Among those who support impeachment, there has been a division on whether Democrats in the House of Representatives should vote to impeach the president quickly and wrap this all up, or use their time to investigate the president to the fullest extent.
There are two sets of jurors in this case. There are the Republicans in the Senate who, after the House votes to impeach the president, will vote on whether or not to convict and remove the president. There needs to be 67 votes to convict and remove, and no Senate Republicans have come out in support of the impeachment inquiry, at least as of now, much less of convicting the president. If House Democrats focus the inquiry solely on Ukraine to make this as expedited a process as possible, it remains unlikely that any Senate Republicans will be persuaded to vote to convict the president.
The other set of jurors, however, is the American people: on November 3, 2020, voters will decide whether the president deserves a second term. We need to ensure that voters go to the ballot box understanding the full breadth of president’s criminality.
The problem with having a quick vote on impeachment in the House is that in the past month alone, House Democrats have uncovered enough information that made Trump’s approval rating among Republicans drop six points. The president’s tax returns have still been kept secret, as has all of his other calls with foreign leaders that are being kept on a top secret server. Imagine another four or five months filled with this kind of explosive reporting that could continue to drive down the president’s numbers, especially among Republicans, which may begin to crack the support base Trump currently enjoys in the Senate.
The potential consequences of an impeachment inquiry are twofold; uncovering the president’s criminality so voters know about it, and trying to shift public support in enough states substantially away from the president so, hopefully, enough Republican Senators will vote to convict.
A recent Fox News poll found that 51 percent of Americans think that the president should be impeached and removed from office, a nine point increase since July. It took less than a month after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry to get half of voters on board. Imagine how public opinion might shift with months more of this sustained attention to the president’s corruptibility. It took fourteen months from the start of the televised Senate Watergate hearings to convince half of voters that Richard Nixon should be removed from office. Within a month of the majority of the public favoring removal from office, Nixon resigned.
However, all that was before the Republican Party had a 24/7 propaganda apparatus or an unfiltered social media landscape to peddle lies, so it is unlikely that the president will resign with a mere majority of voters favoring his removal. Yet, if this number keeps growing, Senate Republicans might start to waver in their support. This Ukraine scandal, the fact that the president leveraged military aid to get a foreign country to investigate his political rival, has changed the political landscape drastically.
The White House put out the reconstructed transcripts of not just the calls between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but also transcripts of calls between Trump and President Putin and the Saudi royal family. Russia is now saying that the president can not release his phone calls with Putin without the Kremlin’s permission. What is the Kremlin so afraid of being made public in those transcripts? President Trump and his administration are considering a plan to build nuclear power plants throughout Saudi Arabia over the objections of White House lawyers who question the legality of the plan and the ethics of a venture that could enrich Trump allies.
Jared Kushner seems to be spearheading this effort, and there are reports that President Trump would, while on the phone with foreign heads of state, hand the receiver to Ivanka Trump. Did she ever speak to Saudi Arabia about this plan to give Saudia Arabia nuclear capabilities? What did President Tayyip Erdogan say in his phone call with President Trump that convinced him to remove our troops from Northern Syria to leave our Kurdish allies to be massacred? Could the president’s business interests, and specifically the Trump Towers in Istanbul, have influenced his decision to let 2 million people get murdered by the Turkish army and their allied forces? If the House rushes the impeachment inquiry and keeps it focused solely on Ukraine, we may never get answers to those questions. It is imperative that American citizens know if our president is selling out our national security to the highest bidder.
House Democrats have one shot to impeach the president, and once they do it that can not continue investigating him. To investigate the president after he is impeached, and presumably exonerated by the Senate, would seem like they are sore losers grappling at straws. Instead they must proceed quickly, but thoroughly. So far, the Ukrainian scandal, while it has successfully moved public opinion, has not substantially moved Senate Republicans into opposing the president. However, they have not defended him so far, either. House Democrats need to keep up this pressure and ensure that even if Senate Republicans do not remove him, voters in 2020 will have all the information about Trump’s criminality to make a well-informed decision.
Photo credit Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons