What do you do when the country is about evenly split on whether to remove a president? Today’s new poll from Quinnipiac shows 45 percent of registered voters saying President Trump should be impeached and removed and 49 percent opposing the idea. The new Washington Post poll shows 49 percent support removing Trump from office.
What happens — or what is likely to happen — is that the Democratic-controlled House votes to impeach and the GOP-controlled Senate votes to acquit, and the country moves on to the 2020 presidential election. After a lengthy, angry debate about whether Donald Trump should continue being president, Americans would move on to a different lengthy, angry debate about whether Donald Trump should continue being president. (“First American president to be impeached and then reelected” would be a really unusual distinction. And Grover Cleveland thought he was so special, just because he was the 22nd and 24th president! )
The current impeachment inquiry is not running quickly or smoothly. House Democrats called Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, to testify and he responded he had been ordered not to testify, declaring that as an employee of the State Department, he “is required to follow the department’s direction.” House Democrats now plan a subpoena. Rudy Giuliani similarly stated that he will not comply with any requests for testimony and that he can’t imagine anyone else in the administration will, either.
The coming weeks will probably include a lot of fights about who’s testifying and who gets access to emails, documents, text messages, and other records. House Democrats will issue subpoenas and probably declare those who refuse to comply to be in contempt of Congress; many Trump administration officials will heartily concur that they feel contemptuous towards Adam Schiff and the rest. It will be ugly and messy, and the impeachment in the House may well end up moving forward without any testimony from key officials because they refuse to cooperate.
If the general mood of the public is that opponents of President Trump never granted him the the full respect for the office that he was due, and set out to destroy his presidency from day one, they will quickly tire of the spectacle of members of Congress in even higher dudgeon than usual. But the public could also conclude that the Trump administration simply ignores laws they find inconvenient, and defies lawful requests for documents and testimony from elected officials they don’t like. This might be exactly the sort of contrast that the Democratic nominee wants as a backdrop to the 2020 election.