By David Thornton
The lack of incontrovertible evidence of criminal action by the president has given the Trump Administration a new lease on life. President Trump will not resign and Republicans will not cross party lines to impeach him based on the evidence offered so far. Still, Trump is not out of the woods.
Opinions on whether Trump’s actions constituted obstruction of justice fell largely along party lines. Republicans called Trump’s request inappropriate but not illegal while Democrats say that the president broke the law. Republicans won’t vote to impeach Donald Trump and Democrats don’t have the votes for impeachment. But what happens after 2018?
Control of the House of Representatives can change in the blink of an eye. Since every House seat is up for election every term, a Democrat wave could easily shift control of the lower house of Congress in one election. Republicans currently hold a 45-seat majority in the House so Democrats would only need to pick up 23 seats to win a majority. That number might decrease if Jon Ossoff wins a special election in Georgia later this month.
Democrats seem to have an edge in the House races at the moment. Earlier this week, a Gallup poll reported that Republican party identification had plummeted four points since last year’s election. At the same time, Democrat affiliation had increased, giving Democrats a seven-point advantage.
Further, even before the Comey testimony, President Trump’s approval had fallen to a record low in a Quinnipiac poll. Barely a third of voters (34 percent) approve of Trump’s performance while 57 percent disapprove. While 80 percent of Republicans still approve of Trump, two-thirds of independents, the deciding demographic in most elections, disapprove. Gallup shows similar numbers while Rasmussen looks slightly better for the president with 46 percent approval, still a sharp decline.
Under the Constitution, it is the House of Representatives that votes to impeach the president, but the Senate decides whether to remove the impeached official from office. If Democrats win a majority, the probably of impeachment would rise dramatically, but, like Bill Clinton, President Trump could remain in office after being impeached if Democrats don’t control the Senate.
It is more difficult to win control of the Senate since only a third of senate seats are up for election in a given term. In a break for the Republicans, Democrats will be defending most of the Senate seats in play in 2018. Of 33 seats up for election, only eight are held by Republican incumbents.
The downside for Republicans is that Democrats only need to flip three seats to win a majority. One defending Republican, Dean Heller (R-Nev.), is from a states that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. If Democrats pick up that seats and find two more states dissatisfied with President Trump, while successfully defending their own seats, Republicans could find themselves the minority party in short order.
The 2018 midterms are a long way off. Seventeen months seems to be an eternity these days with bombshell revelations seeming to burst almost every day. In a year and a half, almost anything can happen and, in the current political climate, it probably will. While it is far too early to say how the 2018 midterms will turn out, it is very possible that President Trump could find himself in legal jeopardy early in 2019.
President Trump’s best insurance against impeachment or a failed presidency is to buckle down and get serious about governing. Put down the Twitter. Stop the cover-ups. Listen to the advisors who have experience with policy and lawyers who know what is legal and what isn’t.
[This article has been corrected. The original version said that Hillary Clinton won Arizona.]