The Launching of Impeachment 1,2,3 – “Sunday Political Brunch” -- November 3, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – For the fourth time in U.S. history, the nation finds itself on the road to a presidential impeachment. It’s a checkered history. In two cases, impeachment was approved, but removal from office was rejected by the Senate. In another instance, the president resigned. What will happen this time around? All bets are off! Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“By the Numbers” – The final vote total in the House on Thursday came as no surprise. It was 232 in favor of going ahead with the impeachment inquiry, to 196 against. The vote was pretty much along party lines, with all but two Democrats voting yes, and all Republicans voting no. Just to be clear, this was simply a vote to go ahead with the impeachment process, it was not a vote to impeach.

“What Happened Last Time?” – You keep hearing people say impeachment is a political process and not a legal one. That is more cliché than truth, because it is both. After all, the impeachment process is spelled out on the U.S. Constitution. But, yes, the engagement is highly politicized. In the final House impeachment vote in 1998 against President Clinton, only five Democrats voted to impeach. In the Senate trial, not one Democrat voted to remove President Clinton from office on either of the two counts. So, the politics matters.

“High Crimes and Misdemeanors” – That’s the Constitutional guideline for impeachment. Yet, it is not precisely defined. The president is not really charged with a crime. For example, President Clinton was impeached on a count of perjury. It short, that was because he lied under oath to a federal judge. Yes, it’s very serious, but he was never charged criminally with that offense. In Trump’s case, he potentially faces a charge of “abuse of power.” It’s not a necessarily a criminal offense, but more a reflection that he abused his authority by suggesting Ukraine investigate a domestic political opponent. Foreign policy and politics are supposed to “stop at the water’s edge,” as the old saying goes, and the issue is whether he used poor judgment, or even violated the law, on that standard.

“Why the Math Matters” – I don’t want to get ahead of the House proceedings, but the endgame is in the U.S. Senate, after all. The Constitution says you need a two-thirds vote, or 67 yay, to remove a president from office. With the Senate margin currently 53 Republicans to 47 Democrats, it’s an optimistic reach to say the least. The Democrats need 20 Republicans to bolt, and that’s going to be nearly impossible. I predict they might get seven or eight, but 20? No.

“Will the Defense Ever Rest?” – This is going to be a fascinating public relations game as the inquiry moves forward. In 1998 President Clinton chose to have certain surrogates such as attorney Lanny Davis speak on his behalf. The theory then was the impeachment was a political stunt, and President Clinton wanted to stay above the fray and show people he was too busy running the country. This won’t go that way. President Trump was fast to tweet his thoughts, and I am sure will be the “defender-in-chief” for his own case. I predict he will tweet relentlessly. His combative nature is probably the number one thing his supporters like about him.

“The Political Impeachment Potholes” – This week’s vote was more of a “rubber stamp” as the House impeachment inquiry has already been underway for weeks at the instruction of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) California, which is her right. But in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon and President Clinton, there was a full House vote (albeit symbolic) to start the impeachment inquiry right from the get-go. Why was this time different? Well there are 31 Democrat House members who were elected in 2018, in districts that President Trump won in 2016. By putting those members “on the record,” as Trump and many Republicans wished, that put them on the reelection bubble in 2020. It’s a real dilemma as Republicans need to win 20 seats to take back the House.

“Who Cuts and Runs?” -- In October, 1973, 21 Democrats and 17 Republicans voted strictly along party lines in the House Judiciary Committee, to begin impeachment proceedings against President Nixon. But by July of 1974, the very same House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon. On Article I of impeachment six Republicans voted yes; on Article II seven members of the GOP said, “yay”; and on Article III, two Republicans in committee voted yes. Yes, you expect a political party to “circle the wagons” at first to support the boss, but in the end all these folks are on the ballot next year and have their own political futures to think about. So, watch Trump, but more importantly watch Republican members of the House and Senate.

Do you favor impeachment or oppose, and why? Just click the comment button and let us know!

Mark Curtis, Ed. D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and its five neighboring states. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for the White House Patch at www.Patch.com.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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