California Democrats at a state party convention June 1 chanted “Impeach! Impeach!” while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was making a speech.
“We will go where the facts lead us,” Pelosi said, trying to reassure the crowd. “President Trump will be held accountable for his actions — in the Congress, in the courts, and in the court of public opinion.”
“We can’t wait,” a coalition of progressive groups declared June 4. The groups wrote Pelosi to express “deep disappointment and concern” she hasn’t gotten on with impeachment.
“In the very near future, the Trump era will be one that evokes the question — what did you do? We urge you to use your power to lead and to stop asking us to wait,” the letter from CREDO Action and about two dozen other groups said.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 did not exonerate Trump, as he and his allies claim.
“If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” Mueller said last month in his only public remarks on the report.
But Mueller’s team also did not recommend the Justice Department make a case against Trump. “Under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office ... Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider,” Mueller explained.
To many Democrats, it seemed Mueller was inviting Congress to hold Trump accountable.
The Constitution says the president may be impeached for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” but leaves what constitutes an impeachable offense to the House. Impeachment starts in the House, but removing a president from office then requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate. That, as Pelosi has said, will require a compelling case — with facts. It’s a heavy lift. No president has ever been removed from office.
For his part, Trump calls impeachment “dirty, filthy, disgusting” and is stonewalling House requests for testimony or documents by White House aides.
Meanwhile, 11 of the more than 20 Democratic presidential candidates have expressed “full-throated support” for immediate impeachment proceedings, according to HuffPost, which keeps a running list.
Nearly 60 House Democrats from true-blue districts support opening an impeachment inquiry.
But even 60 members are less than one quarter of the 235 Democrats in the House. Many centrist Democratic representatives from swing districts either haven’t decided or won’t say whether they support impeachment.
They and Pelosi recognize something many on the left ignore: Democrats could impeach Trump and make liberals feel good — and the Republican-controlled Senate likely would leave Trump in office.
Were he to remain in office, as Bill Clinton did after his impeachment, Trump likely would emerge stronger for 2020, his followers more motivated to reelect him.
A stickier problem for Democrats is most Americans oppose Trump’s impeachment and removal, according to polls.
Among registered voters overall, 54 percent oppose while only 41 percent favor impeachment and removal, the latest CNN poll reported June 2.
While 76 percent Democrats say yes, only 35 percent of independents and 6 percent of Republicans want to see Trump impeached and removed.
House Democratic leaders may be moving too slowly for the party’s liberal base, but they risk alienating the 65 percent of voters who say Trump already has faced more investigations than any previous president.
On Monday, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, will open a series of hearings into the Mueller report. These are not impeachment hearings but could lead to them.
We don’t know what facts Democratic investigations may turn up that could change minds. But here are two more numbers from the CNN poll to keep in mind: While 93 percent of Republicans oppose Trump’s impeachment and removal, so do 59 percent of independents.
Without the latter on board, impeachment and removal don’t stand a chance.
Mercer writes from Washington. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. ©2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.