The Mueller report was somewhat the beginning of what is now an increasingly louder voice to impeach Donald Trump. The Mueller report suggested Donald Trump had received offers for information from Russian officials on his opponent during the elections and did not manage to report the matter to the FBI. This coupled with other instances that could be considered as “High Crimes & Misdemeanors” are enough to move for impeachment. Nevertheless, there are other factors to consider when it comes to impeaching the president of the United States. Is impeachment really the right thing to do at this time?
What Did Trump do?
Based on the Mueller report, on June 3, 2016, Donald Trump Jr. received an email with an "offer" sent from the "Russia's Crown prosecutor" to Trump’s campaign officials to provide "documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful." The report goes on to state that the material was "very high level and sensitive information" and "part of Russia and its government's support to Mr. Trump." Trump Jr. then responded to the email saying "(I)f it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer" and forwarded the email to Kushner and Manafort. Later a meeting was set up, but the information wasn’t useful.
Now, after three years of political scandal because of Russia’s interference in America’s 2016 election, president Donald Trump’s latest statement during an ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos where he said he would not report the matter to the FBI if he was offered dirt on another presidential candidate again adding “There’s nothing wrong with listening,” has drawn a storm of criticism. Donald Trump changed his mind later, telling Fox News “I’d report it to law enforcement, absolutely,” if a similar situation were to happen.
Ground For Impeachment
The federal law is very clear on the subject of accepting anything of value from foreigners by United States presidential election candidates. This act can be interpreted as foreigners trying to influence the United States elections.
The law states that it is “unlawful for a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make a contribution or donation of money or other things of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a federal, state or local election,” and it is forbidden and illegal to “solicit, accept or receive” anything valuable from foreigners or foreign state officials. Ellen L. Weintraub, the Chair of the United States Federal Election Commission released a statement saying “Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.”
Trump and his campaign were clearly open to receiving information and help from foreign persons to have the upper hand in the presidential elections and right now many of the Democrats believe this fact alone is enough to move forward with impeaching Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even said recently that “I think the President every day gives grounds for impeachment in terms of his obstruction of justice,” even though she still doesn’t want to impeach, her tone is changing along with many others in the democrat party and across the political spectrum. Support for impeachment is also rising among people and “support for impeachment rose slightly from 37% last month to 41% now” reports CNN.
Why No Impeachment So Far?
It’s been a while since the Mueller report came out and showed how Trump had violated the federal law. However, with all the noise surrounding the report and the gradual rise of impeachment talk, there are still no actual steps taken to impeach Trump. Even the Democrats are “not even close” to a call for impeachment and there are still those who advise against it, including Nancy Pelosi who told an interviewer “[Impeachment] is not even close in our caucus. Why are we speculating on hypotheticals?” She continued, “Look, I want to tell you something. There is nothing as divisive in our country, in my view, as impeachment. [...] So we’re trying to make decisions as we go forth that are unifying, not dividing.”
There’s an array of reasons why there’s opposition to impeachment. The outcome of the impeachment could actually hurt the Democrats if they were to move forward with and under certain circumstances, help Trump win the 2020 elections. Trump could spin the impeachment act to show that the Democrats are out to get him and make it look like a politically motivated move. If the Democrats fail to get positive results from the impeachment, Trump could also use that in a positive light the same he did when the Mueller report didn’t conclude that there was collusion and get some of the wavering votes.
Another factor we need to consider is how effective the impeachment could be in real terms. It is somewhat far fetched to think that the impeachment would have the results the Democrats want. As far as “High Crimes & Misdemeanors” go in regards to the information that was offered to Trump, it seems the claims can’t hold much water. For example, the Trump lawyers could argue that the contribution by a foreign power must have a determined value which is hard in this case. It’s even possible to come up with an estimate if we consider what the actual information was that was offered. This, however, is not obvious either and there isn’t enough information in the report to determine the exact information.
Another problem is that the sole act of having conversations with a foreign agent is not unlawful by itself. You have to prove that the agent spends money and used certain resources to gather that information. You also have to prove the persons involved in the matter from Trump’s campaign were aware of the federal law concerning this type of foreign aid. Both these cases would be hard to prove. Mueller concluded in his report that evidence "would likely be unavailable or ineffective in the factual setting."
Considering all this, impeachment might not be the best choice at the moment. However, impeachment might still be something to consider for the Democrats in the near future and even in Trump’s second term, if there is to be one.