Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the Democrat controlled House of Representatives, recently announced she was launching a formal inquiry into impeaching President Trump.
The first thing to understand about this is that impeachment does not necessarily mean the president will be removed from office. It is similar to being indicted by a grand jury, and means only that the president has been formally charged with wrongdoing and must stand trial on those charges. For example, President Clinton was impeached and tried in the Senate over charges related to the Monica Lewinski scandal, but the Senate did not convict him of those charges.
If the House of Representative passes articles of impeachment against President Trump — which is quite likely since the House is controlled by the Democrats — then a trial will take place in the Senate.
It will be presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. Conviction will require a two-thirds vote (i.e., 67 of the 100 senators). Given that the senate is presently composed of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 independents who generally vote with the Democrats this is a very high bar to hurdle. Such a vote would require that at least 20 Republican senators vote to remove Trump from office just a few months before voters could remove him from office via the ballot box. Why not let the voters decide?
Impeachment need not be a lengthy process. In the case of Bill Clinton, the House launched its investigation on October 8, 1998, immediately following the mid-term election; formal charges were passed by the House in December; the trial in the Senate began in January and Clinton was acquitted of the charges on Feb. 12. The whole process took four months.
But 2020 is an election year, and how long Trump’s impeachment goes on will depend in large part on how long the participants want it to go on. At the moment, both the far left and Trump’s supporters believe they are benefitting from impeachment talk because it is firing up their base and campaign contributions are rolling in.
The clear winner so far is Elizabeth Warren, who has catapulted into the lead for the Democrat nomination for president, while, ironically, the clear loser is the former front-runner Joe Biden, whose questionable dealings with Ukraine were the subject of Trump’s phone call to the Ukrainian President that got him into trouble. In other words, Pelosi just gave Trump what he wanted from the Ukrainians.
I am not going to comment on the merits of the whistleblower’s allegations because testimony is now being taken and a lot of new information will soon be coming to light. But Trump’s character is to punch back at his detractors, usually via Twitter and often with little thought or research behind Tweets.
It should be noted, however, that Clinton was not impeached for his affair with Monica Lewinski; he was impeached for lying under oath and obstruction of justice. Similarly, the general consensus about Nixon and Watergate (Nixon resigned the presidency rather than face a trial in the Senate), was that he was done-in by the cover-up rather than the crime. Trump needs to be careful he doesn’t make the same mistake.
When a grand jury is called to hear evidence and decide if it is sufficient to charge someone with a crime, that person’s attorney should inform then not to try to contact members of the grand jury or any of the witnesses in the case because doing so could be considered as obstruction of justice. Yet here is Trump Tweeting about how he wants to unveil the whistle-blower (who is guaranteed anonymity) and confront him face-to-face; how he wants to track down everyone in the government who provided information to the whistle-blower and have them punished as traitors or spies; and vowing severe repercussions for any Republican senator that votes to convict him. Now, I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that all of this comes very close to being obstruction of justice. I can only imagine that Democrats are praying “please, please, please, don’t anyone take Trump’s phone away from him.”
When Nancy Pelosi initiated the impeachment proceedings, she opened a Pandora’s box at a time when the world is awash in uncertainty, much of it because nobody — including our allies — seems to know what Trump will do next or why. Trump deliberately cultivates unpredictability as a bargaining tactic. But impeachment creates an opportunity for our adversaries to take actions at a time when our leadership is divided and distracted. China, North Korea, Iran, Russia … how many nuclear balls can we juggle at the same time?
Domestically we have a myriad of problems that require bi-partisan cooperation. The federal debt is soaring, medical costs are soaring, our immigration system is broken, our infrastructure is crumbling or outdated, our schools are not training people for the modern workforce, drug addiction is out of control and we are doing nothing to address the problems that accompany climate change except to deny that they exist. We need to bring the nation together to deal with these problems. But impeachment will only drive us further apart.
There is an old saying that “it takes two to tango.” But in the situation our country is in today, it will take two to disentangle, because as long as one side believes it is gaining by inciting rancor and division, they are not going to want it to end.