- - Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Nancy Pelosi has the hardest job in town, perhaps except for the president’s. She knows removing Donald Trump from office is probably impossible, but a growing number of Democrats in the House are itching to try. How can the speaker please both the grown-ups and the fantasists in her caucus, and at the same time?

There’s nothing sadder than a girl in trouble, and Mrs. Pelosi’s predicament was made worse Wednesday when Robert Mueller, who was the Santa Claus the Democrats were waiting for, said he was finished with his investigation, closed up his office, and told Congress — the House in particular — that if the Democrats want to get rid of Mr. Trump the U.S. Constitution shows them how to do it. They should pack a lunch because it’s going to be an all-day job. The Democrats wasted a lot time listening for sleigh bells on the roof.

The speaker enjoys working with her majority, and wants to keep it, and to do that she must work hard to elect a new president next year. Some of her obstreperous members are out for the fun of the hunt, and appear to have given up something so boring as winning an election. Rep. Jared Huffman of California, for one example, says betting everything on the 2020 election would be “a historic mistake.” Better to bet on impeaching a president.

The speaker blows cold and then hot and then cold again on whether to impeach or not to impeach. She must keep a semblance of control of the nursery. Last week she lectured her caucus on the perils of impeachment, not for the impeachee but for the impeacher. Impeachment has failed twice, the first time to terminate the administration of Andrew Johnson, the second to evict Bill Clinton from the White House. She understands that if you set out to kill the king (or eliminate a president), you must make sure you leave in your wake a corpse, not a wounded king angry for revenge.

The Mueller investigation made a perfect hash of Democratic wishes and dreams. Democrats were sure Mr. Mueller’s investigation would return a searing indictment that would set forest fires across not only the president’s administration but banish him to unpleasant nether regions, and ignite such public outrage even in Republican and right-leaning precincts that it would lead to a Democratic landslide in 2020 so great that a Republican wouldn’t show his face for years if not decades. Mr. Mueller didn’t come through.

He reminded the Democrats and whoever else needs instruction that “the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.” He said he had not exonerated the president, but it was an admission that he didn’t find either the high crime or the misdemeanor he set out to find.

Impeachment of a president is a solemn proceeding, not to be taken without long and careful consideration, not only of justice but of the consequences of justice. Impeachment at bottom is a political decision, and that’s why serious people are reluctant to take that solemn step until all other remedies, such as an election, are considered. Some have compared the atmosphere in Washington now to the sentiment in Washington that led Richard Nixon to resign to avoid impeachment.

But this is a false comparison. The atmosphere now is nothing like that of Aug. 9, 1974, as those who lived through that squalid ordeal remember. When Mr. Nixon submitted a letter of resignation to Henry Kissinger, the secretary of State, prominent Republican senators had joined the call for him to give up the presidency. Only a single obscure Republican congressman has suggested that Donald Trump step down, and if there are Republican members of Congress eager to join him in the public pursuit of impeachment it’s difficult to imagine who they are. There is scant evidence of a high crime or misdemeanor by Mr. Trump that would persuade a jury made up of members of the U.S. Senate, as required by the Constitution, to convict him. There is no evidence that Mr. Trump has been deserted by his loyal constituency. Indeed, he might well be elected to a second term as president.

At this time, impeachment of this president is a Democratic pipe dream. Republicans in the Senate have made it abundantly clear they have no interest in that pipe dream, or in threatening the survival of a Republican administration.

Nancy Pelosi’s latest broadside against the president accuses him of conducting a “cover-up” in “plain sight.” If you’re conducting a cover-up, it seems to us, in plain sight is not the place to do it. But it’s like so much about the rabid Democratic pursuit of the president. It doesn’t make much sense.

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