News Analysis: Impeachment inquiry announcement against Trump could backfire

Source: Xinhua| 2019-09-25 13:57:41|Editor: Wu Qin
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by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- U.S. House leader dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, which some experts said could backfire and end up galvanizing support among Trump's base in the lead up to the 2020 elections.

Actions taken by the president "have seriously violated the Constitution," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday in a televised statement, accusing Trump of "betrayal of his oath of office" and "betrayal of our national security."

After months of flirting with the idea but stopping short of taking action, Pelosi's decision came as more than two-thirds of House Democrats push for an impeachment inquiry amid mounting pressures over alleged abuses of power of the president.

The action followed recent reports that Trump threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine in a bid to pressure Kiev to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential rival of Trump in the 2020 elections. Biden's son has had business dealings in the Ukraine.

Democrats said this was tantamount to betraying the nation's national security interests for the sake of Trump's own political gains, which they believe is an impeachable offense.

The White House on Tuesday dismissed the allegations, calling it business as usual among Democrats seeking to derail the president.

In a statement released the same day, the Republican National Committee (RNC) called the accusations a "hoax."

"Instead of backing a baseless impeachment effort, Biden should be answering for the only scandal that exists: Why a corrupt Ukrainian company paid his son 50,000 (U.S. dollars) a month to lobby the Obama-Biden administration, and why Biden threatened the Ukrainians if they failed to fire a prosecutor investigating the company," the RNC said.

Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua that it is "becoming impossible to ignore (what he sees as Trump's) unethical behavior," and that is moving the Democratic caucus to towards impeachment.

It remains unknown whether Democrats' accusations will hold water, and whether they will find any offense that is serious enough to impeach the president. Moreover, it remains unclear whether impeaching the president would even help them at the ballot box in 2020.

"The last time a president was impeached it backfired," Republican Strategist and TV news personality Ford O'Connell told Xinhua, referring to the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, which was initiated in 1998.

"There's no public appetite for it," O'Connell said. "Only 37 percent of voters want Democrats to start impeachment proceedings."

"Initiating impeachment proceedings against President Trump remains a popular move among the Democratic base, but it won't necessarily help them win voters across the aisle," said Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult's vice president, as quoted by POLITICO, a U.S. political publication.

O'Connell said "once the Mueller report turned out to be a dud, the Democratic leaders in Congress decided to investigate every possible allegation against Trump, without invoking impeachment." O'Connell was referring to the year-long report about possible collusion between Trump and Russia, which in the end failed to produce a smoking gun but cost U.S. taxpayers 32 million dollars.

O'Connell noted that when Republicans impeached Clinton, his approval ratings jumped 10 points in the aftermath.

Democrats were upset about the impeachment and turned out in the next election to protect their president, and experts said the same could happen with Republicans in 2020.

"Imagine what 10 points could do for Donald Trump?" O'Connell said.

Impeachment is a long and complicated process. It is difficult to impeach a president for simply being unpopular, incompetent or foul-mouthed. Normally, an impeachment should be based on very specific breeches of the law and a trial does not necessarily mean a president will be found guilty and removed from office.