Yes, they might indeed impeach
Leading Democrats—including Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and Adam Schiff—have spent months saying that they are not eager to impeach President Donald Trump.
There is a political rationale for the Democrats’ caution. It would take two-thirds of the Senate to remove Trump from office, and that super-majority seems highly unlikely to materialize. Or worse, since it has the potential to help Trump motivate his supporters to vote in the next election.
But there are five reasons that, for all their protestations, House Democrats might impeach Trump anyway.
First, the constitutional standard for impeachment is capacious. As Gene Healy notes in a recent review of the evidence for the Cato Institute, a president need not violate any statute for Congress to judge that he has committed “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” and that he can thus be impeached and removed from office.
The precise scope of the congressional power is subject to debate, but that’s the point. Democrats can make any number of arguments for impeachment that are not obviously incompatible with the Constitution. What would matter is how reasonable Americans consider their case—and if Democrats want to make it.
But—point two—a lot of Democratic voters want to see the case for impeachment made. In the exit polls, 39 percent of Americans who voted for House candidates already favor impeachment, before Democrats have made a sustained case.
Third, a lot of Democratic voters could well start to get frustrated next year as it becomes clear how little effect winning the House has had. House committees will be investigating the administration, sure, but the president will still be saying and doing things that outrage Democrats on a daily basis. His people will still be running the federal government according to his policies. His judges will keep getting confirmed.
A fourth reason the drive to impeach Trump might strengthen is the coming race for the Democratic presidential nomination. It will be a crowded field, including several members of Congress. The candidates will want to gain attention for the purity and fervor of their hostility to Trump.
The fifth reason House Democrats might impeach Trump is that as the debate continues, it could become clear that the political risks are overstated.
None of this means that Democrats will definitely make a serious push to impeach Trump. They may decide that they will have a chance to remove him from office in the normal way soon enough. But don’t be surprised if Pelosi et al find it harder and harder to fend off impeachment.