Ready or not, the Impeachment of Donald Trump is coming. Before the end of 2019, the House of Representatives may vote on a variety of impeachment charges and the issue will be passed to the Senate. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
1. During the next 90 days, there will be an impeachment vote in the House of Representatives. The House Intelligence and Judiciary committees have already assembled enough evidence to call for a House vote. (It’s not a matter of if, but when the vote will occur.) Trump appears to be guilty of multiple violations of the U.S. Government code including bribery, extortion, obstruction, and campaign finance misdeeds. (He’s also guilty of obstruction and, quite possibly, conspiracy.) The House Dems are going forward, at a deliberate pace, to build the strongest case possible before year end. Some of the impeachment counts require information that will be provided only if ordered by the Supreme Court.
2. Regardless of what happens in the Senate, once the House votes for impeachment, the Republicans’ fate is sealed. While there is no doubt that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will mess with the Senate Impeachment trial — attempt to doctor the proceedings so they favor Trump — the evidence is too damning: Trump has committed a variety of high crimes and misdemeanors. Trump will lose in the court of public opinion, and he will drag down those Republican Senators that side with him.
There are 100 Senators: 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and 2 Independents who vote with the Dems. Therefore, the two-thirds majority will require 20 Republican Senators to vote with Democrats. At the moment, it’s difficult to see more than 10 who will shift: Alaska (Murkowski), Arizona (McSally), Colorado (Gardner), Georgia (Perdue), Iowa (Ernst, Grassley), Maine (Collins), Nebraska (Sasse), North Carolina (Tillis), and Utah (Romney). When the Senate vote occurs, every swing-state Republican Senator will be between the proverbial “rock and a hard place.” (Trump has already gone after Romney for indicating that he is appalled by Trump’s actions and might vote for impeachment. (https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2019/10/16/club_for_growth_ad_democrat_secret_asset_mitt_romney_is_colluding_with_democrats_to_impeach_trump.html ) )
As long as there is a Senate majority that favors impeachment — and public opinion that favors impeachment — Republicans will lose.
3. The Democrats’ impeachment message must remain simple. Over the past month, public sentiment has shifted in favor of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. To maintain this momentum, Dems have to move quickly and keep the impeachment charges simple — Trump violated the law by manipulating foreign policy for his own benefit. If the message gets too complicated, voters’ attention will waver and support for impeachment will diminish.
At the same time that House Democrats go forward with the impeachment inquiry, they must ensure that they are perceived as also doing the people’s business: working on legislation. So far, Speaker Pelosi has done a good job advertising that the House Dems are working on three paths: “Legislate; Litigate; and Investigate.”
4. Democrats must retain public support. On September 24th, Nancy Pelosi announced the House had initiated an impeachment inquiry — based upon the Ukraine affair. Since then there’s been a 17-point swing in favor of the impeachment inquiry. (And the positive sentiment is growing.)
The majority of Americans support the impeachment inquiry. Democrats have to build upon this and carefully construct a case to present to the Senate.
Over the next three months there are six other factors that will influence this drama.
5. Count on Trump to “self impeach.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi predicted that Donald Trump would eventually”self-impeach” — that his behavior is so warped that he cannot resist committing illegal acts. That’s happening at least once each week: On October 3rd Trump seemingly admitted to reporters that he tried to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens == Ukraine needs a “major investigation” into the Bidens — and volunteered that China “[also] should start an investigation into the Bidens.” On October 17th, Trump announced that in June he will host the G7 Summit at his failing Doral resort in Miami. (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/17/us/politics/trump-g7-doral.html )
By the time the Senate votes on the articles of impeachment, there will be overwhelming evidence against Trump — but that may not be enough to produces a two-thirds majority.
6. Trump loyalists will turn. Even though the Trump White House leaks like the proverbial sieve, during the lengthy Mueller inquiry there weren’t any significant defections from the Trump inner circle — with the exception of Michael Cohen. With regards to the Ukraine scandal, the opposite is the case — there are major defections. Numerous members of the Federal government have defied Trump and testified before the House Intelligence Committee. (For example, former Trump national-security aide, Fiona Hill.)
On October 17th, Trump’s acting Chief-of-Staff, Nick Mulvaney, admitted there was a Ukraine quid pro quo ( https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/10/17/white-house-chief-staff-mick-mulvaney-admits-it-there-was-ukraine-quid-pro-quo/).
There are a variety of theories about what’s different now. It may be that Trump’s behavior is so egregious — badgering the Ukraine President to dig up dirt on the Bidens — that the vast majority of Administration officials recognized it was wrong. It may also be that the involvement of Trump’s pal, Rudy Giuliani, has had a catalytic impact — most insiders don’t like Rudy.
7. Trump’s behavior will get more extreme. Over the past few months we’ve seen many experienced folks leave the White House. (Most recently, Dan Coats resigned as Director of National Intelligence and was replace by a less-experienced person, Joseph Maguire.) Like or not, Trump is now operating without training wheels and is making decisions primarily based upon his gut feel. (Abandoning the Kurds is an example of this.) Because of the pressure, Trump is decompensating.
8. Trump will do anything to stay in power. We already know that Trump is a liar. As the impeachment process plays out, Trump’s lies will become more extreme. (For example, his claim that the Kurds are worse than ISIS.)
We already know that Trump will insult his opponents. As the impeachment process plays out, Trump insults will become more extreme. (For example, calling Speaker Pelosi a “third-grade politician” and saying she favors ISIS “because they are communists.”)
We already know that Trump will use false claims of executive privilege to keep Administration officials from testifying before Congress and to deny lawful document requests. What else will Trump do? At the moment, there seem to be no limits to extreme behavior.
9. Social Media will be an issue. Facebook is permitting Trump to run blatantly false ads and Twitter is allowing him to promote damaging lies. Democrats have called upon the social media companies to regulate Trump’s online behavior but they are unwilling to do this.(https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/10/17/facebook-ceo-mark-zuckerberg-says-interview-he-fears-erosion-truth-defends-allowing-politicians-lie-ads/ )
10. The Supreme Court will be involved. Even though many Trump-Administration insiders have begun to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, there are others that have declined to do so — based upon Trump’s broad assertion of executive privilege. In addition, House Dems are demanding access to the complete Mueller Report including Grand Jury Testimony. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/house-pushes-for-release-of-mueller-grand-jury-testimony/2019/10/08/a88a504e-ea3a-11e9-a329-7378fbfa1b63_story.html )
Both of these matters are wending their way through the courts and will likely be decided by the Supreme Court. Therefore, the conclusion of the House impeachment inquiry probably depends upon the Supreme Court schedule.