An opinion writer for the Washington Post on Tuesday joined prominent Democrats in resisting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's newly announced opposition to impeachment proceedings against President Trump, although the columnist wistfully suggested that Pelosi could still "get it right" by effectively reversing course instead of continuing to voice her opinion on the matter.
In comments published by The Washington Post Magazine on Monday, Pelosi announced, “I’m not for impeachment. … Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country." She added: “And he’s just not worth it.”
Greg Sargent, who writes about national politics, charged that Pelosi had significantly "muddled the issue" by speaking up and "declaring a personal preference on the outcome" before the numerous investigations into Trump and his orbit are concluded. Moreover, Sargent explained, Pelosi was focusing on the "wrong question."
"It isn’t: Do you favor impeachment right now, yes or no?" Sargent wrote. "Rather, it’s: Are you ruling out impeachment hearings, or are you leaving that option open, depending on what emerges?"
Even so, Sargent saw some room for nuance in Pelosi's comments, writing with a hint of optimism, "In fairness to Pelosi, her comments don’t entirely preclude impeachment later."
There was also the slim chance Pelosi was not entirely wrong to voice her opinion that impeachment proceedings should only begin with bipartisan support, Sargent conceded. In fact, Sargent said, Pelosi's comments presented another important potential avenue of debate, full of possibilities and opportunities to argue with one another.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, joins Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as Democrats rally outside the Capitol ahead of passage of H.R. 1, "The For the People Act," a bill which aims to expand voting rights and strengthen ethics rules, in Washington, Friday, March 8, 2019. The House passed a resolution to condemn anti-Semitism and other bigotry on Thursday following debate over Omar’s recent comments suggesting House supporters of Israel have dual allegiances. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
"It’s possible that Pelosi genuinely believes the downsides to the country of hearings absent bipartisan backing militate against them no matter what the facts demand. If so, let’s litigate that, too," Sargent wrote.
But if Pelosi were more familiar with history, Sargent noted, she would know that impeachment proceedings — ordinarily considered divisive, unnecessary, and expensive — would be a positive and productive fact-finding exercise for all Americans to witness.
"It’s also odd to hear the argument that no inquiry should happen simply because the Senate probably would never convict," Sargent said. "Impeachment hearings would be carried out to benefit the public and the country, and thus can’t turn on projections of the ultimate outcome. … Just as during the Nixon years, the first step is congressional investigations (which we’re seeing now), which then might lead to the opening of impeachment hearings. Those would weigh whether newly gathered facts merit impeachment or not, to inform the public of the momentous stakes and complexities involved in this decision."
The Constitution technically prescribes impeachment only for treason, bribery, and "high crimes and misdemeanors," a broad term of art that virtually all legal scholars agree encompasses more than just criminal offenses. The framers knowingly appropriated the phrase from their English root: In the 17th and 18th centuries, it served as the basis for a variety of impeachments for behaviors by officeholders that, while objectionable, were not criminal.
That wiggle room, Sergent implied, made it impossible for Pelosi to rule out impeachment proceedings, even though she appeared to rule out impeachment proceedings.
"Even if special counsel Robert S. Mueller III brings no further charges, we may still learn a great deal more about Trumpian wrongdoing and misconduct (such as obstructing the Russia probe) from his findings, which Congress will likely access," Sergent concluded. "Former lawyer Michael Cohen’s claims of financial fraud have led to investigations by other entities. Of course impeachment hearings can’t be ruled out now."
Other Democrats seemingly agreed with Sargent's position this week. Outspoken Democratic Texas Rep. Al Green, for example, told Fox News he would bring articles of impeachment for a floor vote.
“Each member of the House has the prerogative to bring impeachment to a vote," Green said. "I intend to bring impeachment to a vote, and I will do so because the president has been acknowledged by leaders and others that he is not fit to hold the office. He’s causing harm to society and as such, he should be impeached.”
Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.