Tuesday, September 25 , 2018, 10:37 am | Overcast with Haze 62º

 
 
 
 

Susan Estrich: How to Impeach the President

"Will he be impeached for this?" people ask me every day. All that changes is what "this" is:

It might be Donald Trump Jr.'s "love" for the Russians; or Jared Kushner's four meetings; or their failure to disclose such meetings; or Donald Trump's threatening to fire the attorney general and replace him with a recess appointment; or worst of all, Trump's repeated comments that show how determined he is to fire Robert Mueller.

What else can you say when you see our president behaving so badly. He turned the Boy Scout Jamboree into a partisan political rally for himself — contrary to all the presidents before him, who always spoke about service and patriotism, not their personal enemies.

He sent out an absolutely outrageous tweet attacking transgender people who are risking their lives for our country (which earned the whiner in chief a rare rebuke from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who announced they would ignore his tweet).

He continues to try to stymie the investigation of his ties with the Russians and of all the secret meetings that no one disclosed and secret deals and dirty tricks that have yet to be disclosed.

He continues to attack the attorney general (can it be that I'm really defending Jeff Sessions, a man with whom I disagree about almost everything except his decision to recuse himself from the investigation?) and threatens to replace him with a recess appointment (which Supreme Court precedent actually doesn't allow, should the president care).

And of course, he remains most determined of all to fire Robert Mueller.

What will it take? What are the "high crimes and misdemeanors" that can be the basis for impeachment?

These look like legal questions, but they're not. Impeachment is a political process. High crimes and misdemeanors are whatever Congress thinks they are.

The Republican House is not going to impeach President Trump, ridiculous as they look these days. The Republican Senate is not going to convict him.

For all the president's many sins and the Republicans' hypocrisy and disarray, Democrats have problems of their own.

Skepticism about the president does not translate automatically into support for the Democrats. If it did, Kid Rock would not be leading one of my favorite senators, Debbie Stabenow, who is up for re-election in Michigan.

The numbers favor the Republicans. Incumbents win re-election more than 90 percent of the time. As the recent special election in Georgia proved, and as the late House Speaker Tip O'Neill used to say, mostly politics is local.

People may hate Trump, but if they like their congressmen or congresswomen, they usually vote for them. In the Senate, Democrats effectively have 25 seats up (23 Democrats and two independents who caucus with them), while only eight Republican senators are up. You do the math.

And frankly, most of the people I talk to (and most of the polls) suggest that many who are frustrated with Trump are also frustrated with the Democrats and their failure to be more than an opposition party.

"A better deal" — this week's pitch by the Democrats, with all the familiar jargon about standing up for working families — was widely mocked as a bad play on the slogan for a pizza chain.

The analogy to the New Deal is lost on those who don't know what it was. The election will not be won on the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt, or on rhetoric that I could have written, and on occasion did ("Good Jobs at Good Wages"), decades ago.

Obamacare should not be repealed, but it does have to be fixed. I'm not saying it will be easy — it won't — but Democrats are kidding themselves if they think that saying no and promising a better deal will be enough.

So if it's a business-as-usual midterm, the Republicans may lose a few seats, but not enough to doom the president, no matter what he does. And he won't be impeached. He might even get re-elected.

What it will take to impeach the president is an election. What has to happen is very simple. The way to impeach the president is to turn the midterm elections into a referendum on it, and to win.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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