The Morning Dispatch: Is Pelosi Winning the Impeachment Standoff?

Plus, our favorite music of 2019.

Happy Friday! We hope our readers who celebrate had a wonderful Christmas. We sure did, spending time with friends and family in Glenview, Illinois; and Olney, Maryland.

Is this what life was like before Donald Trump became president? After the frenzied sprint that defined the first three weeks of December, the news has pretty much ground to a standstill over the holidays.

We’re not in the business of writing just to fill space, so we’ll keep today’s TMD brief. But get ready for things to quickly ramp back up in the new year.

Quick Hits: What You Need To Know

  • The stock market continued to rally on Thursday, with the NASDAQ Composite Index crossing 9,000 for the first time while the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 reached record highs.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu successfully batted back a challenger from within his conservative Likud Party despite being indicted last month on corruption charges.

  • The FBI is reportedly looking into the string of pardons former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin issued in his final weeks in office.

Nancy Pelosi’s War of Attrition

When it became clear last week Nancy Pelosi was actually going to pocket the House-passed articles of impeachment rather than transmit them to the Senate, many, including us, doubted her strategy. She indicated she was looking to ensure what she deemed to be a “fair” trial in the Senate, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—who would dictate the terms of such a trial—is not itching to spend weeks rehashing Trump’s Ukrainian antics and forcing vulnerable Republican senators to take a tough vote.

“It’s beyond me how the Speaker and Democratic leader in the Senate think withholding the articles of impeachment and not sending them over gives them leverage,” McConnell told reporters before the holidays.

One of the Democrats’ own impeachment witnesses—law professor Noah Feldman—wrote an op-ed for Bloomberg arguing Trump’s impeachment won’t become official until Pelosi hands the baton off to McConnell: “The House must actually send the articles and send managers to the Senate to prosecute the impeachment.”

But it appears that Pelosi does have some leverage—just not over McConnell.

President Trump has lashed out at the House speaker on Twitter no fewer than 12 times since December 20, irate over her dilly-dallying. “What right does Crazy Nancy have to hold up this Senate trial. None! She has a bad case and would rather not have a negative decision. This Witch Hunt must end NOW with a trial in the Senate,” one tweet read. Another—posted on Christmas Day, just hours after Trump called on Americans to “foster a culture of deeper understanding and respect”—asked, “Why should Crazy Nancy Pelosi, just because she has a slight majority in the House, be allowed to Impeach the President of the United States? … Now Pelosi is demanding everything the Republicans weren’t allowed to have in the House. Dems want to run majority Republican Senate. Hypocrites!”

Trump clearly wants his day in court. From the early days of the Ukraine revelations, he’s urged fellow Republicans to defend him from what he claims are unfair attacks on his “perfect” phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. When many GOP lawmakers chose instead to attack to partisan process in the House of Representatives, Trump grew frustrated. Now, he wants to watch the Republican-held Senate acquit him, and be able to tweet “TOTALLY EXONERATED!” to his 68 million followers immediately afterward (Morning Dispatch prediction).

But Pelosi’s maneuver is denying him all of the above, and it’s clearly getting under his skin.

The delay is also providing some cover to the few Republicans in the Senate frustrated with McConnell’s tactics. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told KTUU she was “disturbed” by the majority leader’s pledge of “total coordination” with the White House, saying “we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense.”

Pelosi’s stall tactics are obviously politically motivated, and they fly in the face of her previous arguments in favor of moving through the process expeditiously. Mitch McConnell, again, couldn’t care less if the articles never make it to his desk. 

But Trump does. And ultimately, McConnell will do as Trump tells him (“total coordination,” remember?) We’ll soon learn if Trump’s need for absolution outweighs his legal and political strategists’ desire for a quick and predetermined trial. In trolling the president, Pelosi may have just created a sliver of leverage where she previously had none.

Worth Your Time

  • In our conversations with news consumers over the last couple of years, we’ve been struck by how many times we’ve heard the same complaint: It’s impossible to keep up. One of the things we seek to do at The Dispatch is to slow the news down a bit, to step out of an increasingly disorienting news cycle that whips from one controversy to the next, elevating outrage over information. This fascinating chart from Axios provides a sense of just how just how acute that problem was in 2019. It also raises some unsettling questions about how much anything that happens this month will affect 2020.

  • Here’s a story that’s gone under covered in recent months: the prosecution of leaders of the United Automobile Workers, whom the feds have charged with embezzling millions of dollars to blow at cigar shops, golf courses, and villa rentals in Palm Springs. Now, the New York Times has the definitive piece on the scandal, courtesy of reporters Noam Scheiber and Neil Boudette. 

  • For conservatives who followed the special counsel’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia with concern, it was irritating to see many of the president’s allies stirring up disinformation about Robert Mueller and his work. But it was no less irritating to see how many liberal media figures allowed their assumptions — rather than facts and evidence — drive their coverage of Trump and Russia. Perhaps the most prominent of these was MSNBC host Rachael Maddow, whose yearlong cheerleading for the infamous Steele dossier is the subject of this skewering from the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple.

Presented Without Comment

(Don’t get any ideas, Morning Dispatcher significant others.)

Something Fun

Resident Morning Dispatch favorite John Mulaney is out with a new Netflix special—but rather than return to the stage he’s dominated as a standup for more than a decade, he created a Sesame Street spoof. It’s wacky, it’s delightful, and it (mostly) works! Check out John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch on Netflix.

Toeing the Company Line

  • On Tuesday, David’s French Press focused on something “far more divisive and polarizing” than politics—Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In this spoiler-ridden post, he makes the case for the latest installment in the saga being 1) not bad, and 2) a Christmas movie.

  • The third episode of Advisory Opinions is live. Sarah and David are joined by former Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller to discuss the 5th Circuit’s Obamacare decision. Give it a listen here, and be sure to subscribe in your podcast app.

Let Us Know

Seems like everyone is putting out “best of the year” listicles as 2019 winds down. We don’t have a website to publish such content (yet—give us a few weeks!), but we do have the Let Us Know section! 

Today and Monday, we’ll be sharing some of our top pop culture items of the year, and we’d love for you to do the same, either via email (reply to this email) or on Twitter (@thedispatch)!

Declan’s Top Albums of 2019:

  • James Blake, Assume Form

  • Bon Iver, i,i

  • Hiss Golden Messenger, Terms of Surrender

  • Stella Donnelly, Beware of the Dogs

  • Andrew Bird, My Finest Work Yet

  • Tyler, The Creator, IGOR

  • Anderson .Paak, Ventura

  • The Tallest Man on Earth, I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream.

  • Lana Del Ray, Norman F*****g Rockwell

  • Whitney, Forever Turned Around

  • Foy Vance, To Memphis

  • Kanye West, Jesus Is King

  • Harry Styles, Fine Line

  • Coldplay, Everyday Life

Andrew’s Top Albums of 2019:

  • The National, I Am Easy To Find

  • Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride 

  • Bon Iver, i,i

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).

Photograph of Nancy Pelosi during the vote on articles of impeachment by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.