While President Trump has not yet officially been impeached, that historic outcome has become even more likely as the House of Representatives prepares for a full vote on both of the articles that have been presented by the House Judiciary Committee. The full votes on both articles will be held sometime next week, probably Wednesday, and are likely to pass along party lines. Republican members of Congress have shown absolutely no cracks in their resistance to impeachment, as every Republican representative has voted against the process since it began several weeks ago and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he expects no Republican senators to vote to remove President Trump from office.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Jerry Nadler, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff presented the Articles of Impeachment during a press conference on Tuesday, with formal charges including Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. Democrats opted to keep the focus of impeachment narrow in order to build the strongest possible case in a short period of time; although the Mueller Report outlined several instances of potential obstruction of justice, which has been presented as an article in previous impeachments, the articles that the House Panel just approved involved only the misconduct that become evident in connection to a whistleblower complaint from a few months ago. Considering the President’s misconduct to be a national security emergency, Democrats are undergoing the impeachment process as quickly as they possibly can, choosing not to wait for the courts to decide whether the White House is legally obligated to produce documents and witnesses in accordance with numerous congressional subpoenas.
While the outcome in the Democrat-led House of Representatives has been highly predictable throughout the impeachment process, the upcoming trial in the Senate, which is led by Republican Mitch McConnell, is less clear. However, McConnell has shed some light on what the Senate trial will look like during a recent interview with Fox News, during which the Senate Majority Leader indicated that the Senate would follow the White House’s lead in defining the parameters of the trial.
It’s long been predicted that, regardless of how long the Senate trial goes on and how it is defined, Republicans would vote along party lines to protect the President. Now, McConnell has reaffirmed the congressional body’s fealty to the president, as he has taken the historically unprecedented step of allowing the defendant of a high-stakes trial to define the terms of the trial that will determine whether he is found guilty of committing high crimes and misdemeanors. McConnell said that there is ‘zero chance’ Trump is removed by impeachment, and given the Republicans’ unyielding loyalty to the current Commander in Chief, there is little reason to doubt him.
While President Trump will probably not be removed from office after the Senate trial, impeachment is nonetheless likely to have a lasting political impact, as the general election that will determine the next President of the United States will be held in less than a year. Though one can make a fairly confident prediction that Trump will remain the President through 2020, virtually nobody can speak with certainty at this point about the likelihood of his winning reelection next year. Both Democrats and Republicans have said that they hope impeachment will have a positive effect on their political power; Democrats argue that the public process of impeachment helps to inform the electorate about the President’s many abuses of power and thus of the urgency of removing him from office, whereas Republicans see the outcome of impeachment as a victory for the President, who is sure to portray his acquittal in the Senate as a vindication of his position that Article II of the Constitution, which defines the parameters of the executive branch of the federal government, gives him the power to do whatever he wants.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway of the likely outcome of impeachment will be that Trump’s claim to absolute executive power, unburdened by the Constitution’s centuries-old system of checks and balances, will be correct. At this moment in history, as Democrats have taken pains to point out time and time again, impeachment and the upcoming general election are the only two remaining constitutional checks preventing the President from consolidating his power and transforming the country’s government into a monarchy or dictatorship.
If Trump is acquitted by the Senate, as he probably will be, Congress will establish a precedent that it is OK for the President to cheat in American elections by coordinating with foreign powers to interfere in the democratic process around which the country’s entire government is built. Though the upcoming presidential election is likely to be compromised as a result of efforts by the President and Republicans to undermine democracy, it will determine whether or not the United States will remain a republic or descend into an authoritarian state, as the president’s last three years of attacks against the institutions of democratic governance have been remarkably effective and are certain to continue to their completion if he is given another term in office.