A political science expert at Illinois State University said the Democrats’ call for an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump could backfire unless a smoking gun emerges.
The U.S. House is investigating Trump's phone call with the leader of Ukraine in which he pressed that country’s leader to investigate former Vice President and political rival Joe Biden.
Assistant Professor Kerri Milita said Democrats should recall how Republicans failed to remove President Bill Clinton from office after his impeachment.
“It’s possible that Democrats will see the same thing from this impeachment process,” Milita said. “If anything, what the American public has shown is they don’t like the idea that people are wasting time, wasting time on things that are perceived to be insignificant or politicizing.”
Milita said even if the U.S. House votes to impeach Trump, it’s “incredibly unlikely” the Republican-controlled Senate would remove him from office. Still, she said such an action can be damaging, especially against the backdrop of the president’s reelection bid.
“It becomes part of the political record," she said. "It becomes part of an administration’s legacy and that’s not something presidents take lightly, muddying the water of their legacy, so it’s still an incredibly important gesture."
Milita explained the Constitution is intentionally vague about what an impeachable offense is. She said even while the phone call transcripts don't appear to show criminal wrongdoing, the House could impeach if it decides the president's action were unethical.
“It looks like what occurred between President Trump and Ukraine was not criminal, but that’s not to say that it wasn’t unethical which is also potentially an impeachable offense if the House deems it so,” Milita said.
Milita said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call for the inquiry gave the impeachment proceedings already underway some “gravitas” by showing the party leadership was now on board.
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