After Nancy Pelosi Announces Articles of Impeachment Against Trump, She Announces Support For Trade Deal

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks about the US - Mexico - Canada Agreement, known as the USMCA, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, December 10, 2019. Officials from the US, Canada and Mexico will meet in Mexico on Tuesday for talks on a new continent-wide trade deal after President Donald Trump hinted that efforts to push the pact through the US Congress were close to success. SAUL LOEB/Getty

The back-to-back press conferences in Washington Tuesday— a solemn delivery of the articles of impeachment news against President Donald Trump delivered by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerold Nadler juxtaposed against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's touting of a rare bipartisan policy achievement—underscored a series of highly unusual events.

Democrats brought one of Trump's main legislative priorities to the finish line just as party leaders were working to highlight allegations of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress against the president.

And on the same day the House took the historic step of introducing impeachment articles against Trump, the president had kind words for the House Democratic caucus, saying in a tweet that Democratic support for a revised trade agreement "would be great for our Country!"

But Democrats appeared to flip the seemingly odd strategy on its head, trying to get out in front of Trump's messaging on the final deal. Pelosi and her colleagues worked to forestall the foreseeable reaction—that the president would be praised for spearheading the revision of NAFTA which culminated in the speaker's announcement on Tuesday—by emphasizing contributions Democrats made to the deal, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

"In terms of our work here, [the deal] is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration," Pelosi said. "And I credit [House Ways and Means Committee] Chairman Richie Neal for helping us navigate all of these places, the unity of our caucus on specific priorities, in order to get the job done."

Looking like very good Democrat support for USMCA. That would be great for our Country!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2019

While the timing of both announcements may have confounded any singular message the Democrats had been hoping to convey, a Democratic aide familiar with the trade negotiations told Newsweek that this was more due to happenstance than anything else.

"Honestly, I think both things were time-sensitive and they just couldn't wait," the aide said. "I don't have a sense that this was intended or the product of long term planning, both things just came together at the same time. We're also juggling government funding, NDAA, and the prescription drug pricing bill, of which at least two will hit in the next 48 hours. It's an absolutely crazy time."

Democrats had long wavered on backing the USMCA in a fulsome way. The party held out on providing its stamp of approval until Democratic priorities were enshrined in any prospective deal, including those reforming prescription drug pricing and protecting the environment.

Now offering a full embrace of the renegotiated trade pact, Democrats and the White House could soon begin sparring over who deserves credit for the finalized agreement just as Democratic representatives try to make the case for impeaching the president to the American public.

Democrats appeared newly reinvigorated about reforms to the agreement they felt were substantial, and which they said their party pushed for throughout the process.

"The Trump administration tried to tuck in big corporate gifts to Big Pharma in the USMCA... that revision is now out of the trade deal. It is gone," Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a member of the House Democrats' Trade Working Group, said at Tuesday's press conference. "On the first day of our negotiations, I told U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer that the biologic exclusivity provisions needed to be removed, and now they are gone."

For freshmen Democrats in swing districts, the dueling announcements might have the unintended consequence of being beneficial for their re-election prospects. Trump has long claimed, falsely, that Democrats' preoccupation with impeachment has ground legislative work in the House to a halt. Tying impeachment, if not deliberately, to a legislative accomplishment could underscore the narrative for impeachment-skeptical voters that Democrats are still committed to lawmaking.

But many establishment figures did not find the results of the revamped USCMA compelling enough to roll out during the impeachment process, one that has only been pursued against three other presidents in the country's history.

Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, found the trade-off unconvincing.

"Giving Trump bipartisan cover on one of his biggest political vulnerabilities and preventing a potential Democratic President from negotiating a better, more worker-friendly deal in 15 months makes absolutely no political or substantive sense to me," he wrote on Twitter.

In response to a request for comment about Pelosi's remarks, the Office of the United State Trade Representative directed Newsweek to the following press release from Lighthizer:

"Thanks to President Trump's leadership, we have reached an historic agreement on the USMCA. After working with Republicans, Democrats, and many other stakeholders for the past two years we have created a deal that will benefit American workers, farmers, and ranchers for years to come. This will be the model for American trade deals going forward."

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