The Case for Impeachment, published earlier this year by the American historian Allan J. Lichtman, outlined the various misdemeanours for which President Trump could be impeached. Collusion between Russia and the presidential campaign team; conflicts of interest; the abuse of power, including perjury and obstruction of justice — the list, as we see, is extensive.
So let me explain why I believe that the president will not be impeached.
First, the process of impeachment — proceeding “from the misconduct of public men or, in other words, from the abuse or violations of some public trust”, relating “chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself” — is unprecedented. Only two presidents have been impeached in American history, and neither was convicted of the charges filed: President Andrew Johnson was accused of violating the Tenure of Office Act, but spared conviction by a single voter; the roguish crook President William Clinton was acquitted from the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice levied against him, and had been allowed to finish his second term.
Second, the case for impeachment will require transcending the political and even the ethical. If Americans are to endure the societal upheavals implicit in the removal of a president, the president’s supporters will expect a legal precedent for his conviction. Anything less will be treated with discerning scepticism.
Just consider the dubious connections between officials of the Trump Administration and the Russian political élite. Since the presidential election, these long-standing ties seem to have come into focus: “President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 … Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency…” The recent testimony made by James Comey — former head of the FBI — to the Senate Select Committee indicates that the president could be impeached on grounds of treason alone. Was it ethical for the president to invite Russia to interfere, politically or otherwise? Of course not. Was it illegal? In truth, that remains uncertain. Unless constitutional lawyers can successfully hammer a square peg into a round hole, impeachment for collusion with a foreign adversarial government may be a pipeline dream.
Third, impeachment will require morally-courageous Republicans to dissent against the petty tyranny of Mad King Donald. This will not happen. The G.O.P. — so unpopular as to be incapable of winning the popular vote — now controls all three branches of government. Granted with this unique opportunity to push through a highly ideological agenda, the Establishment will need to preserve and protect the president, playing out the string for as long as possible. The principles of Speaker Paul Ryan (or lack thereof) are well-documented. And, Senator John McCain, once a fleeting light of reason in a political climate racked by conspiracy, has rescinded all responsibility and instead conformed to the status quo of the Republican cause.
Finally, domestic politics is so polarised that what would be otherwise indisputable truth has become contested fact. The best example of this involves the existential threat posed by man-fuelled global warming — and the willingness of the G.O.P. to risk the future of the planet, denying the inviolability of climate science, to oppose the “whinging” of Democrats in Washington, D.C.. Impeachment would be written off by the president’s supporters, including the Republicans placating him, as mere partisan political squabbling. The results would be inconclusive or even nonexistent.