A recent political cartoon may have best summed up the impeachment of President Trump. It shows a dry cleaner explaining an oversized stain on the suit of a caricatured President Trump. That ‘stain’ on the blotted garment is the word ‘impeached.’ The dry cleaner’s explanation: ‘Sorry. That won’t ever come out.’ Indeed. However Trump walks away from the Senate impeachment trial, ‘impeach’ will be a common and forever used descriptive to his presidency.
Along party lines---with a few exceptions---the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to impeach the President on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. It is just the third time in U.S. history that a President has been impeached. Presidents Johnson, Clinton and now Trump have all been impeached. President Nixon would have been but resigned before a formal vote had taken place.
A trial date in the Senate has not yet been set. Trump’s reaction to the historic vote was anger, calling the vote a ‘witch hunt,’ ‘sham,’ and ‘hoax.’ “Nothing was done wrong,” Trump said in an Oval Office media gathering following the epic vote. “I think it’s a horrible thing to be using the tool of impeachment which is supposed to be used in an emergency.” He also harkened back to the spark that ignited the move toward impeachment, a phone call between he and Ukraine President Zelensky. “A perfect phone call where the president of that country said there was no pressure whatsoever.”
The phone call between the two presidents is a major point of contention in arguing the President’s guilt or innocence. In his conversation with Zelensky, the newly elected Ukrainian president mentioned the possible purchase of American military weapons. That’s when Trump uttered the ten words that brought him to impeachment: ‘I would like you to do us a favor, though.’ The ‘us,’ Trump supporters say, means the United States. To his detractors it means Trump, himself. The ‘favor,’ they say, is the hint that he wanted Ukraine to begin an investigation on a potential 2020 presidential rival, Joe Biden.
At this point, it appears that acquittal in a Republican Senate is a foregone conclusion. Republicans hold a 53-45 edge over Democrats in the Senate with two independents. For many, even those who pushed for impeachment, the stain that will accompany Trump’s legacy through history is enough. But many is not all. For them, what the President did to put himself in this position and, at the same time, sully the country’s reputation justifies the maximum punishment of impeachment, conviction and an end to his presidency.
“In my opinion,” said Federico Peña, it is important that he be removed, not just impeached. He has become a divisive leader who has acted in such an inappropriate fashion,” said the former Mayor and Cabinet Secretary. Trump’s immediate attack on Democrats who voted to impeach, said Peña, also reflects on a moral failure on Trump’s part. “He doesn’t have a sense of contrition. He has been acting like a dictator for months. He believes he is above the law and answers to no one.”
But Trump, in an animated, almost excitable manner, seems to answer to a rock solid base that has forgiven or overlooked a litany of incidents that no president before has come even close to broaching. He has mocked dead soldiers and Gold Star families, skipped a wreath ceremony in France commemorating the end of World War I and bragged about sexual impropriety on the Access Hollywood tape.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives, supports his former colleagues with impeachment. “The question they are considering is whether the president co-opted our nation’s foreign policy for his own political gain in his dealings with Ukraine,” said Polis. No one, said Polis, “is above the law.”
Congressman Ed Perlmutter, who voted for impeachment, called his vote tough but correct. Withholding aid to an important ally qualified as a high crime, said the veteran House Democrat who represents Colorado’s 7th Congressional District. Trump’s refusal to cooperate with Congress in its investigation, said Perlmutter, was an “abuse of power.”
Former state Republican Chairman Dick Wadhams, in a Denver Post op-ed, said the impeachment is the culmination of a long-held threat by a party “that has been screaming impeachment since President Donald Trump was elected.”
No date or even terms for the Senate impeachment have been set. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have not even met to discuss the ground rules, including witnesses, for the Senate trial. But it’s highly unlikely that when all is said and done the President will be ‘fired.’ Majority Leader McConnell has reassured Trump that things in the Senate are under control.
McConnell has stated in no uncertain terms that he is in lockstep with the White House for the pending impeachment trial. “Everything I do during this I’m coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference,” said McConnell, “between the president’s position and our position as how to handle this.”
Also working against the Democrats is the math. It will take a two thirds majority---67 Senators---to convict. Right now, Democrats are simply hoping they can somehow convince just four Republicans to vote with them to reach 51, a mathematical majority. That would still leave them well short of 67 but nonetheless would be a symbolic figure that will also follow the Trump presidency throughout history.