When asked how salvaging items from the Titanic was different from grave-robbing, Bill Buckley answered, “Well, in the first place, you’re not robbing graves, you begin with that difference.” I thought of that exchange on reading that Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, is calling the impeachment inquiry “a calculated coup” (which actually sounds better than an accidental one).
This is the same rhetoric that Democrats used during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, together with accusations that the Republicans were trying to undo an election, ignore the people’s will, accomplish what they couldn’t at the ballot box, etc. It is no more apt now. The Constitution lays out a way for presidents to be removed from office by Congress, just as it lays out a way that presidents can take office without a popular majority or even plurality. This procedure cannot successfully be invoked without the support of a supermajority of the public larger than what is necessary to elect a president in the first place.
For that reason, Trump is highly likely to be in power at 11 am on January 20, 2021. If it is Mike Pence instead, though, it won’t be because of a coup.