By Jon Dougherty
(TNS) On Thursday, a clearly frustrated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked by a reporter about the status of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate.
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The answer she gave was astoundingly bizarre, but the reaction by the media in attendance was even more confounding.
Asked if President TrumpÂ will be â€œchastenedâ€ knowing â€œCongress is watching himâ€ or â€œemboldenedâ€ by a Senate acquittal, Pelosi responded:
Well he will not be acquitted. You cannot be acquitted if you donâ€™t have a trial and when you donâ€™t have a trial if you donâ€™t have witnesses and documentation.
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) January 30, 2020
Of course he’ll be “acquitted,” but not a single reporter in attendance challenged Pelosi’s purposely incorrect answer.
The United States Constitution provides that the House of Representatives “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” (Article I, section 2) and that “the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachmentsâ€¦[but] no person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present” (Article I, section 3). The president, vice president, and all civil officers of the United States are subject to impeachment.
The Constitution does not sayÂ how the Senate must conduct its trial, as experts note.
But Pelosi isn’t the only top Democrat to say something like this. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been saying similar things all week, as POLITICO noted:
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) delivered a similar refrain at his press conference across the Capitol on Thursday.
A trial â€œwithout the evidence, without witnesses and documents would render the presidentâ€™s acquittal meaningless,â€ Schumer said as the Senate prepares to begin what could be its second-to-last day of proceedings.
The Senateâ€™s vote to acquit Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, he argued, would have a â€œgiant asterisk next to it, because the trial was so rigged in his favor.â€
But then POLITICO noted the true intent behind Pelosi’s and Schumer’s claims:
The argument â€” that Trump cannot be truly exonerated without a fair trial in the Senate â€” is clearly an attempt to undermine the White Houseâ€™s victory lap after the president is acquitted, possibly as soon as Friday.
Schumer has been warningÂ for weeksÂ about the consequences of Republicans voting to acquit Trump through a “sham trial” without additional witnesses. But the closer the Senate gets to that possibility, the more Democrats have adopted that message and the sharper it gets.
â€œAny conclusion that doesnâ€™t allow witnesses and documents is going to make the presidentâ€™s acquittal â€” if it should happen â€” worth very, very little. Zero,â€ Schumer told reporters on Wednesday after the Senateâ€™s first day of its question-and-answer session.
â€œYou canâ€™t convince the American people it was an acquittal if you donâ€™t have witnesses and documents,â€ he said.
As with Pelosi, not a single reporter appeared to challenge Schumer’s contention that only witnesses would make the Senate trial ‘legitimate.’
It should be noted that former Vice President Joe Biden, as a U.S. senator in 1999, opposed witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
Per Fox News (and congrats to POLITICO for digging this up):
PoliticoÂ obtained a memoÂ on Thursday written by then-Delaware Sen. Biden in January 1999 that was sent to the Democratic caucusÂ in the middle of the Clinton impeachment battle.
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â€œThe Senate may dismiss articles of impeachment without holding a full trial or taking new evidence. Put another way, the Constitution does not impose on the Senate the duty to hold a trial,â€ Biden said to his Democratic colleagues.Â â€œIn a number of previous impeachment trials, the Senate has reached the judgment that its constitutional role as a sole trier of impeachments does not require it to take new evidence or hear live witness testimony.â€
When reporters don’t challenge politicians who make patently false, political statements about processes like impeachment, it leaves viewers and readers with a false impression. While we understand that is the point of the politician, to muddy the water, it’s the job of the press to clear it up.
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