The Trump presidency was in deep trouble long before the first revelations coming out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. A Gallup poll released on Monday showing Trump’s approval rating at an all-time low (33 percent) with his disapproval rating at an all time high (62 percent). Another poll released on Tuesday by Public Policy Polling (PPP) showed that 49 percent of the people polled wanted Trump impeached with 41 percent opposing it.
These number obviously are not bringing joy to the camp of the Trump supporters, especially as they have been trending in the wrong direction in the last months for Trump. But being unpopular is not an impeachable offense. Neither is a poll showing that nearly half of the people polled favored it.
But, but you say – what about the Emoluments Clause? What about the collusion with Russia during the election? Then there are the indictments that have been released this week by Robert Mueller. What many people fail to grasp is that impeachment is not a legal solution for removing a criminal and/or unpopular president. It is a political one. Impeachment results in neither a criminal record or criminal punishment such as imprisonment or fines. It simply removes the person who has been impeached AND convicted of “High Crimes or Misdemeanors” from office and prevents that person from ever holding office again.
If the Mueller investigation discovers actual criminal activity by the President, such as obstruction of justice, it will certainly produce a strong inducement for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings, but it will not require it. And as long as Congress is held by the Republicans and led by two spineless political opportunists Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, it probably won’t happen either.
The last impeachment was a highly politically motivated move by a Republican House of Representatives, led by Speaker Newt Gingrich against Bill Clinton. They certainly had solid legal grounds as Clinton had committed perjury in his testimony regarding one of the sexual harassment suits brought against him. But it went nowhere when the Senate, controlled by the Democrats, did not convict Clinton. Plus, the Republicans lost the narrative when it changed to the charges being all about Clinton having sex with an intern in the Oval Office.
When the Watergate investigation uncovered information regarding Richard Nixon that was so damning, leading Republicans warned Nixon that if he did not resign, he would most likely by impeached. However, Mitch McConnell is no Barry Goldwater nor is Paul Ryan the second-coming of Howard Baker. And, of course, Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon either.
But Nixon was not facing the formidable obstacles that Donald Trump has surrounding him. Nixon had won re-election in 1972 by a landslide. He managed major legislative triumphs with an opposition-led Congress. He did not hire family members to work in his administration, nor was there ever any question about his loyalty to the United States.
Then came the report by Vanity Fair on Wednesday where former Trump campaign manager and former Senior Policy Advisor Steve Bannon speculates that he does believe Trump could survive an impeachment vote by the “establishment Republican” House of Representatives. Is this merely a matter of petty payback by a fired Trump associate, or is Bannon signaling Trump supporters that they need to replace the incumbents with Bannon-picked candidates to protect Donald Trump?
It is not unusual for a disgruntled member of the opposition party to introduce Articles of Impeachment against a sitting president. They usually die even before being referred to the Judiciary Committee. Don’t expect anything to happen unless and until Articles of Impeachment are introduced by a major Republican figure in the House. Then the rest of the party will have to sit up and take notice.
Right now it is probably too soon for any serious talk about impeachment. But if the Mueller investigation discloses an actual “smoking gun” definitely linking Trump either to collusion with Russia or deliberate obstruction of justice, that scenario could change. Then there are the ramifications of the 2018 mid-term elections. With the number of incumbent Republicans who have announced that they will not be seeking re-election, the odds are increasing in favor of the Democrats taking back control of the House and possibly the Senate.
There is also the possibility that Trump could resign, at any time. One can only hope.