Getting 67 votes to remove a sitting President is a very high bar. Donald Trump knows this. It is why he hired Emmett Flood, who previously helped Bill Clinton fend off Republican impeachment efforts. It is why Trump has engaged in a scorched-earth campaign to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in coordination with his Republican congressional and conservative media allies.
We know this diabolical strategy is having its intended effect. After all, Trump’s base remains unwavering in their support, ensuring that members of his party are scared to cross him. However, Democrats must try to impeach Trump because it guarantees he will not have a second term in office. The reason is simple: the calendar works against Trump in a politically-crippling way.
When Republican efforts to impeach Clinton failed on February 12, 1999, we were at the beginning of a presidential election cycle. But unlike Trump, the term-limited Clinton was relegated to the sidelines.
Fast-forward to February 12, 2019. Working under the assumption that Democrats win the majority in the House of Representatives, any impeachment process will be in its infancy. Therefore, the process will play out as Democrats prepare to nominate their own candidate for President. They will all hammer at Trump’s corruption to appeal to the Democrat primary electorate.
So while Trump might be acquitted in the Senate, the political baggage will be an albatross around the neck of the Republican party. Fearing the loss of the White House in 2020, somebody like Ohio Governor John Kasich might challenge him. Incumbents who have primary opponents always lose, as Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush have shown, so this scenario would also seal Trump’s fate.
Making matters worse for Trump is that resigning from office will expose him to legal jeopardy as a private citizen. Granted Vice President Mike Pence might pardon Trump for his federal crimes, but New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will be waiting with indictments for state crimes. So Trump literally has no good options and the Democratic party can’t lose by beginning the impeachment process at some point next year.
J.H. Norton is a communications professional, life-long Democrat, and married father of two boys living in Washington, D.C.