No matter who wins the White House, one thing is certain: Be it Trump or Clinton, there will be a lot of hurt feelings and they’ll face a tremendous backlash from the opposition party.
One thing that won’t be taken off the table, as it was during the Bush and Obama years, is the possibility of bringing up articles of impeachment against that elected president.
There is no question that polarized politics is a product of our times, but there hasn’t been the appetite by Congress to act on it by using its powers of impeachment.
That’s probably about to change.
At press time, a lot is up in the air. Not only is the White House up for grabs, but the balance of power on Capitol Hill is in question. It’s a distinct possibility you could have a GOP-led Congress and a Democrat at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
If Trump has won by the time this column hits the newsstands, Republicans will likely hold on to the House and Senate, making it difficult for a Democratic minority to launch investigations. But as history has shown, the opposition party makes gains in Congress in midterm elections and the balance of power in 2018 could be flipped.
Impeaching Trump might even be a campaign pledge for many Democrats seeking to unseat Republicans in 2018.
Congressional leaders on both sides have raised that possibility. With all the pre-election controversy regarding Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, it’s almost certain we’ll see a constant barrage of congressional hearings and investigations of Clinton.
“It’s a target-rich environment,” House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said in an interview recently. “Even before we get to day one, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the state department, and it ain’t good.”
Conservative columnist and Hoover Institution scholar Thomas Sowell argued for Donald Trump’s candidacy because he argued Trump would be easier to impeach than Clinton. And that threat of impeachment might restore the “balance” part of our so-called “checks and balances” system.
“We need a Congress that can remove a dangerous president who ignores the law and commits impeachable offenses,” Sowell wrote. “Any Congress theoretically can do so, since the House of Representatives has the power to impeach and the Senate then votes on whether to remove the president from office.
“However, as we have seen over the past seven years, that theoretical power means nothing if neither house of Congress has the incentives and the guts to use the power they have,” he added.
When President Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, he was brought up on two charges, one of perjury and one of obstruction of justice. There’s already enough evidence before Clinton would even take office for her to be tried on those grounds, given her testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi and her deletion of emails from an unsecured server, which has plagued her candidacy.
As for Trump, allegations of impropriety with Trump University and the Trump Foundation may be enough for Democrats to take up the impeachment process should they have the opportunity.
Impeachment has traditionally been seen as a method of last resort. It’s not something that’s been tossed around lightly. But much like this presidential election, tradition will be tossed aside. It’s a whole new rulebook in politics.
For both Republicans and Democrats, it does stand to backfire. As with Clinton’s impeachment, Republicans were seen as disregarding the business of the people for spending time on that failed effort.
Even after retaking the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014, Republicans repeatedly dismissed the possibility of impeaching President Barack Obama, even though they said he acted unconstitutionally with his actions regarding Obamacare and immigration.
Throughout the Bush years, there was chatter of impeachment for the 2003 invasion of Iraq but it was never acted upon, even when the Democrats wrested back control of the House and Senate in 2006.
“I have said it before and I will say it again: Impeachment is off the table,” then-House Speaker Elect Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said in a news conference following the 2006 midterm elections.
Pelosi would have to be a favorite for house speaker again if the Democrats were to take control of the House of Representatives in the future. Would she be willing to rule out impeachment of a President Trump?
Paul Ryan’s tenure as speaker is somewhat uncertain, because it is a job he did not really want in the first place and he is under constant criticism from members of his own party. Ryan does not seem like the type of politician that would argue for the impeachment of a President Hillary Clinton. However, his successor might be.
Whatever has happened by the time you are reading this, brush up on the rules of impeachment because it could be something you hear a lot about in the coming months and years.