Well, the House Democrats finally did it. Donald Trump is now the 20th person — and third president — to be impeached by the House of Representatives in our nation’s history.
On Jan. 20, 2017, the day Trump was sworn in as president, a Washington Post headline read: “The campaign to impeach Trump has begun.”
Ten days later, Mark Zaid, the attorney representing the so-called “whistleblower,” tweeted: “#coup has started. First of many steps. #rebellion. #impeachment will follow ultimately. #lawyers.”
On May 17, 2017, Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, delivered a speech on the floor of the House urging his colleagues to impeach the president, and on July 12, 2017, Green and Rep. Brad Sherman, D-California, filed the first articles of impeachment against Trump.
Other House Democrats soon followed suit and never stopped.
It all seems so anti-climactic. The matter will now move over to the Senate for a trial, expected to begin in early January.
The vote to impeach Trump in the House was as inevitable as his acquittal will be in the Senate. It will require a vote of two-thirds of those senators who are present — 67 if all 100 senators vote — to convict Trump, which would result in his removal from office.
Assuming that all 45 Senate Democrats and both nominal independents vote to convict, they still will need at least 20 Republican senators to join them in order to remove Trump from office.
That won’t happen, and everyone knows it.
In Wednesday night’s House vote, not a single Republican voted in favor of either of the two articles of impeachment. Two Democrats voted against the first article, three voted against the second. And Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, voted “present” for both, essentially abstaining.
That’s a remarkable testament to just how divided we are. Even Gabbard, who says she believes that the president committed wrongdoing, stated that “removal of a sitting president must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country.”
In 1998, when a Democratic president was facing the prospect of impeachment, current House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-New York, said:
“There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment or an impeachment substantially supported by one of our major political parties and largely opposed by the other. Such an impeachment would lack legitimacy, would produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come, and will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions.”
My, how times change.
And now, after Democrats on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees refused to allow their Republican colleagues to call witnesses, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is threatening to delay transmission of the articles of impeachment until the Senate adopts rules for the impeachment trial that are to her liking.
However, Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution provides that the Senate “shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments,” and the Senate has its own rules governing impeachment.
It’s highly unlikely that the Senate will put up with Pelosi’s blatant attempt to interfere with its independence and constitutional prerogatives for very long. The stakes are simply too high to allow for such gamesmanship.
Although the impeachment votes in the House no doubt have angered the president, he will not be unseated by this partisan ploy. The ultimate verdict will be rendered by the people when they vote in November 2020.
Will that end the matter? Hardly.
The president’s critics are legion. As former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, a frequent Trump critic, recently tweeted:
“[Important] note on future: If the Senate doesn’t vote to convict Trump, or tries to monkey w his trial, he could of course be retried in the new Senate should he win re-election. Double jeopardy protections do not apply. And Senators voting on impeachment in the next months know this.”