You may think from news reports in the past week that we’re finally about to be rid of President Trump, only ten months into his term. Special counsel Robert Mueller has been quietly building his case. We’ve seen indictments against members of Trump’s campaign, and White House staff are concerned. Even members of his administration, such as Jared Kushner, face scrutiny from Mueller. Thus it would appear that the walls are closing in on President Trump, and he won’t be able to finish his term. Trump’s removal from office is very unlikely because any one of the possibilities are sticky and difficult.
Certainly, a large number of Americans would like to see Trump indicted and removed from office, but it’s not necessarily that simple. Should Special Counsel Robert Mueller turn over every rock, as he intends to, and reveal every bad thing Trump has done, many legal scholars agree that a president is protected from criminal indictment while in office. And then, even if the investigation filed indictments against staff and the Mueller team justified indicting Trump himself, that’s not the same as getting rid of President Trump. The controversy wouldn’t be settled with the end of the investigation but would have to move to Congress for impeachment, or hypothetically Trump’s cabinet for his removal. Either way, he would still be in power while all of this is going on.
It seems unlikely that a Republican Congress will move against President Trump. For Congress to begin impeachment, the president’s actions must meet the “high crimes and misdemeanours,” a broad definition from Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution. Trump has demonstrated behavior that could be defined along these lines, but this Republican-dominated Congress is unlikely to impeach him for misconduct as it is.
The GOP didn’t unite against him during the primaries last year; why would they impeach him, when parties don’t generally support impeachment of their own members? Elected officials don’t want to hurt their own parties, and the Republican party is so fragmented at the moment that a strong movement against Trump is unlikely.
Republicans probably won’t attack President Trump. Opposition to Trump is opposition to conservative media, and that is opposition to his supporters. Republican lawmakers may complain in hushed tones away from the public, but that doesn’t translate to public condemnation. The opposition of a few senators hasn’t changed that. Republicans can plead plausible deniability and not impeach President Trump.
A Democrat dominated Congress would be far more inclined to impeach President Trump. But for that to happen, they would actually have to control Congress. 2018 will see all seats in the House and a third of the seats in the Senate go up for grabs, and Democrats would need to win enough seats in the House to win a vote to try President Trump in the Senate. The Senate would require a supermajority to remove Trump. Democrats will likely be hard-pressed to keep seats in traditionally Republican districts while keeping more moderate voters, whereas Republicans will be defending mostly safe seats. It’s a difficult process, and that’s why no president has ever been convicted in the Senate.
The 25th amendment seems least likely to get President Trump. Even if Trump’s cabinet were against him, the 25th amendment is intended to empower a cabinet to remove an unfit president. Unless Trump falls into a coma or otherwise becomes physically incapable, and unless he demonstrates mental instability, the 25th amendment doesn’t offer a clear path to his removal.
Finally, there’s the possibility that President Trump would cave under the pressure of public scrutiny and denunciation, and simply walk away from the White House. When President Nixon faced impeachment and resigned, he may not have acknowledged his guilt but at least he bothered to vacate the White House. It is difficult to imagine President Trump doing that. Nixon, in many people’s minds, is the definitive “corrupt president.” Despite that, he had a savvy that President Trump does not. Don’t count on Trump taking the easy way out facing allegations, or even a looming trial.
President Trump will likely act the same way through the next three years as he has the last two. In my opinion, he will probably continue to do nearly everything wrong, say all the wrong things and still somehow be untouchable until the end of his term. A lot would have to happen to change that, and all before January 2021. It’s nice to dream, but let’s not get carried away with grand ideas for ousting President Trump.