- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan to stall President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial has been hailed by some as a tactical triumph that could force concessions from Republicans.
- But Republicans will likely portray the move as another example of obstructionism and gridlock typical of a hated Washington elite.
- Polls show that Republican attacks on the Democrat impeachment strategy as a waste of time may be working.
- A December 3 poll by Firehouse Strategies shows that many voters in swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin oppose the process.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement that she may delay President Trump’s impeachment trial has been hailed in some quarters as a tactical masterstroke.
Pelosi claims that, until Republicans reveal the format of the trial, she could delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
She says this is to counter the unfairness of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell working with the White House to skew the trial in Trump’s favor.
Some top Democrats and pundits argue that that a delay is Trump’s worst nightmare.
By delaying the trial, so they argue, Trump’s credibility will be further eroded by a steady stream of new information about his now well-documented push for Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son.
Democrats, in this scenario, will gain valuable leverage to extract concessions from Senate Republicans on the terms of the trial.
But there is a risk the strategy could backfire, and do more damage to Democrats seeking to win back the presidency in 2020 than to the Republicans trying to retain it.
A clue of how Trump and his allies could seek to turn the situation to their advantage came in a tweet by Trump on Thursday night — when he accused his Democratic opponents of stalling.
“The House Democrats were unable to get even a single vote from the Republicans on their Impeachment Hoax. The Republicans have never been so united! The Dem’s case is so bad that they don’t even want to go to trial!” wrote the president.
It’s likely that the president and his allies will seek to build on this attack, portraying Democrats as intent solely on delay and obstruction, frustrating the process of impeachment they initiated for petty partisan ends.
It’s a narrative the Republicans have long sought to drive home, deployed to great effect in Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Trump has touted himself as an outsider and disrupter, intent on “draining the swamp,” challenging the Washington establishment, and capitalising on the contempt many Americans have for a Congress that has long been in deadlock.
It’s a line of attack that, by some accounts, has already proved effective. A poll published on December 9 by Republican firm Firehouse Strategies found that a majority of voters in three swing states crucial to Trump’s prospects for victory in 2020 — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — oppose the president’s impeachment and removal from office.
In these and other swing states the Trump campaign has spent millions on digital ads portraying impeachment as a plot by Democrats born of narrow partisan goals. This has, the ads say, left the machinery of Congress ground to a halt while urgent problems such as healthcare and immigration go neglected.
Trump has branded his opponents the “do nothing Democrats” in tweets and rally speeches, while the pro-Trump New York Post described Pelosi as the “swamp mistress” on its Wednesday front page report on impeachment proceedings.
But Democrats have reportedly been reluctant to hit back and capitalize on impeachment out of concern at being seen to further politicize the process.
With the battle over the terms of the impeachment trial likely to drag on over Christmas and possibly beyond, it’s a strategy that Trump will continue to refine and exploit.