritus Professor of Government at Cornell University. He is author of Power in Movement (2011) and the co-editor (with David S. Meyer) of "The Resistance: The Dawn of the Anti-Trump Opposition Movement."