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 GiulianiGrand jury adds additional counts against Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and and Igor Fruman Juan Williams: Breaking down the debates Giuliani criticizes NYC leadership: 'They're killing this city' 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 NunesSunday shows preview: With less than two months to go, race for the White House heats up Sunday shows preview: Republicans gear up for national convention, USPS debate continues in Washington Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief 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 SchiffTop Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence Overnight Defense: Top admiral says 'no condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' | Intelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings Overnight Defense: House to vote on military justice bill spurred by Vanessa Guillén death | Biden courts veterans after Trump's military controversies 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.


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 PelosiPelosi: Ginsburg successor must uphold commitment to 'equality, opportunity and justice for all' Bipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death Pelosi orders Capitol flags at half-staff to honor Ginsburg MORE (D-Calif.) to remind Americans that the courts will soon decide whether to order Giuliani, Bolton, Pompeo, Secretary of Energy Rick PerryRick PerryOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs major conservation bill into law | Senate votes to confirm Energy's No. 2 official | Trump Jr. expresses opposition to Pebble Mine project Senate votes to confirm Energy's No. 2 official MORE and Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceEx-Pence aide: Trump spent 45 minutes of task force meeting 'going off on Tucker Carlson' instead of talking coronavirus Trump asked Chamber of Commerce to reconsider Democratic endorsements: report Controversial CDC guidelines were written by HHS officials, not scientists: report MORE — all of whom have been implicated by EU Ambassador (“everyone was in the loop”) Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandGOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' Top Democrat slams Trump's new EU envoy: Not 'a political donor's part-time job' Trump names new EU envoy, filling post left vacant by impeachment witness Sondland 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 McConnellObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy MORE (R-Ky.) from orchestrating a trial in the Senate that is likely to constitute a defense of President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy 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.


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."