Yes, they might in­deed im­peach

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - RAMESH PON­NURU BLOOMBERG VIEW Ramesh Pon­nuru is a Bloomberg Opin­ion colum­nist and a se­nior ed­i­tor at Na­tional Re­view.

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.

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