One year ago, I wrote that President Trump’s constitutionally controversial acts could lead to his downfall.
My column, “The cost of crisis,” suggested Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to secure funding to “build the wall” – enacted Feb. 15, 2019 – could sway independent voters away from him during his bid for reelection.
And so the cost for him, I wrote, was 2020.
One year later, Trump has become the third president in American history to be impeached – largely due to his continually controversial acts.
House Democrats, responding to a U.S. election scandal involving Trump and the Ukrainian government, accused the president of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Their majority vote adopted two articles of impeachment against him Dec. 18.
However, their effort to actually remove the president was never realistically the goal – given Trump’s grip over the Republican majority Senate.
Trials there unsurprisingly ended with his acquittal on both articles Feb. 5. Though, Republican Mitt Romney did break the partisan line by voting guilty on abuse of power.
Regardless of the odds, House Democrats pushed the impeachment process forward.
Elijah Cummings, former chair of the House Oversight Committee, said, “When the history books are written about this tumultuous era, I want them to show that I was among those in the House of Representatives who stood up to lawlessness and tyranny.”
His quote was included in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s speech made before the impeachment debate was introduced to the House.
“If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty,” she argued.
“It is tragic that the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice,” she added.
Republicans think differently.
Mitch McConnell, majority leader of the Senate, said, “The House’s vote yesterday was not some neutral judgment that Democrats came to reluctantly.
“It was the pre-determined end of a partisan crusade that began before President Trump was even nominated, let alone sworn in,” he said, referring to Democratic members of Congress who voiced their desire to impeach the president before his inauguration in 2017.
“This week wasn’t even the first time House Democrats have introduced articles of impeachment. It was the seventh time,” he added.
The opinions of the Congressional leadership largely reflect those of their parties back home, according to a recent national opinion poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal, released Feb. 2.
The polling suggested that 84% of Democrats were supportive of Trump’s removal, calling it “necessary,” “justified,” and “warranted” when asked what one word they’d use to describe it.
Republicans, meanwhile, disapproved of Trump’s removal by a rate of 94%, using words such as “ridiculous,” “wasteful,” and “sham” to describe it.
Neither set of data is particularly surprising.
What matters most over the impeachment issue – just as it did during the national emergency issue last year – is where independent voters stand.
As controversial and divisive as President Trump may be, the impeachment process is just as controversial and divisive of a method Democrats used.
Which is why independents were divided over Trump’s impeachment in the opinion poll, with 50% reported as opposing his removal and 45% approving it.
The polls did favor disapproval, however. And as an acquitted Trump attacks Democrats for trying to remove him prior to the election, disapproval over his impeachment may rise further.
“‘I don’t think we should go down that path because it divides the country… it’s just not worth it.’ That was Nancy Pelosi a year ago, right?” Trump rhetorically asked after his acquittal.
“Instead of wanting to heal our country and fix our country … they want to destroy our country,” he said of their impeachment effort.
It’s a statement that independent voters may take with them to the polls.
[Editor’s Note: The referenced column, “The cost of crisis,” can be found in the Feb. 22, 2019 edition of The Gatepost.]