by Jake Anderson
One of the few people who openly predicted Trump’s victory, Washington D.C.-based professor Allen Lichtman, also predicted he would be impeached. Lichtman’s reasoning was that the Republican Congress would turn on him:
“They don’t want Trump as president, because they can’t control him. He’s unpredictable. They’d love to have Pence — an absolutely down-the-line, conservative, controllable Republican. And I’m quite certain Trump will give someone grounds for impeachment, either by doing something that endangers national security or because it helps his pocketbook.”
Lichtman isn’t the only one who believes this will happen. As soon as Trump was elected, people across the political spectrum began figuratively preparing articles of impeachment with the presumption that the President-elect would instantly fill in the blanks with high crimes and misdemeanors soon after his inauguration.
Last week, there was news of a dossier handed over to the CIA by British intelligence that allegedly contained egregious offenses committed by Trump. Apparently, both Trump and Obama had been briefed on new compromising evidence from Russia — and some of it was of a reportedly sexual, incendiary nature. However, with that evidence unsubstantiated and a 4chan user claiming to have manufactured the sexual parts of the claim as fanfiction, it’s unlikely there is anything in the new imbroglio that will stick.
Down the road, this may not be the case. New betting odds show a 50/50 chance Trump will be impeached before the end of his first term. While gambling odds are surely no predictive science, the British company Ladbrokes offered a slate of Donald Trump Specials that, by the end of the week, saw impeachment odds rise to 11/10. Other Donald Trump bets included him visiting Russia within the year, not being re-elected in 2020, and not even being inaugurated (for which the odds are 6/1).
Angelia Wilson, a professor of politics at the University of Manchester, also believes Trump will be impeached within the first 12 to 18 months of his presidency:
“Whether it will be about the Russia dossier or other scandals that are undoubtedly there, he has become a liability for the Republican party. At some point they will need to distance themselves from him in order to solidify reelection for the House.”
While popular sentiment may assume Trump will be impeached, the political calculus of the situation is a bit more complex. This is mainly because you would have to believe Republicans would impeach a Republican president. Impeachment is a historically political act. The only recent example of it (remember that Nixon resigned before he could be impeached) was when a Republican-controlled House voted for articles of impeachment against then-President Bill Clinton for lying under oath about sexual dalliances with Monica Lewinsky.
People who believe Trump will be a political liability for the Republican brand should ask themselves if they think an impeached president is a bigger liability for the party. The answer is almost certainly yes. They should also consider the political liability of disenfranchising Trump voters and fracturing the party. Historically, impeachment has been a constitutional tool levied politically by the legislative branch against the executive branch. It’s a political power play used by one party to damage another.
In 2018, if the Democrats flip 24 seats and retake the House — where a simple majority is required to draft impeachment articles — the story could change…slightly. While politicos consider this unlikely, it is a less daunting proposition than the Dems retaking the Senate. However, even if the Democrats retook the House, there might be an inverted repeat of the 90s Kenneth Starr crusade against Clinton. Starr wasted tens of millions of dollars dragging an impeachment trial through the House knowing there was little to no chance the Democratic-controlled Senate would convict their party’s president. In the present case, it would be a Democratic-controlled House looking for impeachment knowing the GOP controlled the Senate.
Meanwhile, there is virtually no chance of Democrats flipping 20 seats and retaking the Senate in 2018. Thirty-three seats will be up for grabs, and 23 of them are currently held by Democrats. Two are held by independents, including Bernie Sanders from Vermont. In contrast, only eight Republican senators stand to lose their seats, meaning the math overwhelmingly favors the GOP in the 2018 senatorial elections.
Again, the math boils down to there being little to no chance that Democrats will control both the House and the Senate during Trump’s first term. To believe Trump will be impeached, you have to believe the Republicans will impeach their own president at the risk of invoking the wrath of his voters and splintering the party even further. While it’s been made plainly clear that middle-of-the-road establishment Republicans preferred other candidates — some of them vehemently so — it would take an especially heinous, larger than life offense by Trump to turn his own party against him to that extent.
You tell me, is he capable of such an offense while in office?
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