Prof on Trump’s Impeachment Trial: ‘It Is Not Clear Who the Winners and Losers Will Be’


An impeachment trial against US President Donald Trump began in the Senate. David Schultz, Professor at Hamline University, expressed his views on the subject.

Sputnik: What are your thoughts on the results of the impeachment trial?  

David Schultz: Tuesday was the opening statements at the beginning of the Senate impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump.  With the Republican Party of the president holding a 53-47 majority and it requiring 67 votes to convict the president and remove him from office, no one really expects the president to be removed from office.  This is the case because of the powerful discipline that the two major US parties have.

The fight over rules was important. Democrats want the same rules as were used for the Clinton impeachment in 1998. If that happens, then witnesses will be called and perhaps there will be requests for documents. Trump and the Republicans do not want this. So far Trump’s defence in large part has been that there is insufficient evidence to prove Trump did anything wrong. However, he has refused to cooperate and allow for evidence or witnesses. If they occur here then no one knows what potentially embarrassing information might come out. The big concern is former National Security Advisor John Bolton who knows a lot, wants to testify, and does not appear to like Trump. He could be very damaging.

Sputnik: How can the results of the impeachment trial escalate/influence the already difficult relations between the Senate and the House of Representatives?

David Schultz: The Democratic Party-controlled House and the Republican Party-controlled Senate already are at odds and have conflicting political and policy agendas.  The impeachment and trial are simply enhancing that conflict. The two do not work together except for a few issues, and the rhetoric surrounding the impeachment and trial is making it worse. The impeachment and trial are simply setting up a battle for the 2020 elections.

Sputnik: If Trump doesn’t get impeached, how in your view would it influence his presidential campaign?

David Schultz: The impeachment and trial of Trump are really less about removing him from the office than it is about two other things. One, this is part of an ongoing battle over congressional-presidential power. This is a constitutional issue. The second, and the one that is more conflictual, is about the 2020 elections. Democrats hope to use the impeachment and trial to mobilize their political base and turn swing voters so that they win the presidency. The battle for the US presidency, because of the peculiar system of American elections being decided by the electoral college and not a direct popular vote, will be decided by only a handful of voters in about six states.

No one is really sure how a Senate acquittal of the president plays out politically. Does it give President Trump vindication, does it motivate Democratic or Republican voters? How does it affect the swing voters in a few swing states? Will the spectacle of the trial help or hurt the president? These are all good questions.

What will be interesting to see is how the Senate trial impacts the political presidential campaigns of US Senators Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. They have to interrupt their presidential campaigns to sit for the trial. With the Iowa Caucuses (the start of the US presidential primary process) starting February 3, it could impact their campaigns.

There are 35 US Senate seats up for election this year, with 23 held by Donald Trump’s party, The Senate trial could well affect the party control of the Senate since it would only require Democrats to have a net pick up of four seats to take control.  No one really thinks the House will flip party control even though all 435 members are up for re-election.

Sputnik: If Trump gets voted out of office, how would it influence his image/business/family and what steps should we expect next from the government?

David Schultz: Should Trump lose this November, it would be a major blow to his reputation and legacy. It would be a major repudiation of his presidency. It would also open him up to possible criminal lawsuits associated with his businesses, and damage the Trump brand.

The next president, assuming it’s a Democrat, pledges a return to normalcy. It is not clear what that is or if it’s possible.  But look to see the US return to its more conventional approach to international politics over the last few presidents. In terms of US-Russian Federation policy, the next president will no doubt take a tougher line and policy. Do not expect to see an improvement in US-Russian relations in the short term.

Final thoughts or observations?

This is only the third impeachment of a president in US history. Trump, the Democrats, and the Republicans have a lot to gain and lose and there is too much that is risky for all of them. It is not clear who the winners and losers will be and that is why all sides are trying to control the Senate trial.



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