Congressional Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump, while having the potential to hurt him, may also turn into a boomerang that will increase his chances of getting reelected in 2020.
Americans have been discussing whether Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has jeopardized national security.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement that the House would initiate an official impeachment inquiry against Trump has further polarized Democrats and Republicans.
Nearly all Democrats argue that the president is abusing his power and must be impeached while conversely most Republicans think the inquiry is nothing more than a “hoax”.
It is necessary to highlight this sharp division between Republicans and Democrats before Trump's meeting with the Ukrainian leader because regardless of what this inquiry results in, a ‘divided’ America will determine the winner of the 2020 presidential elections.
What is Donald Trump accused of?
The Democrat-led House initiated the impeachment inquiry into the allegations that Trump, in a phone call made in July this year, asked Zelensky to investigate his political rival Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s business activities in Ukraine.
Democrats claimed the U.S. president offered Zelensky the release of $400 million in aid to Ukraine in exchange for the investigation of Hunter Biden’s business dealings, which is against the law.
The Democrats stated that Trump was using his office to seek help from a foreign state to gain advantage over his political rival. According to the law, that would be enough for Trump to be impeached, since his actions would be threatening U.S. national interests.
Trump: 'No pressure was put on him'
On the other hand, Trump denied putting pressure on the Ukrainian leader regarding Biden and asserted that the Democrats’ claims concerning the phone call were “made up”.
Trump added that prior to his meeting with Zelensky, the U.S. had already suspended aid to Ukraine and there was no link between the aid and Biden's investigation.
Trump argued that it was normal for him to raise the issue of Biden in the phone call and that he had spoken to the public many times on the issue as well.
Biden family wealth acquired ‘unlawfully’
Trump, who argued that there are serious allegations that the Biden family has made "unlawful" money in Ukraine, stated that it is, indeed, his duty to investigate corruption allegations against the family of a candidate running for president.
The critical question here is this: Did Trump really ask for help from a foreign country to gain a trump card against one of his political rivals and make a decision that jeopardized the national security of the United States? Whether there is a connection between the release of the U.S. aid and the Hunter Biden investigation is of utmost importance.
According to the transcript of the Trump-Zelensky phone call published by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Trump seems to have put pressure on the Ukrainian leader on Biden. However, the White House version of the transcript reports that while the U.S. president did tell Zelensky about the issue, nothing was used for bargaining purposes.
Ultimately, the Democrats tried to put pressure on Trump based on Schiff’s version of the transcript and Trump responded by saying that the Democrats made up that version of the transcript and accused Schiff of treason, a very serious crime.
How the impeachment process works
The U.S. Constitution allows for presidents to be tried and removed if found guilty, but the impeachment process has never resulted in the removal of a U.S. president from office.
According to the Constitution, presidents who enage in treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors can be tried. In the first step of this process, a member of the House of Representatives must apply to the Justice Committee. If the application is accepted in the committee, the draft prepared is put to vote in the House of Representatives.
It is then required for the House of Representatives to pass the impeachment articles by a majority vote, which the Democrats should be able to get, having 235 of the 435 seats. However, the president’s removal would require the approval of the Senate, which is dominated by Republicans.
In this removal process, the members of the Senate serve as the jury, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court as the head of the judicial process and a group of deputies in the House of Representatives as the prosecutor while the president has a defense attorney.
Senate has last word on removal
The Senate vote follows the trial and needs a two-thirds majority (67 out of 100 seats) to convict and remove the president. If the president is removed, the vice president takes over as the new president.
In the current Senate, there are 47 Democrat and 53 Republican senators. It seems almost impossible for 67 Senators in the Senate to convict Trump. The chances are very slim that at least 20 Republican senators will find Trump guilty.
There seems to be no reason for why the Republicans would suddenly turn on Trump because of the phone call, especially when there is just a year left before the 2020 elections.
Moreover, polls show that Trump's reputation and credibility among Republican voters is just as high as the 2016 elections. The Republicans, who will have the single candidate advantage against the Democrats, divided between Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on their way to the 2020 elections, will not want to remove Trump. That would be a dream come true for the Democrats.
Could impeachment inquiry help Trump?
Unable to defeat Trump with the Russian investigation, the Democrats chose to use the Ukrainian trump card they received with the complaint of a CIA informant.
American Professor Allan Lichtman is an interesting political historian who accurately predicted who would win the last nine presidential elections. Lichtman once stated that the Democrats cannot defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 elections unless they “move into an impeachment inquiry”.
The Democrats turned a trump card into an impeachment inquiry to hurt Trump before a presidential election that they already thought they had no more than a 50% chance of winning.
Trump will undoubtedly try to use the impeachment inquiry to his advantage, enhancing the sense of victimization his base feels, in efforts to re-mobilize the conservative Republican supporters from the 2016 election.