The impeachment push against Trump
The United States presidential election campaign can officially claim to have started with the Democratic lower house of Congress announcing its intention to seek President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The legal basis seems sound enough: that Mr Trump asked the Ukrainian government to provide him information that could be used to discredit one of the leading Democratic presidential candidates, Joe Biden. Mr Trump has argued this did not constitute a crime. Impeachment under the US Constitution is under the jurisdiction of the Senate, making it a political process.
Outwardly, Mr Trump would seem to have a strong hand. The Senate is firmly in the hands of Republicans. The party’s senators know the base remains behind the president and will back him. So what does the Democratic Party hope to get out of the call for impeachment? The speaker of the lower house, Nancy Pelosi, has long resisted demands by left-wing firebrands to seek impeachment. She has, probably rightly, argued Mr Trump remains too popular, the case against him too weak, and the Democrats would lose more than they would gain.
What seems to have changed the equation is the proximity of the presidential elections. The idea of a US president asking a foreign country for help against a fellow US politician feeds into an existing narrative about Russian interference to ensure Mr Trump’s earlier victory. This time, the evidence seems stronger. Mr Trump’s support, too, appears to be weakening as the election approaches. The US economy is showing signs of a slowdown, and the number of voters identifying themselves as independents is surging. An impeachment trial could well challenge Mr Trump’s image of invincibility. The goal is then not to force him out of office, but simply have him be voted out of the same.