The opposition Democrats are hurtling towards an impeachment vote by Christmas as they seek to crank up public support – which has been doggedly static – with a landmark hearing this week where legal experts testimony could lay the groundwork for articles of impeachment against US President Donald Trump.
Headlining this week on prime time television will be a string of legal experts who will explain Article 2, Section 4 of the US Constitution, which states a President can be “removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”. Treason and bribery are well defined – high crimes and misdemeanors aren’t.
This would set the stage for a likely Senate trial in January 2020. In a Senate trial, it would take 67 votes to convict Trump, if all 100 senators vote. This means all 47 Senate Democrats and independents and 20 Senate Republicans will have to vote against Trump. As things stand, the universe of potential Republican drifters is a number far less than 20.
But let’s dial back a bit, just for context. The ongoing impeachment inquiry centres around this: Did Trump abuse the power of his office by withholding military aid pre-approved by US Congress when he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch investigations into Trump’s political rivals and also make a big noise about it in public?
American Presidents in the past have used back channels, experts say, to push foreign policy goals. The difference this time, based on what we’ve heard from 12 witnesses so far, is about how Trump allegedly leveraged US government muscle for personal political gain.
After the initial pop from live television hearings, the impeachment inquiry process now hurtles into its final bend for this year. Barely 10 months remain for the US elections, America is heading into peak holiday season and by all accounts, Democrats don’t want impeachment to spill over into 2020.
The crucial document at this stage of the game – the impeachment report on Donald Trump – will be unveiled behind closed doors for key lawmakers before the baton passes.
On December 3 evening, the House Intelligence Committee has scheduled a vote to approve its report which sums up the trove of evidence gathered over more than six weeks of closed-door depositions and public hearings.
On December 4, the action moves to the House Judiciary Committee, which has scheduled its first hearing on this day. This will headline legal experts who will examine the constitutional grounds for impeachment.
By December 6, the White House has to decide whether it will participate in the impeachment process at all. The White House has already declared it would not participate in the first impeachment hearings on December 4 before the House Judiciary Committee.
Starting December 9, Democrats will likely formally present the full blown report of their findings, likely sparking a full blown counter attack from the White House.
Democrats say their report will be self explanatory in whether it aligns with bribery or “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the constitutional standard for impeachment.
Republicans, meanwhile, stand firmly with Trump.
His more vocal supporters agree that Trump didn’t use the “delicate language of diplomacy” but make it clear that he rarely uses the “smarmy talk of politicians”.
“Get over it” is their snake oil to explain away the Trump pressure campaign against a vulnerable ally in a shooting war with Russia and dependent on US aid.
The Republicans’ formal, 123 page reaction to the impeachment probe landed Monday, blasting Democrats for trying to upend the results of the 2016 election.
It contains the core plan of the Republican rebuttal strategy.
“The Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is not the organic outgrowth of serious misconduct; it is an orchestrated campaign to upend our political system,” the report states.
“The Democrats are trying to impeach a duly elected president based on the accusations and assumptions of unelected bureaucrats who disagreed with President Trump’s policy initiatives and processes.”
With no signs of the guardrails breaking, Trump expects zero betrayal over his “perfect call” which is at the centre of this American political blockbuster.