- At least 35 House Democrats have expressed support for starting an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is under increasing pressure to move toward impeachment as Trump stonewalls a slew of congressional investigations.
- But polls have consistently shown impeachment is unpopular with Americans and they would rather see Congress focus on other issues.
- An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from early May found 53% of Americans oppose Congress holding impeachment hearings. The poll showed a majority of Republicans and independents oppose impeachment.
- If Democrats do ultimately go down the impeachment road, it could potentially hurt them with voters in 2020.
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There are growing calls among Democrats for an impeachment inquiry to be launched into President Donald Trump, despite the fact it would be a risky political move that could hurt the party in the 2020 election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is under increasing pressure to move toward impeachment as the Trump administration stonewalls a slew of congressional investigations into everything from his business dealings to whether he obstructed justice amid special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference.
Pelosi so far has taken a highly tentative stance and avoided embracing impeachment, though on Wednesday took her biggest step in that direction yet when she accused Trump of engaging in a cover-up and said it could be an "impeachable offense."
But the House Speaker has warned that Trump is goading Democrats into impeachment because of the political backlash that would follow. If the House did impeach Trump, it’s very unlikely that the Republican-controlled Senate would choose to remove him from office.
"Trump is goading us to impeach him," she said in early May during an event in New York City hosted by the Cornell University Institute of Politics and Global Affairs. "That’s what he’s doing. Every single day, he’s just like taunting, taunting, taunting because he knows that it would be very divisive in the country, but he doesn’t really care. He just wants to solidify his base."
Trump has expressed disgust at Democratic discussions of impeachment, referring to it as the "I-word," and there’s no definitive evidence he’s intentionally "taunting" Democrats to impeach him.
But there is clear evidence that impeachment is a divisive issue and that it could hurt Democrats if it’s the route they ultimately choose.
Impeachment is not a priority for US voters
Polling has consistently shown Americans don’t have a particularly strong appetite for impeachment — even after the release of a redacted version of Mueller’s report on the Russia probe, which outlined 11 possible instances of obstruction by Trump.
An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from early May found 53% of Americans oppose Congress holding impeachment hearings following Mueller’s report, and just 39% would support it. An overwhelming number of Republicans (91%) said Congress should not move to impeach, as did 51% of independents.
Meanwhile, 70% of Democrats said Congress should hold impeachment hearings, while 23% said it should not.
This suggests that impeachment proceedings would rally Republican voters behind Trump and potentially even sway some independents who might be on the fence.
Similarly, a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll from early May found roughly two-thirds of US voters (65%) oppose impeachment proceedings and 80% would prefer to see their "congressional representatives working more on infrastructure, healthcare, and immigration [than] investigations of President Trump."
In short, impeachment just isn’t at the top of the list of priorities for most Americans.
Trump is unpopular, but so is impeachment
It’s true Trump is an unpopular president — with Gallup showing his approval rating at 42% — but that has not translated into support for impeachment.
With that said, a recent Quinnipiac poll showed a record number of Americans (54%) oppose Trump’s reelection. This is a good sign for Democrats and their hope of ousting Trump in 2020.
But there are also many things working in Trump’s favor, such as high approval of his handling of the economy, strong fundraising numbers, and a huge field of Democratic candidates vying for the 2020 nomination, among other factors. If Democrats launch impeachment proceedings, it could tip the scales in his favor even more given how unpopular it would be with voters.
Dozens of House Democrats have expressed support for moving toward impeachment
At least 35 House Democrats have expressed support for at least beginning the impeachment inquiry process and some have outright said Trump "must be impeached."
Even if impeachment would hurt Democrats politically, some Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also feel they still have an ethical and constitutional obligation to move forward.
If Democrats did ultimately impeach Trump, he would likely be acquitted in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Only two presidents — Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson — have been impeached and both were acquitted in the Senate. Former President Richard Nixon resigned while facing the near-certain prospect of impeachment and removal from office over the Watergate scandal.
- Here are all the major congressional Democrats and 2020 presidential candidates who want to impeach Trump
- Nancy Pelosi says she’ll start working with Trump once the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more presidential
- Trump’s so disgusted by Democrats talking about impeachment that he’ll call it only the ‘I-word’