This sounds like a defiant double-down at first, but it may have the makings of Pelosi's inevitable climbdown. As recently as Monday, Democrats were trying to spin journalists that her 'impeach and withhold' gambit was paying dividends and sowing dissent among Republicans. But by Tuesday, every GOP Senator had lined up behind Mitch McConnell's position -- namely, that the Clinton-era impeachment trial rules and process would be emulated. McConnell announced that he has the votes to proceed without further negotiations or rule tinkering, prompting even some hardcore Democratic partisans in the Senate to suggest that the time has come for Pelosi to give up the stunt. The jig, which never had any teeth or logic to it to begin with, was officially up:
Meanwhile, multiple Senate Dems saying now that it's clear GOP is dug in against witness deal, it's time to send the articles and start the trial.— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) January 7, 2020
"I think the time has past. She should send the articles over," said @ChrisMurphyCT https://t.co/MIUFSFkxnn
NEW: PELOSI HOLDS FIRM@SpeakerPelosi tells House Dems in closed door meeting tonight that she won't send articles till McConnell details procedures for Senate trial. W/ @rachaelmbade https://t.co/mU044RhWmV— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) January 7, 2020
"Holds firm." You can almost hear McConnell chortling in his office. Holds firm to what? Her pointless exercise that totally guts House Democrats' entire rationale for racing through a hyper-partisan impeachment process before Christmas? Which has now demonstrably failed? Why allow this to drag further and further into the election year, as some moderates undoubtedly squirm? To what end? The letter she fired off to McConnell last evening suggests that despite the "standoff deepens" narrative circulating among DC journos, she's preparing to back down:
In letter, Pelosi reiterates that McConnell “immediately publish this resolution” to explain what the parameters would be for a Senate trial. Pelosi adds that then “we can see the arena in which we will be participating, appoint managers and transmit articles to the Senate.”— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) January 8, 2020
Or else what? And what if she doesn't like the parameters? She'll retaliate by...not shipping the impeachment articles over to the upper chamber, allowing McConnell to keep confirming judges and pass the USMCA as more Democrats publicly urge her to give up the ghost and do the inevitable? I suspect the Speaker knows that she's run out of runway on this foolish gambit and is making -- shall we say -- feasible "demands." Tell us the rules so we know what they are and can then appoint managers and transmit articles to the Senate! Okay, fine; that could and should have happened weeks ago. She's looking for a thin reed of face-saving material before she surrenders and laterals the ball over to the chamber that she and her party do not control.
Now, things could get complicated when the Senate gets to the portion of the Clinton-era program in which Senators debated and voted on calling witnesses (back in 1999, a handful of witnesses were interviewed on tape, as opposed to testifying live). Several Republicans have expressed interest in hearing from former National Security Adviser John Bolton, and many more have called for figures ranging from the whistleblower to Hunter Biden to be subpoenaed. How all of that would shake out remains unclear. But any prospect for a pre-trial agreement to call new witnesses appears to be dead. I'll leave you with what might be described as some non-ideal optics from a women who has gone to some lengths to try to maintain something of a solemn facade on impeachment: