Let’s play out a possible scenario that could emerge from the 2018 midterm election.
Democrats think they have a shot at winning back the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. They also believe their chances of winning a Senate majority are even greater.
I’m going to pose a question that well might provoke some angry response: Is it possible that we can learn just how much Democrats hate Donald J. Trump if they manage to achieve a majority in the House and Senate? Is impeachment a foregone conclusion if both congressional chambers flip next year?
Special counsel Robert Mueller is hard at work collecting information — perhaps even evidence — concerning whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians who hacked into our electoral system. If they produce actual evidence and release it to the public, say, in the first quarter of 2018, then the impeachment talk is going to ratchet up to a very loud level. Then again, there might be perjury accusations coming forward, which also is serious enough to impeach a president; just ask Bill Clinton about that one.
The election will occur in November of next year.
Suppose the special counsel produces evidence of collusion. Suppose, too, that Democrats seize control of Congress.
I’ll now offer a brief explanation of presidential impeachment, which is a two-act drama.
It takes only a simple majority of House members to impeach a president. What might the “high crimes and misdemeanors” include? If there’s collusion, I believe that constitutes an impeachable offense.
If the House impeaches the president, it then merely files a formal complaint, an accusation. Then the House hands off to the Senate, which conducts a trial.
To convict a president, though, the bar is set much higher. Two-thirds of the Senate, 67 senators, must vote to convict. President Andrew Johnson came within a single vote of being tossed out of office; President Bill Clinton faced three counts in his Senate trial, and he was acquitted on all three by comfortable margins.
I wouldn’t dare to predict how a Trump trial would conclude. I am not even going to predict that Congress’s controlling majority is going to flip next year.
If it does, however, my sense is that impeachment becomes many times more possible than it is at this moment with Republicans in charge of Capitol Hill.