Friday, February 07, 2020

Lawfare Throws House Impeachment ClownCar Under the Bus

lawfare |  But how the impeachment inquiry itself was conducted had an effect as well. Undoubtedly, the process suffered in part from the inherently political nature of the House. As political scientists are wont to emphasize, Congress is a they, not an it. Democratic leaders were cross-pressured by factions within their coalition who were eager to rush ahead with an impeachment and by those who were uncertain and reluctant about the political desirability of an impeachment. The House stumbled through a messy process in part because the majority was uncertain where it was going.

The House also seemed to struggle to contain the egos and ambitions of its own members. When the Ukraine story broke and it became obvious that an impeachment inquiry was on the horizon, Democrats proved unable to make the choices necessary to put the best case forward. Rather than entrusting the inquiry to a single permanent committee or appointing a select committee for this particular task, the Democrats allowed the inquiry to be divided across multiple committees with no clear leadership. Rather than keeping the focus on the administration’s misconduct, the House catered to the political needs of individual members looking to get their own share of the national spotlight. Rather than systematically exposing the available facts and constructing a coherent narrative of events, the House generated a confusion of soundbites and political posturing.

Having begun the investigation without any clear plan for proceeding, the impeachment inquiry lacked both transparency and organization and generated needless procedural puzzles and oppositional talking points. The president’s defense team has made a great deal out of the House conducting depositions in a “basement bunker” closed to the public. Yet not only is there nothing wrong with a congressional process for investigating diplomatic conduct that includes a phase in executive session behind closed doors, but it is the only sensible approach. However, the Republicans were given more of a talking point by the Democrats’ inability to outline a comprehensive plan for how the investigation would proceed. Members of the Democratic leadership themselves struggled to get on the same page on whether and when an impeachment inquiry had been launched, and even when Pelosi was willing to declare that a formal impeachment inquiry had begun, she was unwilling to provide a blueprint for how such an inquiry would proceed.