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% and 66% 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% job approval with 43% 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% with 42% 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 coverup 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.
Both the Clinton impeachment case and the Michael Cohen/Trump charges involved lying and covering up sexual misconduct. Some Republicans voted not to convict Clinton, and all Democrats stood by their man. Later public opinion polls showed 57% the public did not want Clinton to lose his job over the issue and they considered the impeachment harmful to the country (Gallup via Wikipedia summary)
The Mueller filings regarding Manafort pointed to lies to the Special Counsel about his coordination with the White House in 2018 and lies about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, his associate, who had ties with Russian military intelligence, the DNC hackers.
Also see the prior blog posting 12/3/2018. The tangled web of Trump-Russian deceit.
If sexual misconduct, lying and coverup did not reach the "time does not fit the crime" in the Cllinton case , i.e. the offense was not the reason for the Senate to convict because it was not serious enough and the administration's ability to conduct business (high job approval rating), then the "high crimes" needed to be something worse. Worse could be treason, bribery and a serious high crime...definition is up to the House to say what it is. What would be "high" enough to warrant a Senate conviction? Look for proof beyond reasonable doubt of treason (collusion, conspire) to work against US, bribery..a tit for tat like: Russia will help Trump win if he gets sanctions against Russians lifted; money lauundering, emoluments clause violations, tax evasion, and whatever else the House defines. Another nagging problem is can a President be impeached for what he did before he took office? The other problem: the DOJ has its own rules that a sitting president cannot be indicted for a crime, but nothing in the Constitution forbids this. If the offenses took place before the President was sworn in, he could be indicted after he left office and prosecuted, though.