January 19, 2020

Is Impeachment Ahead for Donald Trump?

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event where U.S.-Japan trade agreements were signed at the White House on October 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump also spoke about the U.S. Southern Border, Syria, and the current impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

As written by Finley Peter Dunne in 1895, fictional philosopher Mr. Dooley once asserted “politics ain’t beanbag.” This means the lives of politicians on and off the campaign trail will be rough — but it’s to be expected.

Modern U.S. elections feature gerrymandered districts, dark money campaign donations, vote harvesting and “deep fake” videos. Supreme Court judicial nominations are occasions to defeat (Reagan nominee Robert Bork), deny (Obama nominee Merrick Garland) or destroy (Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh) federal judges.

Now, the permanent partisan war rooms in Washington, D.C., have simply shifted to a new battleground.

So will President Donald Trump be impeached? 

Of course, he will.

Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016 was likely to result in his impeachment after the Democrats gained the majority in the House. Acquittal in the Republican-controlled Senate is virtually assured, as well.

Trump, an outsider businessman seeking to “drain the swamp” and take on “the deep state” has infuriated his opposition with his tone and style, even more than his policy agenda. The Washington Post reported the first calls to impeach on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2017, based on conflict-of-interest claims. Reps. Al Green and Brad Sherman launched a formal House resolution seeking articles of impeachment that same year.

FBI and congressional investigations into alleged Russian collusion progressed for the next two years. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report found no underlying criminal conspiracy, but raised serious issues of obstruction of justice.

Trump’s July 25, 2019, phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sparked whistleblower concerns of self-dealing. The whistleblower was accused, in unconfirmed reports, to be a longtime partisan staffer associated with former Vice President Joe Biden, CIA Director John Brennan, and the Democrat National Committee (DNC).

Zelensky claims he wasn’t directly asked, as a condition of receiving U.S. military aid, to investigate potential corruption by Biden’s son Hunter (who once was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company).

The Obama administration had held up approximately $1 billion in aid because of corruption in Ukraine and Trump claimed Biden had bragged about deterring Ukrainian prosecutors from examining his son’s activities.  

After continuing to withhold monetary aid and complaining that Europeans were not contributing to Ukraine’s defense against Russia, the administration did release $391 million in aid in September 2019.

Rep. Adam Schiff has been holding witness hearings to investigate alleged abuse of power by Trump in seeking personal or political advantage by asking Zelensky “for a favor.” There also are concerns the original Ukraine tapes were “doctored.”

Trump’s upset in 2016 was likely to result in his impeachment after the Democrats gained the majority in the House. 

The GOP has vociferously complained these to-date “secret hearings” lack due process and fair play, and deny presidential counsel, cross-examination of witnesses or GOP subpoenas.

Trump’s supporters accused Democrats of selective leaks to partisan media organizations as part of a strategy to create a narrative of impeachable offenses rising to “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”   

On Oct. 31, 2019, Democrats passed a party-line vote absent of any GOP support to move forward with a formal impeachment inquiry. Impeachment purposefully is difficult, requiring a majority vote in the House and a two-thirds vote of conviction in the Senate.

The case against Trump ultimately is a political claim of abuse of power, untrustworthiness and unfitness for office.

Once impeached and acquitted, Trump’s ultimate political fortunes and historical reputation will rise or fall when the American public asserts its voice and vote in 2020. n

Larry Greenfield is a fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy.