A version of this story first appeared in CNN’s Impeachment Watch newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
All signs indicate that President Donald Trump will be impeached on Wednesday, the ultimate rebuke to a President who has tried to reinterpret the Constitution, stretched the boundaries of American politics and attempted to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign help for his reelection campaign.
Good news for Trump: No impeached President has ever been removed from office, although Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached. Trump will be the first President impeached while his party holds a chamber of Congress, making the odds of his removal even longer.
Bad news for Trump: No party of an impeached (or almost-impeached, in Nixon’s case) President has ever won the White House in the next presidential election.
I’ve spent time looking at other impeachment efforts and comparing those circumstances to Trump’s.
Trump’s impeachment vs. all the others
- Democrat Andrew Johnson, who was standing in the way of a fairer Reconstruction, fell into an impeachment trap set by his political opponents, but was saved from removal by Republicans who defected.
- Nixon, a Republican, tried to use the federal government against his political rivals and resigned after losing support from his own party.
- Democrat Bill Clinton lied to a grand jury about his affair with an intern but kept hold of his own party and won over some Republicans in the Senate.
- Republican Trump used taxpayer dollars to pressure a foreign leader to investigate his political rival, but has benefited from the unwavering support of Senate Republicans.
Trump lashes out!!!
On the day before Democrats were set to impeach, and as a final House committee prepared to move two articles of impeachment to the House floor, Trump sent a scathing letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on White House letterhead. It’s quite the document. It’s punctuated like Trump’s Twitter feed. Trump mentions himself more than 40 times and the American people four times. There are many exclamation points.
- He accuses Pelosi of portraying a “false display of solemnity” during the impeachment process.
- He tells her, “No intelligent person believes what you are saying.”
- He calls Pelosi’s actions “spiteful.”
- He says her prayer is offensive: “You are offending Americans of faith by continually saying ‘I pray for the President,’ when you know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in a negative sense”
- He complains about pain caused to his family: “You do not know, nor do you care, the great damage and hurt you have inflicted upon wonderful and loving members of my family.”
- He complains about damage to the country by Democrats who are: “(b)ringing pain and suffering to our republic for your own selfish personal, political and partisan gain.”
- He says Pelosi has “cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!”
Pelosi responds – The speaker told CNN’s Manu Raju she thought the letter was “really sick.” She also wrote a more solemn letter of her own to Democratic colleagues, explaining the need for the coming impeachment vote:
No Member came to Congress to impeach a President. But every one of us, as our first act as a Member of Congress, stood on the House Floor, raised our hand and took a sacred oath: “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” That oath makes us Custodians of the Constitution. If we do not act, we will be derelict in our duty.
The White House is worried about these Republicans
CNN’s Capitol Hill team reports that the White House and GOP leaders in the Senate are concerned about how a handful of Republicans might act during an impeachment trial.
If they side with Democrats in favor of calling witnesses or other measures, it could belabor a trial that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to wrap ASAP.
Who is in the group?
- Moderates up for reelection, like Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who may want to show independence from Trump;
- Seasoned veterans, like Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who are retiring and who may not feel politically bound to support the President;
- Outright critics of Trump, like Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who have challenged his unorthodox presidency and who may want to learn more about the allegations of a quid pro quo with Ukraine that is at the heart of the impeachment.
Key point: “The group isn’t big enough to threaten Trump’s presidency – there would have to be at least 20 Republicans break with Trump to provide the 67 votes needed to actually remove him from office and no one is predicting that. But if enough peel off they could provide Democrats with the 51 votes needed for key wins, such as to compel witnesses, demand documents and push through other procedural motions Democrats may seek during a trial.”
Moderate Democrats are lining up behind impeachment
Jeff Van Drew, the swing district Democrat who opposes impeachment, is the exception, not the rule. Rather than abandoning the impeachment effort, Democrats in districts won by Trump in 2016 are coming home to it.
CNN’s Haley Byrd has been tracking of these 31 Democrats in Trump districts. She’s counted:
- 24 yes
- 1 likely yes
- 4 undecided
- 1 no (van Drew of New Jersey)
- 1 likely no (Collin Peterson of Minnesota)
That suggests a nearly party-line impeachment vote Wednesday.
Impeachment Watch Podcast: CNN political director David Chalian talked with CNN political correspondent Abby Philip and CNN political analyst Molly Ball about how impeachment will affect moderates in both parties. Listen here
The return of the anti-Trump Republicans
A group of conservative political insiders opposed to Trump – including White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George – have launched a PAC in an effort to thwart Trump’s 2020 reelection chances and prevent his congressional “enablers” from winning reelection.
They call themselves The Lincoln Project.
While we watched impeachment, this happened
- As impeachment rages on, lawmakers and the White House are on pace to somewhat break the logjam in Washington, passing a defense bill that gives federal workers paid family leave and Trump a Space Force.
- McConnell made clear he will not support having witnesses at the Senate trial.
- Trump confidant and Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy says Trump should testify. “He would be a powerful witness,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
- A federal judge won’t jail an indicted Rudy Giuliani associate before trial on campaign finance charges.
- In a rare move, the secretive FISA court slammed FBI conduct in surveillance warrant applications for onetime Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
- Top US diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor – who testified in impeachment hearings – is set to leave his post in Kiev come January.
Lie of the year
This year’s biggest lie, according to Politifact, was President Donald Trump’s repeated assertions that the Ukraine whistleblower got the story about his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky all wrong. Read the call here, again!
What are we doing here?
The President has invited foreign powers to interfere in the US presidential election. Democrats want to impeach him for it. It is a crossroads for the American system of government as the President tries to change what’s acceptable for US politicians. This newsletter will focus on this consequential moment in US history.