It seems impeachment does not work in the effort to take down a president unless the American people are behind it.
The only president to face impeachment and lose his office was Richard Nixon, and of course he was neither impeached nor convicted, although the impeachment process was initiated against him. After being informed by leading members of his own party, The Republicans, that they would vote for impeachment, he decided to resign (and save his pension — good decision).
The key in the Nixon case was a so-called “smoking gun”. After being forced to hand over secret tapes he made of White House meetings, it was clear he was in on the Watergate break-in and various dirty tricks and that he directed a coverup of illegal activity that included payoffs.
But two other presidents, Andrew Johnson who succeeded Abraham Lincoln after he was assassinated, and Bill Clinton, were impeached, that is the impeachment articles against them were drawn up by the congress, but both escaped conviction in the senate.
In both cases there was not solid public support for removal from office. In Johnson’s case, as I understand it, one of the main contentions was his refusal to follow a law congress passed to prevent him from firing a cabinet officer — that law was later found to be unconstitutional anyway.
And in Clinton’s case, he was accused if sexual harassment by one woman and in the course of the investigation and litigation on that it came out that he had been sexually cavorting with a young lady not his wife in the oval office. Clinton denied it but later admitted it.
It was clear the Republicans were having a field day releasing all kinds of salacious information but the public did not see how it all rose to the level of removing the president from office. The actual sexual harassment case was thrown out of court. Clinton’s public support actually rose. The impeachment backfired against the Republicans.
With all that has come out about Trump, or simply all he displays each day, there is but little doubt in my mind that a good solid case for impeachment could be brought. But with the solid Republican control of the senate, unless a real smoking gun comes out, and unless public opinion, now predominantly (2/3) against impeachment, it seems highly unlikely Trump will lose his office through that course of action.
I have not read the full Mueller report, still, but if there was a smoking gun there surly we would know it by now.
Perhaps some witness will come forward with it, like Alexander Butterfield and the Nixon tapes.
Again, that is not to say that there are not solid grounds for impeachment. And impeachment is a political process that does not require all the restraints as the normal judicial process. But the public has to be for it as far as I can see. It is not. That could change.
So the Democrats can and probably should keep probing. But at the same time they have to put most of their effort into convincing voters that they should be returned to power in the senate and ultimately the White House in 2020.
Who knows? Trump just might do something yet to turn the Republicans against him. I think he’s capable.
And let’s don’t forget what the real potential crime of Trump is: there seems to be strong circumstantial evidence that he had commercial dealings with the Russians as a candidate and before and maybe as president and offered them things, such as a reduction in trade sanctions and turning a blind eye to some of their aggression on the world stage and praising their leader. In exchange the Russians supported his candidacy and conducted cyber dirty tricks aimed against his opponent in the presidential election. There is still a question on whether Trump is compromised by the Russian secret police by way of, possibly, sexual escapades, and thus vulnerable to blackmail. And besides the Russian issue, it seems that Trump and family are shamelessly using the office of the presidency for commercial gain. But again, no smoking gun, unless possibly the available evidence could be presented in a way as to be a smoking gun (sometimes presentation is everything).