U.S. presidents often face talks of impeachment from their opponents, but such threats are almost always empty. Only two presidents have ever been impeached in American history, after all. President Trump, though? The calls for impeachment he's currently being hit with seem to be more serious than usual. This is good news for those hoping to see him booted from the White House, but if Democrats want Trump impeached, the 2018 midterm elections should be their focus.
The past week was arguably the Trump administration's worst since Inauguration Day. In an NBC News interview with Lester Holt, the president outright admitted that the probe of his possible collusion with Russia was on his mind when he decided to fire James Comey, who was leading the investigation as director for the FBI. "In fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said 'you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,'" Trump said.
Last Friday, Trump published a threatening tweet aimed at the former FBI director. "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" he wrote. Both this attempt to intimidate Comey and his admission of factoring in an investigation against him to fire the FBI director fall under obstruction of justice, one of the four impeachable offenses laid out in the Constitution; treason, bribery, and "high crimes and misdemeanors" are the other three.
Impeachment can only happen with the approval of Congress, and right now, both branches are under Republican control, with 292 Republican currently active congress members — 52 senators and 240 members of the House of Representatives — versus the Democratic Party's 243 members. Democrats need to win a net of 25 seats to take the lead. Now, even if Democrats were to regain control of Congress, they would still need some Republican support, as a president can only be impeached with two thirds of the Senate voting in favor of doing so.
But gaining as many congressional seats as possible is still one of the most proactive steps the party can take. Democrats have a few things in their favor at the moment. First, a sitting president's party nearly always loses more seats than the opposing party during midterm elections. Second, Republicans are off to a bad start thanks to the never-ending amount of scandals coming from the White House on a nearly daily basis and the president's abysmal approval ratings. Third, Democratic voters are incredibly energized, as evidenced by the razor-thin special election results in Kansas and Georgia, where Democrats lost but by a notably much smaller margin than expected.
With all of that said, though, Democrats should still be on their toes — their base typically has a lower turnout than the Republican Party during midterm elections. And if the 2016 election taught us anything, it's that voters and politicians can't get comfortable just because things seem to be going in their favor.