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To Impeach, or Not to Impeach

To discourage her Democratic colleagues from advocating the impeachment of US President Donald Trump, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi warns that Trump wants to be impeached, because he thinks it would play to his political advantage. But it’s not clear that this is so – or that it's relevant.

WASHINGTON, DC – As the US Congress returns from a ten-day break, the question of whether the House of Representatives (controlled by the Democrats) should formally commence the process of impeaching President Donald Trump for misdeeds committed during his tenure – and perhaps before – has split the party. Theoretically, impeachment by the House would be followed by a trial in the Senate. But the Senate, controlled by the Republicans, is considered highly unlikely to convict their party’s standard-bearer, unless some stunning new revelation about his actions turns up – which cannot be ruled out.

For all the press attention devoted to the growing number of House Democrats who favor initiating an impeachment process now, the total (now over 50) represents only about one-fifth of the party’s House membership. And Republican representatives are so loyal to Trump – or so afraid of facing a primary challenge in 2020 – that only one, Justin Amash of Michigan, a strict libertarian, supports impeachment, though other Republicans privately would be glad to see Trump gone.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi claims to oppose impeachment, at least for now, but leaves the question partly open by saying things such as, “We’re not there yet.” To impeach Trump, she says, would be bad politics for her party, because it would firm up Republican support for him and further divide the country. Launching an impeachment process now, she fears, would undermine her main goals: to avoid jeopardizing the Democrats’ hard-won control of the House and to maximize the party’s chances in the presidential election next year.

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