Is there any doubt that many Democrats agree with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she says she wants to see President Trump “in prison”?
After the Mueller report, House Democrats seem to believe almost unanimously that the president is guilty of obstruction of justice. Their increasingly heated internal debate is whether to impeach Trump now or press for his incarceration after they defeat him next year.
They can impeach the president on their own, of course, any time they want. But putting him in prison is a much heavier lift, requiring Democrats to first win the White House in 2020 — not at all guaranteed — and then hope the justice system would press charges against a former president, and then hope that Trump would actually be convicted of some sort of crime, and then hope he would be sentenced to prison.
That’s a lot of hoping.
It’s not a good deal, from the would-be impeachers’ standpoint. Why trade something that can be had today for something that probably won’t ever happen? And it’s not even an either-or choice: It’s entirely possible to impeach now and prosecute later.
Pelosi opposes impeachment as politically unwise, and she apparently brought up prison to 1) show how tough she is on Trump, and 2) urge lawmakers to forgo impeachment now in favor of future prosecution.
“She’s trying to keep her impeachment mob at bay,” said Rush Limbaugh, in what seems a pretty accurate assessment of the situation.
The problem for Pelosi is that Democrats have been in an impeaching mood since election night 2016. In 2017, in the president’s first months in office, Democratic lawmakers filed two separate sets of articles of impeachment. Several months later, 66 House Democrats voted in favor of moving impeachment forward.
Pelosi’s statement that she wants to see Trump in prison caused outrage among some Trump supporters. They point out, correctly, that Democrats and their allies in the press have thrown out the presumption of innocence in many Trump matters, and Pelosi’s words seemed like the final step in that process.
Today, there doesn’t seem to be a wave of Democrats seeking to distance themselves from Pelosi’s sentiment.
House Democrats have been threatening a lot recently. In addition to the president, a few have threatened to impeach Attorney General William Barr and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Perhaps the Trump impeachment talk will turn out to be just talk, too. Pelosi’s ability to impose discipline on her conference is legendary. Right now, many Democrats are talking big, while their leader is keeping them in check. In the end, they might not do much at all.
— Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.