The latest revelation from Buzzfeed that Donald Trump allegedly directed his attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow is causing liberals to raise the prospect of impeachment. We’ve been here before.
When he fired James Comey and admitted on national television it was over the Russia investigation he had finally crossed the line, liberals thought. Surely impeachment was neigh. When we learned about Trump personally dictating a letter helping his son lie about trying to get dirt on Hillary Clinton during a meeting with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin – many thought that was the beginning of the end.
The scandals coming from the White House have been so prolific its hard to keep track of them all but after each one was the same result: Trump faced no consequences. I’ve often wondered what new low would this administration would have to reach before Republicans stopped giving it cover. It requires a vivid imagination.
The frustration among Democrats and people of good conscience is palpable, and that has given rise to a new crop of social media charlatans. Grifters posing as Trump-Russia collusion experts have amassed large twitter followings by dangling the prospect of Trump being removed from office in front of desperate liberals.
One of the worst offenders is self-styled “journalist” Louise Mensch. Back in May 2017, Mensch falsely claimed in her blog, Patribotics, that the Marshall of the Supreme Court had informed Trump the House Judiciary Committee was considering Articles of Impeachment against him. Even a basic knowledge of how the US government works would have told her that story was wrong.
Mensch has pushed nonsense conspiracy theories ranging from the possibility of Steve Bannon getting executed, Paul Ryan accepting Russian cash at the RNC, and Vladimir Putin murdering conservative media icon Andrew Breitbart. For her dishonesty, she was rewarded with a New York Times op-ed, a speaking tour, and a blue checkmark on Twitter.
While Mensch is possibly the most laughable of the #resistance grifters, she is far from alone. Other titans of anti-Trump Twitter give their followers a false sense of certainty that the Russia investigation is going to sweep Donald Trump and Mike Pence out of office (looking at you, Seth Abramson). These sorts of probes rarely end with the sort of slam-dunk outcome Democrats are hoping for, and it may leave many questions still unanswered.
No matter what Mueller finds, the ultimate anti-Trump fantasy – the president going to jail – isn’t in the cards either. As satisfying as it would be to see a presidential perp walk – Donald Trump flailing wildly in handcuffs as he’s shoved into the back of a squad car – that’s not going to happen while he’s in office. Since the Nixon era, the Department of Justice has held the opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
The Constitution provides two methods of removing a sitting president: impeachment and Section IV of the 25th amendment. We can almost immediately rule out the 25th amendment as an option. That would require Trump’s Vice-President and 13 out of his 24 cabinet members to turn on their leader, and if he found out about such an attempt he could fire all the conspirators. Even if the cabinet-led coup was successful, Mike Pence would only be in power for 21 days if two-thirds of each chamber of Congress didn’t agree with the decision. Republicans control the Senate, and Democrats don’t have a two-thirds majority in the House. After the 21 days lapses, a likely enraged Donald Trump returns to the most powerful office in the country.
The other option is impeachment and removal, which also requires Republicans to turn on Trump. A simple majority vote in the House is all you need to impeach, but you need two-thirds of the Senate to convict and remove a president. Several House Democrats have been vocal in their support for impeachment. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other senior Democrats have not joined their colleagues on this issue for political reasons. They don’t want to fire up the president’s base over an effort that is doomed to fail in the Senate.
Republican politicians will remain loyal to Trump as long as Republican voters do. According to the polling experts at Gallup, Trump’s overall approval rating has never cracked 50 percent. Among Republicans, however, the president’s approval hovers consistently in the 80 percent range and was as high as 91 percent at one point in November 2018. Conservatives who haven’t gotten in line behind Trump have paid a steep price – look at former Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker. Sticking by Trump through his lies and scandals is an act of self-preservation among Republicans. Don’t expect them to risk a primary challenge by supporting impeachment, even if they are personally appalled by the president.
The unpleasant truth is, we likely are stuck with Trump for at least another two years. Trump will be a tough opponent in 2020, and he could win. His base is highly engaged, Russia will still be looking for ways to influence the election, and he is a master divider. Plus, the electoral college gives an unfair advantage to Trump’s rural base.
As Democrats, we need to stay united and, most importantly, engaged. The 2020 presidential campaign is already heating up. Several Democrats have already announced their candidacy for President, with more likely to come. If you can volunteer on a campaign, do it. If voting is all you can do, do that. Drag your lazy friends to the polls because we all have them. Impeachment won’t save us from President Trump, but you can.