On Sept. 24, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that the U.S. House of Representatives initiated an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, according to a Sept. 24 New York Times article. The declaration is based on evidence, presented by a whistle-blower to Congress, pertaining to Trump’s alleged dealings with the Ukrainian government to investigate corruption from 2020 democratic presidential nominee contender Joe Biden. While many Democrats may be yearning for the opportunity to remove Trump from office, they should be wary of the negative consequences of a failed indictment, such as an increase in Trump’s approval ratings or losing seats in Congress.
Even though there may be a high possibility that Trump will be impeached by the House, it may be more difficult to convince the Senate to officially fire him from office. In order to initiate an impeachment hearing, the House of Representatives must approve the action with a simple majority vote, according to the History, Art & Archives of the United States House of Representatives. Furthermore, once the case is brought to the Senate they must act as the court for the trial and can vote to remove the president from office with a two-thirds vote.
Historically, there has never been a president who has been impeached and subsequently removed from office. The trials of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton both failed to reach a two-thirds guilty vote in the Senate, and Richard Nixon resigned from office before Congress could even initiate his impeachment, according to the Bill of Rights Institute.
“In the impeachment cases of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, both presidents actually gained in popularity after being acquitted,” Scot Schraufnagel, chair of the Department of Political Science, said.
Clinton’s approval rating reached the highest peak of his presidency, 73%, in Dec. 1998 after his impeachment trial, which was a major improvement to his 59% rating at the beginning of the year, according to Gallup.
“Bill Clinton’s trial took place in 1998 before the midterm elections,” Schraufnagel said. “An incumbent president’s political party usually loses seats in Congress in these elections, but the Democrats actually gained seats due to Clinton being impeached but not removed from office.”
This precedent of past impeachment failures should keep Democrats from getting their hopes too high about seeing Trump and Pence removed from office, if the Vice President is to also be implicated in the accusations brought against Trump, and seeing Nancy Pelosi become the next president of the U.S. anytime soon. Despite this, 224 Democratic and Independent Representatives in Congress support an impeachment inquiry against Trump, according to the New York Times. This number is a 51% majority of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, but it does not include any Republican Representatives.
If there is not enough substantial evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors presented at the impeachment trials, then there may be a chance that Donald Trump will be acquitted of what is arguably the Democratic party’s best case to end his presidential tenure. It is imperative that Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats create a strong prosecution that can sway the Republican-majority Senate to agree with their argument of the necessity of President Trump’s termination.