When Donald Trump revealed to Lester Holt that he had the Russian investigation in mind while firing James Comey, the exact thought that later was the subject of an SNL skit crossed my mind: Is this it? Did we get him?
Several days ago, Texas Congressman Al Green called for the president’s impeachment. But is that feasible or even practical?
For a lot of us, impeachment sounds like a pretty good deal. A majority of the country did not vote for Donald Trump or his policies, his approval rating is hovering consistently in the upper thirty percent, and the man himself seems determined to trample precedent that was there for a reason.
But here’s the thing. Impeachment is difficult. So difficult, in fact, that we’ve only impeached two presidents: Andrew Johnson during the disaster of Reconstruction, and Bill Clinton during the disaster of the Lewinsky scandal. Both times, the president was impeached by the House and later acquitted by the Senate. Richard Nixon was never impeached at all, but faced with the idea, he was forced to resign.
Democrats may have a case against Trump. By openly admitting that the Russia investigation was on his mind while firing James Comey, the man running it, the president unwittingly revealed his own obstruction of justice. Incidentally, obstruction of justice was one of the two aspects of Clinton’s impeachment.
Unfortunately for that case, being guilty of whatever you’re being impeached for is not enough to remove you from office. Clinton’s case proves it. While he was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice, the Senate ultimately decided that the primary reason for his impeachment had been his affair, which was hardly an impeachable offense.
The same could eventually be true of Trump. While it’s virtually undeniable at this point that there was some level of obstruction of justice, it probably wouldn’t be enough to get rid of him.
First, the House needs to actually impeach him. Considering the Republican majority—who for the most part are, if not loyal to Trump, willing to use him to achieve their ends—it’s unlikely that the House would follow through on the process. In the unlikely event that impeachment actually passed the House, we would then endure a long trial process in the Senate, where 67 Senators would have to decide that he was guilty. Again, a Republican majority virtually ensures that even if impeachment hearings occurred, nothing would happen.
Personally, a failed impeachment attempt right now is not what the Democrats need to be focusing on. Yes, they need to raise a ruckus about the Russian investigation. Yes, they need to call for a special prosecutor. And yes, if they have to fight back on the hearings for the new FBI head to ensure as much bipartisanship as possible.
Right now, their priority should be the American people. Making sure that the new tax policy benefits all Americans, not just the rich, and that any replacements to the Affordable Care Act retain the ACA’s intentions as closely as possible.
There are plenty of fights, and a failed impeachment attempt is not one of them.