Democrats remain a divided house on impeaching President Donald Trump as Senate numbers favour Republicans

The impeachment storm is gathering force around the West Wing again after two-time former FBI director Robert S Mueller III, appointed to investigate the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election—which catapulted Donald Trump to power—and the links between the tycoon’s associates and the Kremlin, spoke publicly for the first time recently since his appointment in 2017.

 Democrats remain a divided house on impeaching President Donald Trump as Senate numbers favour Republicans

File image of US President Donald Trump. AP

“As alleged by the grand jury in an indictment, Russian intelligence officers who were part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system. The indictment alleges that they used sophisticated cyber techniques to hack into computers and networks used by the [Hillary] Clinton campaign. They stole private information and then released that information through fake online identities, and through the organization WikiLeaks. The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate,” said Bobby Three Sticks, a nickname for Mueller at the US Department of Justice (DoJ), making his first point.

Second, Mueller didn’t absolve Trump of the charge of obstruction of justice completely either. “And as set forth in the report, after that investigation [into obstruction of justice by Trump] if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the President did commit a crime.”

Third and most significant the special counsel—who is part of the DoJ—clarified why Trump was not indicted. The memo ‘Amenability of the President, Vice-President, and other Civil Officers to Federal Criminal Prosecution while in Office’, issued by the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel in September 1973, specifically states that indicting a sitting President “would interfere with the President’s unique official duties, most of which cannot be performed by anyone else”. Mueller summed up the most critical aspect of the investigation by saying, “Charging the President with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider.” The memo and Mueller clearly state that a sitting President can only be impeached, not indicted.

The former Marine concluded his speech by clearly stating that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election. “I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments—that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American,” he said thereby blowing Trump’s claims of no Russian interference to smithereens.

Mueller provided enough ammo to the Democrats for launching a blitzkrieg on Trump. The Bronze Star Vietnam vet’s last words were a thunderclap on the Capitol Hill with 76 percent Democrats—up from 69 percent in April, according to a CNN poll—and some Republicans calling for impeaching the president. House Majority Whip Representative James Clyburn “exactly” feels that Trump will eventually be impeached. Joining 2020 presidential candidate Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren in her demand for impeachment, were several other contenders, including New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New Jersey senator Cory Booker and California senator Kamala Harris.

However, with sufficient grounds, the gun cocked and Trump in her sights, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is holding fire with the Democrats divided over impeachment like number one presidential contender and former Vice-President Joe Biden.

Dems are hemming and hawing on impeachment due to the 2020 election itself: they don’t want to enter the last round with the hangover of a scuttled impeachment in the Senate, where the Republicans are in 53-47 majority. With a 235-199 majority in the House, Democrats have a fair chance of impeachment—though a long-drawn process—which will sadly fizzle out in the Senate.

Having not been indicted by Mueller either on his campaign members alleged links with Russians or obstruction of justice, Trump is already on the offensive blabbering on and tweeting how the Mueller investigation was a “witch-hunt”, “the greatest presidential harassment” and a “crime that didn’t exist”.

Sensing those impeachment proceedings in the House could be a possibility, Trump recently tweeted: “NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION, NO NOTHING! What the Democrats are trying to do is the biggest sin in the impeachment business.”

Meantime, the Dems are getting nothing done in Congress. They are frozen stiff. "Get back to work, much to do!” David Rivkin, a conservative attorney and political commentator who had served under presidents Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, recently told that whatever Trump “did or did not do in 2011 or 2013 or all the way through January 20, 2017, is utterly irrelevant to the scope of impeachable offences. In fact, the whole goal of impeachment is limited to your offenses as a public person—breach of public trust”.

Considering that Trump’s current approval rating has risen to 48 percent—according to a May Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll—and the April unemployment rate down to 3.6 percent, the lowest in a generation, Democrats are apprehensive of impeaching the president for purely political reasons. Any misstep now could backfire giving added firepower to the tycoon in 2020.

Besides, voter support for impeaching Trump is not high even after Mueller completed his investigation and spoke publicly. Compare these numbers to those on impeachment. According to a recent CNN poll, 61 percent of voters did not support an impeachment with only 37 percent supporting it. In another poll conducted jointly by ABC News and Washington Post, again only 37 percent of voters backed impeachment proceedings. This clearly shows that impeachment is not on the voter’s priority list.

Updated Date: Jun 10, 2019 11:33:47 IST