Congressional Democrats Should Not Attempt to Impeach President Trump



Steve Rapport

Protesters march while holding signs calling for Trump’s impeachment on July 2, 2017.

It has been quite some time now since the first calls of impeachment against President Trump were heard from Democrats. When they first began, there was little pressure on Democratic leadership to do anything about it. However, in light of former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller II’s probe into a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, as well as election interference on the part of Russia, the public has become more vocal on impeaching President Trump. This public outcry reached a tipping point when Mueller released his report of the probe and again in July when he testified before Congress. Despite this widespread push for impeaching Trump, it would do serious harm to both Democrats and the nation if Trump were to actually be impeached.

The mounting pressure has caused 118 House Democrats to move over to the pro-impeachment camp, which now constitutes a majority of House Democrats. Many of these lawmakers cite allegations of a criminal conspiracy on the part of the Trump campaign with the Russian government and the many criminal convictions of the President’s associates, including Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, as “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Since the Constitution says that high crimes and misdemeanors are impeachable offenses, lawmakers argue that this is enough to impeach President Trump.

This argument, while valid, ignores broader political realities. At the time of this writing, there are not enough votes in the House to impeach the president. Although pro-impeachment Democrats make up the majority of House Democrats, this does not put them over the 218 votes required to impeach the president. To put impeachment up for a vote would mean that not only would the resolution fold, but it would appear to the American public and the world that the U.S. government isn’t united. This is a dangerous image to portray to those who wish to harm us and must not be overlooked. The risk is even higher as the U.S. deals with a major trade war with the world’s second-largest economy, China, and as it also deals with possible election interference from Russia. In the midst of these major crises, portraying even the slightest hint of being disunited could have catastrophic consequences for America’s interests. These consequences could include Beijing refusing to negotiate with Washington or Russia continuing and becoming more aggressive with its cyber attacks.

Even if the articles of impeachment were voted on and passed in the House, the president would not yet be removed from office, but simply impeached. There is a widespread misconception among the American public that impeachment is the same as removing a president from office. This is not the case. Removing the president from office requires a vote by the Senate to convict him or her. If the House passed articles of impeachment, it would be up to the Senate to convict and remove the president from office. This will never happen though, as Republicans are in control of the Senate. The failure would deal a major blow to Democrats, leaving many people frustrated with the fact that the president was not removed from office, and endangering many House Democrats that are up for reelection in 2020.

It would also hurt Democrats’ chances of taking back the White House. For the time being, the future Democratic nominee has a strong chance of attracting moderates that voted for Trump in 2016. This would require the nominee to walk a fine line between pushing a liberal agenda and advocating a more moderate one. All this would mean nothing if the impeachment of Trump were to actually happen. Moderates and conservatives would be alienated from the Democratic Party due to seeing impeachment as a highly partisan action on the part of Democrats. This would lead to an electoral map that looks similar to the one of 2016. Battleground states would go to Trump along with historically red states, resulting in a Republican victory. The Democratic candidate would lose valuable votes and along with them, the White House.

The impeachment of President Trump would result in a lose-lose scenario for Democrats and the nation, with consequences that will last well into the next couple of generations. Democrats will lose valuable seats in both the Senate and the House due to voters feeling alienated by their representative or senator. This would cede control to the GOP in 2020, while at the same time a divided nation reelects a strengthened President Trump for another four years in the White House. The aftermath of this election would result in an encouraged Moscow continuing severe election interference in following elections. And with no incentive to negotiate with a weakened U.S., China would see no problem in continuing to raise tariffs. However, if Democrats choose not to impeach, a strong Democratic president would be more likely to win in 2020 with a unified Democratic Congress. With such an arrangement, Russian election interference would more likely be subdued, and a trade war with China would likely come to an end with no lasting harm done to the U.S. economy.