Analysis: Articles of impeachment? Sure. Plus a trade deal, an FBI feud, a campaign rally and more

Susan Page, USA TODAY

Washington whiplash.

That’s when House Democrats gravely unveil articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump at 9 a.m., then an hour later celebrate a deal delivering one of his top priorities, a new North American free trade pact. Followed in short order by Trump meeting at the White House with the foreign minister of Russia, a reminder of the allegations of election interference that shadowed the last presidential campaign.

And shadow the next one.

“This solemn day,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared as she opened the impeachment announcement, standing in front of four American flags and a portrait of George Washington. Within the hour, Trump responded, in a way, with a two-word tweet: “WITCH HUNT!” In another tweet, he praised "very good Democrat support" for the United States-Mexico-Canada trade pact called USMCA.

'Obstruction of Congress': Trump's stonewalling becomes basis for impeachment

The head-spinning day reflected the accelerating news cycle that has marked the Era of Trump, a constant collision of developments, some of them jaw-dropping. In the old days (that is, before Trump's inauguration in 2017), a president's denunciation of the FBI director he appointed to the job would have been big news. That happened Tuesday after FBI Director Christopher Wray told ABC News that the Justice Department's inspector general hadn't found any political bias behind the Russia probe, as Trump has long alleged.

Read the full text: The two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump

In an angry tweet, the president referred to Wray as the "current Director of the FBI," the use of the word "current" not exactly a signal of job security. "With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI," he declared.

But that contretemps was decidedly secondary to Tuesday's main headline: Impeachment.

Trump at the edge of impeachment

President Donald Trump had some harsh words for the FBI's director.

Trump is the fourth president in American history to find himself standing at the edge of impeachment, the most drastic check-and-balance in the Constitution between co-equal branches of government. That is a distinction he would have preferred not to hold, even though the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to convict him in the trial that is likely to follow in January.

Pathway of the impeachment process: How it works, where we are

The two articles of impeachment released Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee charge Trump with abuse of power for using military aid and the promise of an Oval Office meeting to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation that could have boosted his reelection prospects. He is accused of obstruction of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas for documents and the testimony of officials in the probe.

The announcement that House Democrats agreed to back the USMCA was also significant news. In the space of one hour and a five-minute walk inside the Capitol from the wood-paneled Rayburn Room to the modern radio-TV correspondents studio, it offered a jarring change of pace and tone.

Surrounded by more than two dozen Democrats, Pelosi cheerfully called the trade deal "much better than NAFTA" and, in a needle to Trump, "infinitely better than what was originally proposed by the administration." She joked with House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., about watching football Sunday as the final negotiations unfolded and led a round of applause for their work.

The juxtaposition of news was no accident.

With that timing, Pelosi was making the point that Democrats could move on impeachment while scoring progress on legislation – demonstrating the political version of the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time. She tried to demonstrate that they could charge Trump with the most serious abuses of office while working with him on big issues, a counter to the Republican assertion that Democrats are driven by animus against the president.

History mixed on impeachment fallout

That could be an important point to make politically for House members, whose seats are all up for election next year – especially for the 31 Democrats who represent congressional districts Trump carried in 2016. They were among the most nervous about proceeding with impeachment. 

Neither side is entirely certain what the political repercussions of impeachment will be. Or even how big a role impeachment will play by Election Day next November. History's record is mixed. The move to impeach Republican Richard Nixon, who resigned before he could be removed from office, contributed to catastrophic losses for his party in Congress in the next election, in 1974. But the move to impeach Democrat Bill Clinton rebounded against his accusers in the 1998 election.

Nixon, Clinton, Trump: Why is the political 'fire extinguisher' of impeachment more common?

Tuesday, Trump closed a historic day with one of his signature campaign rallies, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where he could have the last word.

At least until Wednesday.

Keep up with the news: Stay updated on USA TODAY's impeachment coverage

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Impeachment, a trade deal, an FBI feud, Trump: Washington whiplash