Conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C., holds that impeachment would be a massive gift to President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election effort. President Bill Clinton famously stayed popular throughout his impeachment proceedings, and since any effort to remove Trump would likely fail in the Senate, many people believe impeachment would be doomed from the start.
But we really shouldn’t be so sure.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report lays out a powerful case for obstruction of justice for at least four different categories of acts, with potentially strong cases in several others. Moreover, Trump has already been implicated in court in criminal campaign finance violations, which may itself give rise to additional charges. Mueller’s investigation also led to to numerous still-redacted related investigations, and we know Trump’s conduct in other arenas is being probed by various investigatory bodies.
So if the House begins impeachment hearings, there will be a lot to cover and uncover. And while a plurality of voters oppose impeachment, according to a new poll from HuffPost and YouGov, there is a lot of malleability in the numbers.
Only 41 percent of people said Trump should not be impeached, according to the poll (37 percent favor impeachment). This presumably corresponds tightly with the 41 percent or so of people who approve of Trump in most polls. A surprisingly large portion of the population — 22 percent — says it’s unsure about whether Trump should be impeached.
While Trump’s base support appears to be quite solid, there’s a lot of risk for him in the “unsure” population. It wouldn’t be surprising, after all, if there were many people who didn’t approve of Trump for any number of reasons but thought that impeachment would be too extreme, that Democrats’ criticisms were unfair, or that the path would just be too difficult for the country. Instead, the poll suggests, there are few people outside of Trump’s core supporters who are ruling out impeachment. (The poll was conducted on April 18 and 19; Mueller’s report was released on April 18.)
Even if, as seems most likely, impeachment didn’t lead to Trump’s ouster, it might better inform the public about the kind of president he is and what he’s done. And that might be worth it in its own right.