Recently, some Democrats in the House have started drafting articles of impeachment for Trump. Such actions are not the results of congressman dedicated to preserving the integrity of the country, but rather congressman dedicated to advancing their own personal careers. If one really wanted to impeach Trump they would wait until the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, had uncovered an impeachable offense. I may despise Trump, but I will be the first to admit that he has not committed any offenses that are, by purely objective standards, “impeachable.” When Democrats in the House put forward articles for impeachment before the investigation into Trump has concluded, they are showing the American public that they place personal politics and partisanship over the truth.
With this point in mind, let us look at how the impeachment of a President by our Congress even works, and why it is so difficult to remove a President from office this way even if they have committed an impeachable offense.
The power of impeachment is one of the enumerated powers of Congress set forward in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. The Constitution states that public officials may be impeached and removed from office for Treason, Bribery, and other High Crimes and Misdemeanors. What exactly is meant by “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” is still debated by Constitutional scholars today, but, for the most part, people agree that it refers to the breaking of more severe laws. For example, you cannot impeach a President for running a red light, even though he/she is technically breaking the law.
For a President to be impeached, the articles of impeachment must be passed by only a simple majority in the House of Representatives. This has happened twice in our nation’s history. In 1868 the House voted 126 to 47 to impeach Andrew Johnson (for 11 main reasons that you can read about here) and, in 1998, the House voted 228 to 206 to impeach Bill Clinton for perjury and also voted 221 to 212 to impeach Clinton for the obstruction of justice.
Impeachment, though, is only the first, and easiest, step. Next comes the Senate, which holds a “trial” for the impeachment and then votes on whether or not to convict the President and remove him or her from office. It takes a 2/3 majority from the senate to convict the President of impeachment, ensuring that the removal of a President from office is, at least, bipartisan. Getting this 2/3 vote is not an easy task. The previously discussed President Johnson, for example, had clearly violated the tenure of office act when he forcibly removed the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton from his position, (the act forbid the President from removing public officials confirmed by the senate without senatorial approval). Suffice it to say, it was not easy to convict a President of impeachment then and it certainly will not be easy to convict a President of impeachment now.
Not only would the Democrats need all 48 of their senators to vote for Trump’s impeachment (some of these Senators hail from states that support Trump), but they would also need to convince 19 Republican senators to cross party lines and join them in impeaching Trump. Not an easy task when some GOP Senators like Luther Strange (R-AL) refer to Trump’s election as a “biblical miracle.”
Let us imagine a hypothetical road to Trump’s impeachment. Let us say Mueller confirms that the Trump campaign purposefully colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.
With 194 seats in the House, Democrats need to convince 24 Republican Congressman and 12 of their fellow Democratic Congressman that hail from districts that supported Trump, to vote for impeachment. Whipping 36 members of the house into voting on such a public, controversial bill is incredibly difficult meaning it is unlikely articles of impeachment will even pass the House.
Let us assume, somehow, that the articles of impeachment pass the House. What are the chances that the Senate convicts Trump? To reach that 67 vote threshold Democrats will not only have to worry about convincing 19 Republican Senators to cross party lines, but they will also have to ensure that the 10 Democratic Senators hailing from red states do not jump ship.
Whipping these votes from Senators and Congressman already seems hard enough, but it is going to get even harder, when we take into account the fact that some Democrats may not want to vote to impeach Trump simply out of fear of the precedent and message it may send. A vote for impeachment is an admittance that America’s democracy has failed. It weakens the image of our nation domestically and abroad, and some representatives may seek alternative methods to removing Trump, other than impeachment, for this reason.
Simply put, Trump will not be impeached. I am so confident of this, in fact, that I have decided to put my money where my mouth is and have bet $100 of my own money that he will not be impeached on the online political betting market.
Do not get me wrong they are ways to weaken Trump or separate him from the Presidency. My point simply is that of all the ways to stop Trump, the least likely one is through impeachment.
There are many other ways the Trump presidency could end, some of which are seemingly absurd, but still more likely than impeachment. One such possible absurdity is Trump simply gets bored and quick. While this is very unlikely, Trump has already made himself famous for his frequent vacations, and, during an interview back in April with Reuters Trump also said “I loved my previous life,” and “I thought it [being President] would be easier.” This seems to indicate that Trump may not be enjoying his job as President and may just call it quits. While not likely, this is a still distinct possibility.
Second, if Trump’s approval rating gets to around 20% he would lose much of his Presidential mandate, causing many Republicans in the legislative branch to abandon his legislative agenda. This situation may actually frustrate Trump so much that he may cave on his agenda or, like the first possibility, simply resigns because the added frustration no longer makes his job enjoyable.
A third possibility would be that Mike Pence and his followers force Trump out of the Presidency. In this situation, Pence may pressure Trump to resign his Presidency through jawboning and threats. This situation seems the most likely one given the recent leaks that Pence “wants to be ready” to run for President in 2020. The most likely scenario would be that Trump simply does not run for a second term, but if Trump continues to flounder, Pence may have to turn to more drastic measures and force Trump out of the Whitehouse before his first term is up.
Given the fact that Trump is safe from impeachment mostly for political reasons it is easy to get nihilistic and assume that American democracy somehow does not work. If anything, though, the whole situation with Trump has revealed how much our Democracy does work. For example, Trump has expressed frustration with how difficult it is to get his agenda through Congress. This indicates that Congress is doing its job and not allowing a single person to decide the fate of the country unconditionally. One could also argue that the fact that Trump is so safe from impeachment also demonstrates a success, not a failure in our Democracy. The truth is Trump was elected President in 2016. Yes, he is brash, crude, and unliked by many, but he was still elected President. A big tenant of our Democracy is that Presidents are replaced through elections every 4 years. Nowhere in our Constitution does it say we replace a President as soon as the people decide they do not like him anymore. Yes, with what is going on with Korea right now it is easy to feel as if we would be better off without Trump (we likely would be), but wishing we did not have Trump and putting faith in unrealistic attempts to impeach him helps nobody.
Ultimately, there are ways to stop Trump and impeachment is not one of them.