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White House

The Real Impeachment Question

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

I’m persuadable that what President Trump has seemingly already admitted to — pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens — is a gross abuse of power. Does it rise to an impeachable level? Maybe so. But here’s the thing. My opinion doesn’t matter. Whose opinion does matter? The Democrats in Congress. And they in turn are going to listen closely to their members from districts in which Trump is relatively popular.

The headlines are saying “impeachment has begun” but that’s misleading. Nancy Pelosi is talking about forming a select committee on impeachment. Then everyone goes away for two weeks to take the temperature of their constituents. Will Democrats in Trump-leaning districts support impeachment? I picture that being a tough sell back home thanks to two and a half years of crying wolf. Scandal fatigue. The impeachment talk began way too early and the volume stayed way too loud for way too long. The part of the public that is not obsessed with politics is by now heavily discounting any notion that the latest Biggest Scandal Ever has become No, Really, This One Matters. They are going to the polls in less than 14 months. Let us settle the Trump question at the ballot box, is what they will tell their members of Congress. Nancy Pelosi knows this, and though I’m sure she’d dearly love to lead an impeachment drive, she is going to have a hard time getting a majority of the House to support impeachment. I doubt many Republicans are going to help her out on this.

And even if the House does impeach, will that impeachment be successful? I can’t see two-thirds of the Senate backing removal from office. Again, I think the Senate is inclined to let the people decide. Pelosi, knowing this, has to consider that any Trump impeachment in the House would probably lead to acquittal in the Senate at which point Trump wold proclaim victory and taunt her relentlessly. Does she want to be taunted by Trump as the loser who came at the king and missed? I doubt it. Ben Domenech argues Trump actually wants to be impeached. That isn’t wholly implausible.

At the moment, it looks to me like the Ukraine scandal is a much bigger deal than any previous Trump-related scandal. If the media and the activist Left had never beaten a drum for impeachment before this moment, I think they would have an excellent shot at it now. But they overstated everything. They pretended everything from the non-existent collusion with Russia to the supposed violations of the emoluments clause that occurred because some Air Force members stay at a Trump hotel in Scotland for $130 a night while they’re refueling their jets was a four-alarm fire. I think the voters have gone numb. The media simply can’t yell about Ukraine any more loudly than they’ve been yelling about all the other stuff, because they were already yelling as loudly as they possibly could. A significant bloc of the public has learned to tune it all out.

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