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 GiulianiTrump: Giuliani to deliver report on Ukraine trip to Congress, Barr Trump denies report that he still uses personal cell phone for calls Giuliani draws attention with latest trip to Ukraine 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 NunesTrump denies report that he still uses personal cell phone for calls The Hill's Morning Report - Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment Conservative Dan Bongino launches alternative to the Drudge Report 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 SchiffPence's office questions Schiff's request to declassify more material from official's testimony: report Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing Trump denies report that he still uses personal cell phone for calls 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 PelosiPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Democrats open door to repealing ObamaCare tax in spending talks Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing MORE (D-Calif.) to remind Americans that the courts will soon decide whether to order Giuliani, Bolton, Pompeo, Secretary of Energy Rick PerryRick PerryNew Energy secretary cancels Paris trip amid mass strikes against Macron proposal Mellman: The 'lane theory' is the wrong lane to be in Overnight Energy: Critics call EPA air guidance 'an industry dream' | New Energy secretary says Trump wants to boost coal | EPA looks to speed approval of disputed industry pollution permits MORE and Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Pence's office questions Schiff's request to declassify more material from official's testimony: report The House Judiciary Committee's fundamental choice MORE — all of whom have been implicated by EU Ambassador (“everyone was in the loop”) Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandSchiff: Impeachment testimony shows Trump 'doesn't give a shit' about what's good for the country The Memo: Will impeachment hurt Democrats or Trump? Trump vs. 130 years of civil service 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: 'No party should have too much power' Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills MORE (R-Ky.) from orchestrating a trial in the Senate that is likely to constitute a defense of President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax 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."