- - Monday, January 13, 2020

It’s the last play of a tied game, and an unstoppable force is about to meet an immovable object on the one-yard line. The puzzled play-caller is flagged for delay of game, then the pigskin is finally snapped as time expires. On a quarterback keeper, it’s hard to tell if the nose of the ball crossed the goal line plane before it’s snatched away and carried the length of the field into the opposite end zone. Someone just won, but who?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team of House Democrats have spent nearly three years driving toward the day when they can avenge Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss and put away President Trump once and for all. The speaker’s Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell, stands ready to stone their final impeachment play from the well of the U.S. Senate — if his Republican mates prove tough enough to back him up.

As the drama unfolds in Washington this week, Americans across the nation have their party’s color emblazoned in their thoughts and reckon they already know the final score. But point spreads and polls are sometimes undone by surprises on the field and on the Hill, and that is why the game is played.

Mrs. Pelosi, fearing poor clock management could cost her the contest, has agreed to finally present the Senate with the House’s two articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump. She had spent three futile weeks attempting to force Mr. McConnell into accepting demands that Democrats be allowed to call witnesses during the constitutionally-mandated Senate trial.

The president abused his power, they claim, when he asked Ukraine to investigate dealings of Democratic big-wig Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, while withholding military aid meant for Kiev, and that he obstructed Congress when he blocked investigators by invoking executive privilege.

Mr. Trump’s party, and a slim majority of Americans, according to the most recent Real Clear Politics poll average, have concluded that despite his aggressive play on the international pitch, the president’s conduct does not require ejection from the game.

In the meantime, Mrs. Pelosi has tasked House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler with choosing managers to join the huddle as the prosecutorial play is called. With her political dynasty on the line, it’s almost unthinkable that her staff doesn’t have a trick play in their play book, ready to spring upon the red team’s No. 45.

It’s the blue team’s signature move: Unleash surprise “firsthand” witnesses ready to step up from the backfield and level an accusatory finger at an unsuspecting opponent. Assuredly, Democrats have not forgotten how they were able to nearly cut off U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh at the knees by hurling outlandish “me too” charges into his path to confirmation. The rule book on “high crimes and misdemeanors” leaves open a wide lane for subjective interpretation.

As quarterback of the president’s Republican defense, Mr. McConnell must stick to his game plan modeled after the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in which House prosecutors and White House defense lawyers each take their best shot before the Senate decides whether to allow additional witnesses. With a slim 53-47 margin, a careless gap in the Republicans’ line allowed by a squirrelly lawmaker fearing personal political injury could prove a knock-out blow to the president’s cause.

Of course, no one wins if the rules of the game are violated and the U.S. Constitution is left in tatters. On-field officiating falls to black-robed Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, whose calls on game-changing cases over the years have left lawyers on both sides of the line of scrimmage scratching their heads.

The fact that Democrats have yammered for Mr. Trump to be penalized for personal foul since the moment he stepped onto the field has led to suspicion that the Washington political game has been rigged against him and fairness has been chased out of the stadium. All that matters at this point, though, is the outcome of the final impeachment play.

If Team Pelosi manages to penetrate the Senate, it will be a sad day for the president and dash widespread hopes for his plans to “keep America great.” A stumble or fumble, though, could burn the speaker’s playbook, turn to dust the Democrats’ dream of glory meant for Hillary, and boost the likelihood of a Trump triumph in the 2020 presidential election. Game on.

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