While media talkingheads obsess over Elizabeth Warren’s whiny complaint to Bernie Sanders post-debate that he “called me a liar on national TV,” the two Democrat senators have a bigger problem: impeachment.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally signed articles of impeachment Wednesday and sent them to the Senate — a supposedly “somber” occasion marked by much ridiculous fanfare, including laughing while passing out signing pens. And it was all nearly a full month after the House voted to approve those articles. Of Pelosi’s impeachment delay, Washington Post columnist Henry Olson proposed an interesting theory, arguing that the “real” reason behind it has little to do with pressuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell into accepting her witness-calling preconditions and everything to do with “intra-party tensions.”
Olson argues that delaying sending the impeachment articles until this week ensures that the trial, which starts today with Pelosi’s impeachment managers reading charges in the Senate, will then likely drag out into the Democrats’ Iowa caucuses. This would effectively prevent both Sanders and Warren from spending time campaigning in Iowa as they would be, by Senate rule, tied up in Washington during the impeachment trial. (This affects Sen. Amy Klobuchar as well, but let’s be realistic — she’s not going to win anything.)
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy agrees: “This harms Senator Sanders, who is in first place and could become their nominee, because he will be stuck in a chair because Nancy Pelosi held the papers.”
It’s an intriguing theory that the Democrat establishment, having never fully embraced Sanders, nor he them, is underhandedly plotting to diminish his chances of winning Iowa and therefore the nomination in lieu of their favored candidate, Joe Biden. It has the ring of legitimacy after the DNC’s shenanigans in 2016 worked to prevent Sanders from defeating Hillary Clinton.
However, it’s ultimately a lame attempt by Olson to get around the fact that Pelosi has royally botched the Democrats’ impeachment gambit. She’s not involved in a 4D chess move to ensure that Biden becomes the Democrat nominee. Her aim the entire time has been to damage not just Trump — as demonstrated by her crowing Wednesday that Trump has been impeached “forever” — but also Senate Republicans up for reelection. Pelosi would welcome a Sanders or Warren presidency just as warmly as she would a Biden one because Democrats, establishment or not, are united in their desire to see Trump out of office.
That said, the trial does indeed create a campaign problem for Sanders and Warren. Senate rules dictate that senators must be present in session Monday through Saturday over the duration of the impeachment trial. The real conundrum arises if Democrats drag the trial out by demanding witnesses. Will Sanders and Warren go along with this, or will they claim that although Trump deserves to be impeached it won’t happen since Republicans won’t vote to remove Trump, so why waste time on a no-win proposition when they could be focusing energy on defeating Trump at the ballot box in November?
Update: Golly, we forgot that Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet is also running for president, so technically the delay affects him too. Our mistake.