For a long time, U.S. media and punditry treated impeachment as “the “I-Word.” It was something we were led to believe Democrats believed in like a fairy tale solution to tough times, and something Republicans could use as a rallying cry to fend off a Blue Wave in the November elections. And, whenever any sort of political scholar managed to dive beneath this surface level back-and-forth, impeachment was still treated with a ten-foot pole, as if it were some melodramatic unlikelihood that was constitutionally possible but politically improbable.
This has all changed rather suddenly. Granted, the very word “impeachment” is still a political weapon. This is evidenced by the statistical analysis that Republicans are talking about it way more than Democrats. They’re using it as a scare tactic, telling their voters that if Democrats gain control of the House, the president will be impeached. It’s a purely political manipulation given that Democrats aren’t actually discussing impeachment that much, relatively speaking. Even so, however, it no longer feels like the “I-Word.” It no longer feels melodramatic. All of a sudden impeachment seems like a real political possibility, and there are clear reasons why.
Manafort & Cohen Day
On what many in political punditry hastily declared to be the worst single day of Trump’s presidency, his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and lawyer/“fixer” Michael Cohen faced up to serious federal crimes. Manafort was convicted in eight of 18 possible count, while Cohen pleaded guilty to various financial crimes and more or less directly implicated the president in a felony. If you’re reading political news, you were likely aware of all this, but even a week or so removed from the events it seems incredible that this all happened on one day. On that day, talk of a “witch hunt,” as Trump likes to call the investigations into his campaign and presidency, became moot to all but the most stubborn Trump supporters. For the first time we had concrete, high-level federal crimes from major figures within Trump’s orbit, as well as a claim made under oath that Trump was guilty of some of the same crimes. Rest assured, this was something new.
The Ensuing Flippers
This is a developing idea, but it certainly seems as if the combined convictions and guilty pleas of Manafort and Cohen opened the floodgates, and now there’s frankly no telling who else might turn on the president. In roughly a week’s time we learned that White House Counsel Don McGahn, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg (who’s been described by some as essentially Michael Cohen with more secrets), and long-time ally and National Enquirer CEO David Pecker were all cooperating with investigations into the Trump family and presidency. This too, was new. While it may feel like part of an ever-evolving news cycle, it ultimately represented perhaps the most dangerous risk the Trump presidency has faced, which is that of all the secrets from a lifetime of questionable business and personal dealings becoming public.
This is a more trivial point, but an important one nonetheless. There are few people less flippant with predictions than bookmakers, and the ones popular across the internet are making impeachment seem more likely. That’s no accident in the wake of the developments outlined above, and while it’s not something that actually changes the likelihood of impeachment, it should perhaps change our perception of its likelihood. The odds could yet change again, but to some degree the damage of recent developments is done, and Trump is very apparently closer to impeachment now than he was before.
The Speed Of The Investigations
A lot has been written about the Mueller investigation over the last year or so, and much of it has involved baseless predictions. Indeed, even Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has made a habit of predicting when Mueller will be wrapping things up (and has been wrong multiple times). One of the more interesting write-ups concerning Mueller and timing, however, came from Wired back in May of this years, and posited that Mueller knows how this is all going to end already – he’s just tying up the investigation nicely. I wouldn’t want to add another flippant prediction to the heap, but if this write-up was accurate, it could mean that things are indeed coming to a head. More major news is coming out at a faster rate, which – if Mueller knows where this is all going – feels somewhat like a crescendo.
The Political Realities Setting In
There are no guarantees about Democrats regaining control of the House of Representatives, and the worst thing for Democrats to do is to get complacent about the coming “Blue Wave.” With that said however, polling is holding fairly steady as we inch closer to November. Recently we even learned that a federal court ruling in North Carolina could result in hasty redistricting that could make the Democrats competitive in another couple of seats. In other words things seem to be getting better, not worse, for the Democrats. The reality is setting in that there’s at least a good chance the House flips, and this would make it exceedingly possible for Trump to be impeached. Actually being removed from office, however, is a different thing altogether.
All of this happened in the latter half of August, and altogether it changed the nature of the impeachment question entirely. That doesn’t mean it’s something to hope for, debate endlessly, or, for Democrats, campaign on. But it also means the “I-Word” is no longer a fantasy.