16 May 2017

An impeachment dilemma for Republicans

So far, talk of impeaching Trump has been just talk.  Republicans hold majorities in both the House and the Senate, so Democrats would need the cooperation of at least some Republicans to impeach and remove him.  And so far, few or no Republicans in Congress seem to be even considering cooperating with such a move, despite the rich abundance of grounds for doing so.  But there's another aspect of the issue that they ought to be thinking about.

The order of succession to the Presidency is the Vice President and then the Speaker of the House.  So if Trump were impeached and removed, Pence would become President.  If both Trump and Pence were removed (because Pence was found complicit in whatever Trump was charged with), then Paul Ryan would become President.  Either of those outcomes would presumably be acceptable to most Republicans -- probably preferable to keeping Trump in office, in fact.

However, given the unpopularity of moves like ACH repeal, tax "reform" (massive giveaways to the wealthy at everyone else's expense), and Trump's general blundering, it's now looking plausible that Democrats could win a majority in both House and Senate in next year's election.  If that happens and Trump is still in office, here's the likely scenario:

• Democratic House majority elects Democratic Speaker.

• Congress impeaches Trump and Pence.

• Democratic Speaker becomes President.

So far from "acceptable", this would be the Republicans' nightmare scenario -- Democratic control of Congress and the Presidency, just a little over two years after Trump won them the latter.

If the Republicans impeach Trump themselves while they still can, and install Pence or Ryan in his place, they'll probably be able to keep the Presidency for the rest of Trump's term even if they lose Congress in 2018 (since it would be far harder to make a case for impeaching Pence or Ryan and whatever Republican was Vice President by then).  But if they stand with Trump through 2018, they're gambling with losing everything.

Update 1 (4:30 AM Wednesday):  The latest revelation (the Comey memo's claim that Trump tried to squelch the Flynn investigation) seems to have stunned some Senate Republicans into backing off of their dogged support for Trump -- but TPM thinks they're still not ready to support impeachment (see end of first link).

Another point:  while Trump is wildly unpopular, impeaching him would not let the Republicans settle into a more "normal" governing pattern free of the mass protest and public hostility they've been subject to -- and most Congressional Republicans probably realize this.  The biggest driver of the hate they've been getting at town halls and in constituent messages has actually been ACA repeal, not Trump's antics.

Update 2 (6:30 AM Wednesday):  There is another interesting wrinkle here based on Section 2 of the 25th Amendment.  If Trump were impeached and Pence became President, Pence would need to choose a new Vice President -- who would then need to be confirmed by both Houses of Congress.  So if the Republicans impeach Trump themselves before November 2018, they'll be able to rubber-stamp Pence's choice; but if they do not, and a Democratic-majority Congress impeaches Trump but not Pence, the Democrats will have a veto over Pence's choice for Vice President.  Assuming the Democrats are willing to play hardball by this point, they might even demand a Democrat as VP and threaten to leave the office vacant à la Garland if Pence didn't go along.  Whether they could get away with that Constitutionally, I don't know.  I don't think there's any precedent.


Blogger W. Hackwhacker said...

With the revelation of the Comey memo saying Trump pressured him to shut down the Flynn investigation, we might have moved one step closer to one of those scenarios.

16 May, 2017 15:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read that the Speaker could be anyone, not necessarily one of the representatives. So maybe there is still a chance for Hillary.

16 May, 2017 17:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although, actually removing the president or vice-president would require 67 Senate votes. Not that that couldn't happen with Trump, but it would require significant bipartisan support in any scenario. So there's no way they'd remove both Trump and Pence if a Democratic speaker were waiting in the wings.

16 May, 2017 18:06  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Hackwhacker: I think for the Republicans it's a purely political calculation at this point. They won't move to impeach until the political risk of not doing so exceeds the risk of doing so. Still, the relentless escalation of outrageous Trump behavior will prove useful if we retake Congress and he's still in office -- the immediate escalation to impeachment would be clearly justified. We could even make a promise of impeachment a campaign issue.

Anon: That's true. It's only tradition, not law, that the Speaker is a member of the House. For that matter, there's nothing to stop Hillary from running for a seat next year.

16 May, 2017 18:09  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Anon 2: That would certainly make it more difficult. But if it were clear that Pence was implicated as well, and if pressure of public opinion (the only thing that has really changed any Congressional Republican votes so far) were strong enough, I wouldn't say it's out of the question -- particularly if the Republicans had just been chastened by substantial losses in the midterms.

17 May, 2017 03:11  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

I'm betting on removal by the 25th Amendment. I'm beginning to come around to the idea that Trump is actually mentally incapacitated. His inability to understand the consequences of his irrational, impulsive behaviors and his inability to keep track of what he says -- therefore the almost daily contradiction of his previous explanations and statements -- that plus his barely 4th grade level of communicating, and the reports of his rages at his staff are all disturbing signs.

These were all apparent to me while he was a candidate, but one hoped he'd sober up once he became the president. IMO, it appears his behaviors have gotten worse! He's now in charge of life and death decisions and a mentally unstable president is a clear and present danger to our country.

17 May, 2017 07:29  
Anonymous bystander said...

Then there's Louise Mensch at Patribotics, https://patribotics.blog/, suggesting that both Pence and Ryan have been implicated and that Orrin Hatch will be President.

Don't know what her rep is; she just recently came under my radar. But it's interesting, nonetheless.

17 May, 2017 23:06  
Blogger Rational Nation USA said...

@ Shaw - ... his inability to keep track of what he says -- therefore the almost daily contradiction of his previous explanations and statements- ...

Trump has no core beliefs, nothing is foundational for him. Thus it is easy and natural for Trump to move from pilar to post, dry ground to water and back again. He is a "man" of pure expediency as he views it in his little narcissitic mind.

Infidel, your points and analysis are interesting. While considering all the scenarios I tend to hope for a complete flip in both houses of the congress in 2018 and have a democratic congress remove Trump, and possibly Pence, in 2018-2019.

You're right, it is a pure political calculation for the republicans as you outlined. Hopefully they mis calculate. Perhaps then the swamp they created can be drained.

It is going to be real, it is going to be fun, but, it sure as hell is not going to be real fun!

18 May, 2017 08:53  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw: It's hardly surprising that he's gotten worse. All his life he's been surrounded by yes-men and people he could intimidate, so his bullying and mental aberrations have been coddled. He's under tremendous stress now and he's completely unequipped to handle it.

Bystander: They may well be implicated, but the decision of whom to impeach will be largely political. Hatch is a satisfactory homophobic crank, but I don't know if the Republican base is ready for a Mormon President (it was something of an issue with Romney).

Rational: In a way I'd rather see impeachment delayed until after the 2018 election when we have a more favorable political position. But there's still that worry about Trump starting a war in a fit of anger or due to sheer incompetence, a risk that continues every day he stays in power. Pence or Ryan at least probably wouldn't do that.

19 May, 2017 05:30  
Blogger Linus Bern said...

I'd like to believe Pence would be shown the door (of a jail cell) along with Trump, but so far I have seen virtually no effort from the Dems to tie Pence to Trump's scandals. They seem to be buying into Pence's "I'm just an idiot, and nobody tells me anything" act.

19 May, 2017 06:38  
Blogger Ed said...

"...few or no Republicans in Congress seem to be even considering cooperating with such a move, despite the rich abundance of grounds for doing so."
You're living in a much different world then I am.

19 May, 2017 16:12  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Linus: I suppose Pence seems like a lower priority. Let's hope he comes under more scrutiny as impeachment starts looking like a concrete possibility.

Ed: Hey, I wrote this three days ago. Some of them have come around since then.

19 May, 2017 16:15  

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