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Impeachment: It's Happening, and the Rest of the Movie is Predictable

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Some throat clearing, to start.  First, my position on the president's misconduct has been clear and consistent for weeks.  The public hearings have fortified my views.  Second, unforeseen developments may change the dynamics of this impeachment effort, and therefore the calculus below.  Third, the rules of a Senate trial may add complications and complexities, but likely won't change the overall trajectory.  With that said, in case you missed it, here is Speaker Pelosi's announcement this morning:


This came on the heels of a closed-door, members-only meeting of House Democrats yesterday, designed to take the temperature of the caucus on this issue.  Given Pelosi's comments above, we can reasonably reach several conclusions: As I've suspected, in spite of some nervous noises from a handful of members, Democrats have come too far on this journey not to impeach the president.  They're going to do it.  And in light of Pelosi's earned reputation as a ruthless and efficient vote-counter, she's got the votes.  In all likelihood, the only remaining drama is how many Democratic defectors vote against articles of impeachment.  It feels like a fait accompli that zero House Republicans will cross the aisle in the other direction, given that Justin Amash has left the party.  So at some point in the next few weeks, along a politically-motivated, expedited time table, the House of Representatives will impeach President Trump and send the matter to the Senate for a trial.

Then what?  As I alluded to earlier, the rules of the road remain a bit murky, and the length of the trial is still being weighed, also for strategic political purposes.  But once the trial gets underway, my strong suspicion is that the relevant question is not how many Senate Republicans might be willing to vote to remove a sitting president for the first time in American history, but rather how many Senate Democrats will vote to acquit.  I'd be astonished if more than one or two R's -- maximum -- would vote to remove Trump.  The most likely number in that column is zero.  By contrast, I think two or three D's (Manchin, Jones, Sinema) are at least somewhat inclined to join the overwhelmingly-united GOP against conviction removal.  With the aforementioned disclaimers in place, it's a very safe bet that the Senate will not even come close to reaching the 67-vote threshold for removal; I'm not sure they'll even come within 20 votes.  My over/under would be 46 votes to remove, and I might take the under.  I'll leave you with this:


Her previous warnings against divisiveness aren't that significant at this point, as any impeachment would be inherently divisive.  But her admonition about bipartisanship as a necessary prerequisite for a legitimate impeachment is much harder to shake loose.  She's reversing herself on that central criterion, which she's repeated multiple times in the recent past.  But the train has left the station -- in spite of the political risks -- and it's pretty clear that its destination is an impeachment, followed by a relatively lopsided Senate acquittal.

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