Trump hoped to win impeachment vote, left 'a little shellshocked'

The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty)
The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. 

Not long after Donald Trump's Ukraine scandal broke in September, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a longtime opponent of pursuing presidential impeachment, had seen enough. On Sept. 24, the California Democrat announced an impeachment inquiry was underway.

But for Republicans, the announcement didn't exactly count. For GOP officials, it wouldn't be a real impeachment inquiry without a formal House floor vote authorizing the process. So, on Oct. 31, Democratic leaders scheduled a vote on an impeachment resolution.

That morning, the White House's Kellyanne Conway appeared on Fox News and assured viewers that the president had the upper hand. "You either have the votes or you don't," Conway said. "Guess what? A dirty little secret: They don't have the votes."

A few hours later, the measure passed. In fact, it wasn't close: 232 to 196. Democratic leaders did, in fact, "have the votes."

This came to mind reading the New York Times' latest report on behind-the-scenes reactions to impeachment inside the White House, where the president was reportedly under the mistaken impression that Pelosi & Co. again didn't have the votes, when the opposite was true.

For Mr. Trump, the day after found him still a little shellshocked, according to people close to him. Despite the clear momentum behind impeachment among Democrats in recent weeks, some of Mr. Trump's advisers tried to convince him -- and themselves -- that Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not have the votes and might not even bring the articles of impeachment to the floor, despite warnings from the White House director of legislative affairs, Eric Ueland, that the votes were there.

If this reporting is accurate, it's an interesting peek into an odd perspective. There was, after all, no real surprise to the outcome. The president shouldn't have been pleased -- it's no fun getting caught and being held accountable for wrongdoing -- but there's no reason for him to feel "shellshocked."

I think this speaks to a larger problem for Trump and some on his team: they tend to remain in a self-satisfying bubble.

They consume conservative media that tells the president what he wants to hear; they talk to conservative allies who do the same thing; and they too often assume there's little difference between what they hope will happen and what is likely to actually happen.

It's why Trump was surprised when House Democrats easily reclaimed the House majority in the 2018 midterms, and it's apparently why the president was taken aback when Pelosi had the votes to impeach him.

The moral of the story is that Trump would probably benefit from a more diverse group of perspectives and viewpoints. At a minimum, he'd be less surprised when predictable things happen.