In the wake of new revelations of memos written by former FBI Director James Comey, Democrats such as Sen. Angus King (ME), Rep. Al Green (TX), and Rep. Maxine Waters (CA) have called for the impeachment of President Trump. David Gergen (CNN) said, “We’re already in impeachment territory.” British oddsmakers give Trump only a 46 percent chance of finishing his first term. But can impeachment really happen? Let’s talk about it.
Only two presidents have ever been impeached. And no, Richard Nixon was not one of them. I’m talking about Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. And neither was removed from office. That’s because impeachment and removal from office are a high bar to get over.
The Constitution is very specific about the basis for impeachment. Article II Section 4 states, “The President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment from, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” And the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” is not made clear.
But can President Trump actually be impeached and removed from office?
Is it likely?
There are five reasons a Trump impeachment is very unlikely.
1. President Trump has not even been accused of a crime.
Despite their best efforts, neither Democrats nor the media have produced a single scintilla of evidence of a crime – either in the Russian collusion or the Comey memo “scandal.” And where there is no evidence, there is no crime. And where there is no crime, there is no impeachment.
2. Impeaching Trump would be dumb politically.
If the Democrats were successful in actually removing Trump from office, they’d have a President Pence. And that would be their worst nightmare. Mike Pence is more conservative than Trump, and far less prone to the kind of unforced errors that make a second Trump term so precarious. Democrats will be in a much better position to win elections in 2018, 2020, and after by running against the volatile Trump than the steady Pence.
3. As with Bill Clinton, impeaching Trump would make him more powerful, not less.
When Clinton was impeached, he was at his lowest point in popularity. But being impeached was viewed as an overreach, resulting in a wide swing in public opinion. Clinton was empowered and suddenly had the country behind him as never before.
4. The math makes impeachment nearly impossible for Democrats.
Democrats would need the support of 25 House Republicans to approve articles of impeachment and then 15 Senate Republicans to remove Trump from office. There’s a reason no president has ever been removed from office. It is a really high bar to get over, and with Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress – nearly impossible.
5. The two big issues appear bogus.
Issue #1 – Trump’s meeting with Russian President Putin. The accusation is that Trump shared classified information with Putin. Here’s the problem – As President, Mr. Trump is completely within his rights to declassify anything at anytime. So even if he did what he is accused of doing, it is perfectly legal.
Issue #2 – the Comey memos. The implication is that Mr. Comey jotted down some comments Trump made to him at a White House dinner on February 14. Trump supposedly suggested Comey go easy on Michael Flynn. Rep. Elijah Cummings, as well as other Democrats, called this a “textbook case of obstruction of justice.” Here’s the problem – Anything short of a direct order would not rise to the level of obstruction, and therefore a crime. And if Trump actually had given Mr. Comey such a clear directive, by not telling the Justice Department – immediately – Comey effectively downplayed the severity of the comments. No one would have recognized obstruction as well as the Director of the FBI, and he did nothing to report the Trump comments as inappropriate.
So yes, it is possible that Mr. Trump could be impeached. It’s also possible my Houston Texans will win the next Super Bowl and the Houston Astros will win the World Series and the Houston Rockets will win next year’s NBA championship. It’s possible – but highly unlikely.