Opinion | Muftic: Impeachment? Not so fast

Felicia Muftic
My View
Felicia Muftic
Courtesy Photo

Immediately last Friday after Michael Cohen’s sentencing memo was filed, President Trump crowed he was cleared and the opposition media claimed there were grounds for impeachment because the President was in effect an unindicted co-conspirator of a crime, which was closer to reality. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s court filings regarding Paul Manafort were either redacted or sealed, revealing little.

Often cited are precedents set by both the impeachment of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Neither Nixon nor Clinton was found guilty or was removed from office by Congressional votes. A simple majority in the House can vote to impeach, but two-thirds of the Senate must agree to find him guilty and remove him from office.

Impeachment is not so much a matter of law as it is a political action. Voters’ opinions can give members of Congress political backbones: Clinton’s public job approval ratings polled during the impeachment/trial remained over 70 percent and 66 percent were against removing him from office over the issue of lying and coverup of sexual misconduct. Nixon, after release of the tapes, dropped from winning the prior election to a 31 percent job approval with 43 percent opposing removal from office. During Nixon’s threatened impeachment, Democrats , the opposition party, controlled both House and Senate with significant majorities. Republican Nixon resigned before the House could vote to impeach because tapes were made public that confirmed his guilt. Like Nixon, Clinton’s opposition party, Republicans, controlled both the Senate and the House though the vote even in the GOP controlled Senate fell short of the two thirds needed and he was acquitted. In Donald Trump’s case, the House will be in the hands of Democrats ; the Senate’s majority party is Trump’s.

The current public mood should give the GOP shudders. It is similar to Nixon’s. The key public voter question is whether the actions of the President as charged by Congress justifies his removal from office , which is the end result of a Senate conviction. Trump’s current job approval is around 40 percent with 42 percent opposed to his removal from office per a June 2018 poll. This is before we know much of what Special Counsel Robert Mueller has found.

That Democrats gained a decisive majority in the House of Representatives in November means they have the simple majority of votes needed to impeach Trump without any GOP help At this moment it is a debatable intra party question of whether impeachment is an effective political strategy, distracting from promoting their public policy agenda. GOP control of the Senate would block removal of the president at this time in any case.

So far, public knowledge of facts implicating Trump is thin. Recently filed court documents do indicate business financial gain could have been his motivation to commit crimes of conspiracy/collusion and obstruction of justice. The closest to fingering Donald Trump himself came last week in the Michael Cohen case filings in which Cohen claimed he was instructed by the President to break campaign finance laws. That the President intended to pay for silence of women with whom he had affairs was to protect family peace, not campaign purposes as Cohen claims, could be a reasonable defense. Whether the public would think lying and cover-up of sexual misdeeds alone justifies removing him from office is very questionable. It makes sense to wait for Mueller’s report and findings of Democratic dominated House committees.

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