Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is refusing to transmit the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump that the House of Representatives passed on Wednesday evening to the Senate for a trial.
She is, in the words of the articles, guilty of “obstruction of Congress.” And unlike President Trump, Speaker Pelosi has no constitutional basis whatsoever for refusing the request of one of the two houses that make up the legislative branch.
For weeks, Democrats have insisted that the president needed to be impeached and removed from office as soon as possible. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), in his House Intelligence Committee report, declared: “Given the proximate threat of further presidential attempts to solicit foreign interference in our next election, we cannot wait to make a referral until our efforts to obtain additional testimony and documents wind their way through the courts.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) argued at the December 9 hearing on that report: “We agree that when the elections themselves are threatened by enemies foreign or domestic, we cannot wait until the next election to address the threat.” He made the point again during the House debate on impeachment Wednesday: “The threat is urgent. If we do not act — now — what happens next will be our responsibility as well as his.”
And Speaker Pelosi herself, opening House debate on the articles of impeachment Wednesday, declared: “If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty.”
Yet just hours later, after House Democrats had done her bidding and impeached the president, Pelosi told journalists that she was not yet prepared to deliver the articles of impeachment to the Senate. She claimed not to have decided yet who the House “managers” of the trial in the Senate would be.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are both complaining that Republicans will not offer a “fair trial” in the Senate — that is, a fair trial for the prosecution, not for the president.
Yet even Schumer himself, in arguing for additional witnesses to be called in the Senate, told CNN as recently as Monday morning: “We’re not trying to be dilatory. We’re trying to have the kind of justice America is known for, which is swift but fair justice.”
Now, however, Pelosi is dragging her feet, amidst reports that she will not transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate until early January.
It is not clear why the Senate needs to wait: Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution says clearly: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.”
Regardless of the formal transmission of documents, the Constitution allows the Senate to hold a trial as soon as an impeachment takes place in the House.
But Pelosi is claiming otherwise, apparently relying on the advice of left-wing law professors and the support of liberal legal analysts on cable news. She is no longer rushing the process; she is now obstructing it, knowing that there is no two-thirds majority for removal in the Senate, which may even dismiss the charges as unconstitutional.
Unlike Trump, who can cite text and precedent in resisting subpoenas, Pelosi’s delay is unlawful and unprecedented.
Nancy Pelosi is therefore guilty of obstruction of Congress.
She will fail, but just as the Democrats have told us for weeks that the president can be impeached for “attempting” to do something they consider wrong, Pelosi, too, can be held accountable to attempting to undermine the Constitution.
When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell loses patience and moves to dismiss the impeachment, he should add another charge — against Pelosi, for contempt.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.