Watching the Democrats take the House may have been exciting, but does it actually mean that we’re getting closer to impeachment?
A dark certainty will follow the election, says @sbg1—if Democrats win, they will go for Trump’s jugular with subpoenas and possibly impeachment. If Republicans win, an emboldened Trump will show what a presidency unfettered by oversight really looks like. https://t.co/YOWgfL0CV2
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) November 6, 2018
Mark My Words: If the Fox News prediction of Dems taking over House stays current, Dems will start impeachment/investigation proceedings as soon as the new Congress is sworn in..
— Gianno Caldwell (@GiannoCaldwell) November 7, 2018
It’s looking like a very solid Democratic House majority.
The subpoenas shall rain down on the Trump administration like rain from the heavens.
Also, with a majority like that, impeachment is a live possibility depending on the content of the Mueller report.
— David French (@DavidAFrench) November 7, 2018
Well, in the frustratingly-prophetic words of Ted Cruz’s supporters, not so fast.
Let’s remember, Article II of the Constitution sets out impeachment as an enumerated power of the legislature; the House may bring formal charges against a federal official much the same that a prosecutor may bring an indictment against an ordinary citizen. In order to get that whole process rolling, the House has to vote to adopt Articles of Impeachment. With a Democratic majority in the House, such a vote could very well come to fruition. But given the many downsides of such action, and the slim likelihood of success, I wouldn’t bet on the House adopting those articles just yet. Even the most adamant Trump-haters view impeachment as a deeply painful process for the American people, to be avoided at all costs.
We may see someone in the House draft potential articles of impeachment (as Texas Representative Al Green has already done), even if just for PR value. We’ve taken a stab at a first draft, in case anyone over in the House has writer’s block. But the problem is that those articles simply aren’t going to result in a Trump ouster. Although the word “impeach” is often misused colloquially, it only means the charging of wrongdoing. The real finale of the impeachment process occurs in the Senate, which acts as the trier of fact. This means that our [still] Republican-controlled Senate would hold the power to convict President Trump of any charges asserted. If the Kavanaugh confirmation made anything clear, it’s that flipping Republicans against one of their own is no easy matter.
Given that a Trump conviction at the hands of this Senate is an extreme longshot, pursuing impeachment could do serious damage to House Democrats. Not only would impeachers be vilified as divisive rabble-rousers, but they would also wind up on the losing end of a trial. While impeachment trials differ dramatically from criminal ones, and the impeachment process is designed to be political and not truly legal, Trump and his supporters would undoubtedly spin an acquittal as complete vindication. Such an outcome could do serious damage to individual Dems and their party for years to come.
Ultimately, the House’s decision about how to handle the impeachment issue may come down to the specifics of Robert Mueller’s report–whenever that is released–and how damning it is for Trump.
For now, though, we may have to be happy with the House’s subpoena power.
[Image via The Hill screengrab]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.