US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced an ‘official impeachment inquiry’ into President Donald Trump, but has not actually called an impeachment vote. Picture: Mandel Ngan and Saul Loeb/AFP
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced an ‘official impeachment inquiry’ into President Donald Trump, but has not actually called an impeachment vote. Picture: Mandel Ngan and Saul Loeb/AFP

Why Trump will never be impeached

FIRST of all - there is no such thing as an "official impeachment inquiry".

The full US House of Representatives must vote to begin formal impeachment proceedings, which is not what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dramatically announced on Tuesday evening, sparking "breaking news" around the world.

Ms Pelosi said "the president must be held accountable" for his "betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and the betrayal of the integrity of our elections".

"I'm directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella," she said, referring to allegations Donald Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate business dealings involving former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Her announcement of an "official impeachment inquiry" is effectively expanding the work of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, who was already running a pseudo-impeachment inquiry in an attempt to stave off a left-wing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-style primary challenger.

Now another six Democrat-chaired House committees will join in, calling witnesses and issuing subpoenas as they collect evidence ostensibly to draft articles of impeachment, which would then be voted on to send to the Senate to conduct the trial.

As Georgia Republican Representative Doug Collins put it, "Speaker Pelosi's decree changes absolutely nothing. As I have been telling Chairman Nadler for weeks, merely claiming the House is conducting an impeachment inquiry doesn't make it so. Until the full House votes to authorise an inquiry, nobody is conducting a formal inquiry."

But Ms Pelosi is terrified of actually forcing a full vote of the 435-member House as required by the US Constitution. Even though the Democrats have a 235-199 majority, around 31 of them were elected in Trump-leaning districts running as moderates.

She knows forcing them to go on the record and vote on actual impeachment would be electoral suicide - as Republicans discovered during the Clinton impeachment - and could cost the Democratic party the House majority it won during the last year's midterms.

Moreover, Republicans currently hold the Senate 53-47. Impeachment requires a two-thirds vote, meaning at least 20 Republicans would need to side with Democrats to gain the required 67 votes for conviction - a virtual impossibility.

"It is a colossal error," Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn told Fox News on Tuesday evening. "And, I'm kind of surprised that Speaker Pelosi, as shrewd as she is, would let it get to this point."

On a side note, it's also completely false to say that impeachment is a purely "political process". The US Constitution states the president "shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours".

Founding Father Alexander Hamilton specifically warned of the danger of impeachment being used for political reasons. Impeachments, he wrote in The Federalist Papers, are "of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself".

"The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused," he wrote.

"In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt."

The Senate, given its equal representation of the states, was effectively viewed as the least worst place to conduct an impeachment trial, to be overseen by the Chief Justice and requiring a super-majority to convict.

Which all means there is virtually no chance Ms Pelosi will ever bring a full vote on impeachment, but rather that the Democrats will use the pseudo-impeachment "investigations" for opposition research and media leaks to generate headlines in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

In other words, exactly what was happening already.

frank.chung@news.com.au


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