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 GiulianiSenate rejects subpoenaing Mulvaney to testify in impeachment trial GOP rejects effort to compel documents on delayed Ukraine aid Citizens United put out a welcome mat for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman 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 NunesDemocratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' House Democrats release second batch of Parnas materials Democratic lawmaker says Nunes threatened to sue him over criticism 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 SchiffThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Senate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial The Memo: Day One shows conflicting narratives on impeachment 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 PelosiOvernight Health Care: Justices won't fast-track ObamaCare case before election | New virus spreads from China to US | Collins challenger picks up Planned Parenthood endorsement Why Senate Republicans should eagerly call witnesses to testify Trump health chief: 'Not a need' for ObamaCare replacement plan right now MORE (D-Calif.) to remind Americans that the courts will soon decide whether to order Giuliani, Bolton, Pompeo, Secretary of Energy Rick PerryRick PerrySunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Parnas pressure grows on Senate GOP Overnight Energy: Appeals court tosses kids' climate suit | California sues Trump over fracking | Oversight finds EPA appointees slow-walked ethics obligations MORE and Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence attends sermon where bishop says 'demonic spirit' is behind homosexual attraction Mike Pence invoked a racist president and a scoundrel senator to defend Trump — did he even know it? Trump, Pence visit MLK memorial MORE — all of whom have been implicated by EU Ambassador (“everyone was in the loop”) Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandSenate rejects subpoenaing Mulvaney to testify in impeachment trial The Memo: Day One shows conflicting narratives on impeachment GOP rejects effort to compel documents on delayed Ukraine aid 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 McConnellTrump admin releases trove of documents on Ukrainian military aid The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions What to watch for on Day 2 of Senate impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.) from orchestrating a trial in the Senate that is likely to constitute a defense of President TrumpDonald John TrumpRouhani says Iran will never seek nuclear weapons Trump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions Trump says Bloomberg is 'wasting his money' on 2020 campaign 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."