The impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump has become more likely, with Washington embracing the possibility of it occuring before the end of the year.
The word “impeachment” has been trending for weeks following the news that Trump fired FBI director James Comey for investigating his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. And with new reports alleging that the U.S. President may have tried to bully Comey out of investigating his alleged ties to the Russians, there is now an even higher chance of the House Judiciary Committee actually taking up the question of impeachment.
If the reports were true, there would be a legitimate case to initiate impeachment hearings against the President. Democrats and Republicans are now teaming up for it, as even Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida is flaunting the idea of removing him from office.
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History is on Trump’s side on this one, as no U.S. president has ever been impeached before. Richard Nixon decided to resign on his own amid the growing pressure of the impeachment process during his term. Statistics and predictions, however, offer a gloomy future for the 45th President.
The prediction market Betfair says the probability of Trump being removed or leaving office before 2020 is about 50%, while there’s a 20% to 25% probability of Trump failing to finish out the year as President.
Trump’s impeachment offenses continue to mount
The word “impeachment” has been on America’s mind after a series of eyebrow-raising actions from President Trump in recent months.
A memo by former FBI Director Comey has revealed that Trump asked him to shut down the federal investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his alleged links to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Trump fired Comey by his admission earlier this month. Comey’s memos and Trump’s admission could be reason enough to initiate impeachment hearings.
A case for Trump’s impeachment could also be made on accusations of corruption and receiving payments from foreign governments, which could trigger the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. Since assuming office, the real estate mogul doubled the membership admission fee at his Florida club resort, Mar-a-Lago, to $200,000. Additionally, his new Trump International Hotel, which sits conveniently just blocks away from the White House, is offering enormous rates for foreign diplomats staying there. Receiving money from foreign governments is prohibited by the Constitution.
Trump is no stranger to being accused of conflicts of interests, as he has yet to release his tax returns or distance himself from his businesses while in office.
One can argue that a series of other actions by Trump, including his accusations that former President Barack Obama tapped his phones in Trump Tower and his scandalous defamations of the press, also constitute impeachable offenses. Harming national security interests by bragging to Russian officials about U.S. intelligence operations against ISIS could also be an impeachable offense, if those accusations turn out to be true.
Are Republicans ready to impeach Trump in 2017?
The House of Representatives can impeach any president with a simple majority vote, but it’s not that easy. In fact, Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached by the House, but they were never impeached by the Senate.
After the House impeaches a President, the case is handed over to the Senate, which holds a trial and then votes on whether the President should be convicted and, subsequently, impeached. The Senate requires a two-thirds majority to impeach a President.
No President was ever impeached by the Senate, as neither Johnson nor Clinton was convicted by the Senate. Nixon, who stepped down under mounting impeachment pressure, would have most likely been convicted by the Senate if he did not resign. So history is on Trump’s side, as that means only 1 out of 44 previous Presidents was on the brink of being convicted by the Senate.
In the Republican-controlled Senate, meanwhile, the odds of him being impeached are rather questionable, though with the growing number of Republicans vocally opposing him, that could no longer be the case.
What happens if Trump is impeached?
One can argue that the decision to impeach a President is a political question rather than a legal one. So as long as Republicans control the House and Senate – or to be more precise, as long as Republicans are satisfied with Trump as President – the possibility of impeachment remains rather low.
Despite the Republican party having had conflicts with Trump before announcing his nomination last year and throughout the presidential election campaign, the party members have stood firmly with their President since his election win. However, it has much more to do with political survival than it does with loyalty to Trump.
Thus, one can argue that once Republicans start thinking that supporting the President is more harmful to their political survival than abandoning him, the Republican party’s support could begin to crumble, at the same time skyrocketing the odds of Trump’s impeachment. As long as he sticks to the Republican agenda, which consists of repealing Obamacare and reforming the tax code, Republicans will most likely stand by his side.
On the other hand, if they begin to see Trump as an obstacle to their agenda, Republican party leaders could start abandoning him. In Trump is impeached, Vice President Mike Pence would take over his presidency. While Pence would most likely not change much, the American public could push for another presidential election to elect someone else entirely. Pence has previously called gay marriage a “deterioration of family” and “societal collapse.” The Vice President also opposes abortion and, like Trump, does not believe in climate change, according to the Independent.
The impeachment of Trump would be even more likely if control of the House shifted into the hands of Democrats in the 2018 congressional election. However, it would still require a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate to impeach him.