Impeaching and Removing Trump is Risky but Probably Worth It Now

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Impeachment talk began before President Trump took office an excrutiatingly long four months ago, but after the reports about the Comey memo it’s become deafening. Democrats would need Republican help to get it done, but removing him from office might be the only way to return our national insanity to more tolerable levels.

Many analysts and friends discussing the recent revelations and the possibility of impeachment are trying to pinpoint exactly what law Trump may have broken. They’re missing the point.

Articles of impeachment filed in the House of Representative typically cite laws broken by the president, but they don’t have to. The only process required for impeachment is a simple majority vote in the House. The articles on which they vote can say anything they want to get those votes.

Additionally, everyone is talking about impeachment, but no one is following it up by talking about conviction. Impeaching a president doesn’t remove him from office; the additional step of a conviction is required. Like impeachment, conviction is determined by only a vote in Congress, but this time in the Senate.

The Constitution requires the upper chamber to hold a trial, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding. Like impeachment, the trial boils down to a simple vote, but unlike impeachment it requires a two-thirds majority.

With a near evenly split Senate (52-48), it would take more than a dozen Republicans to join Democrats in removing Trump. If the drip-drip of the Trump-Russia rumor mill continues apace, that might just be possible. The result would be chaos…and President Mike Pence.

Be careful what you wish for. President Trump is a nihilist blank slate for the conservative and nationalist right, but Vice President Pence is a doctrinaire ideologue for the cause. He also happens to have decades of governing experience in Washington and in a light red state.

A President Pence would be a nightmare for Democrats and largely for Libertarians, but he would at least be a nightmare we’re used to. To paraphrase PJ O’Rourke, President Pence might be wrong about everything, but he’d be wrong within normal parameters. Instead of daily headlines about the president’s gross incompetence and boorish personality, we could actually have policy debates and an organic national discourse about issues again.

Democrats have more cynical reasons to worry about removing Trump too - their 2018 election hopes. If President Trump is impeached and removed, Pence would move the GOP back to its marginally functional normalcy. The cloud of scandal over the governing majority would clear, and their election polling would stabilize.

Ironically, impeaching their own president might be Republicans’ only hope of implementing their agenda for the next 3-7 years.


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