Thursday, November 17, 2016

What is the likelihood of Trump being impeached?

Due to the vagaries of the American electoral system, it seems we are democratically stuck with Donald J. Trump as the leader of the so-called free world. So, many people are thinking outside the box for ways in which we might legally get rid of the guy. And perhaps the most likely of these unlikely possibilities is impeachment.
Allan Lichtman, the Washington professor who has successfully predicted every US election since 1984 (including Donald Trump) using his historically-based "13 keys to the White House" system, also made another prediction about Trump, this one not based on any complex historical system but on his own gut feeling: "I'm quite certain Trump will give someone grounds for impeachment, either by doing something that endangers national security or because it helps his pocketbook." Many other people, including filmmaker Michael Moore, have also predicted that Trump is likely to do something that might lead to grounds for impeachment sometime before the end of his term of office, and probably sooner rather than later. Even Rush Limbaugh was predicting, some time ago now, that the Democrats would be "talking impeachment on day two, after the first Trump executive order".
So, what is involved with a presidential impeachment, and what is the likelihood of it happening any time soon? Impeachment of a president requires that they commit treason, bribery, or "high crimes and misdemeanours", the latter in particular being a woolly and ambiguous phrase that is open to a variety of interpretations. Here are a few areas where Trump's political, business and personal life might come into play in this context:
  • the ongoing legal allegations regarding Trump University (among other things it is alleged that unqualified instructors were personally hired by Trump, and that the "university" is not actually an accredited educational program);
  • conflicts of interests in his cabinet (Trump loyalists like General Mike Flynn and Rudy Giuliani, both highly tipped for prominent positions in the Trump hierarchy, are both subject to conflict of interest allegations recently, and Trump's move to include his son-in-law Jared Kushner in his administration, and granting him the highest security clearance, could well be against federal anti-nepotism laws, as could his plans to involve more of his adult children);
  • sexual assault allegations (Trump is currently facing at least a dozen sexual assault and harassment accusations, and facing legal action over such allegations could open up the possibility of impeachment proceedings);
  • conflicts of interest from his business dealings (having his children run his intricate, extensive and highly-complex business empire in a "blind trust" is at best unconvincing);
  • his dealings with Vladimir Putin and Russia (there are already some shady undercurrents to Trump's reliance on Russian investors and his undisguised admiration for Putin, as well as the apparent Russian tampering in the election process itself, and who knows where these might lead);
  • possible crackdowns on the media (Trump has already broken protocol over his dealings with the press, and he makes no secret of his antagonism towards it, but these are not actually criminal actions - yet);
  • any new shocking revelations or transgressions that come to light in the future (the possibilities are limitless).
Now, the problem is that Congress is the body that needs to call for, and to actually hold, hearings for impeachment, and both the Senate (narrowly) and the House of Representatives (more robustly) are currently controlled by the Republicans. So, Trump would have to seriously piss off his own party to lead them to resort to this dramatic step. Having said that, many Republicans are already seriously pissed off with him, and the likelihood of further pissed-offness is well within the bounds of possibility. So, impeachment remains a tantalizing potentiality.

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