Democrats Can't Impeach Trump By Themselves

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Now that the Department of Justice has appointed a special counsel to investigate possible Russian interference in the 2016 election and any possible ties to the Trump campaign, the possibility of impeachment looms larger than ever. But Americans shouldn't get ahead of themselves just yet. For one, Trump has firmly denied that his presidential campaign colluded with Russia. Secondly, Democrats wouldn't be able to impeach Trump in the near future anyway — at least not by themselves.

To impeach a president, the majority of the House of Representatives has to vote on articles of impeachment. From there, two-thirds of the Senate has to agree with the impeachment. But before that happens, the Senate holds a trial where members of the House act as prosecutors, members of the Senate stand in as the jury, and the president's own attorneys defend him. Not to mention, Congress has never removed a sitting president through impeachment. Though Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached by the House, the Senate ultimately acquitted them. And then there was President Nixon. He resigned from office before the impeachment proceedings in the House even began.

And if, for some reason, Congress began the impeachment process today, the outcome would not be determined by Democrats alone. Instead, it would heavily depend on Republicans, as they hold a majority in both the House and in the Senate. A Trump impeachment, in turn, would require Republican Congress members to vote against their own party leader. And if they've stood with him this long, that seems unlikely.

Trump has called the impeachment rumors "totally ridiculous," decrying the Russia probe a "witch hunt." He has also denied any wrongdoing, as well as any connections between his presidential campaign and Russia.

Aside from the fact that Democrats could never impeach Trump without Republicans' help, there's also the possibility that Democrats wouldn't decide to impeach the president even if they could. Though it seems natural to assume that the party who has fought Trump tooth and nail would want him out of office ASAP, some Democratic Congress members have actually rejected calls for the impeachment process to begin.

During a news conference on Wednesday, for example, Democratic California Rep. Adam Schiff, who is also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, advised, “No one ought to, in my view, rush to embrace the most extraordinary remedy that involves the removal of the president from office.” Similarly, The New York Times reported that Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois stressed the importance of patience in this terse political climate. “They wanted the president gone on November the 10th of last year,” Durbin said. “I want to make certain that we follow the law, follow the Constitution, do it in an orderly way and not to get into a crazed political crusade at this point.”

Thus, if Congress attempts to impeach Trump, it's going to take a joint effort by both Republicans and Democrats — something that's incredibly rare these days.