"[The hush money payments] would be impeachable offenses. Whether they're important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question. Certainly, they're impeachable offenses, because, even though they were committed before the President became President, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office."
- Congressman Jerry Nadler, speaking on CNN's State of the Union on December 9, 2018. Nadler is the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which has the power to conduct investigations regarding impeachment.
Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, CC-0
Trump will probably not be impeached. Here's why:
The U.S. Constitution states that the president can be removed from office after being both impeached and convicted for “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Treason: Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines treason as “the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family,”
Has Trump actually done this? It’s hard to say. Treason is hard to prove. For example, former Vice President Aaron Burr was caught stockpiling supplies and gathering a force to take over some of the lands that would eventually be obtained through the Louisiana Purchase. He was not convicted of treason.
Bribery: So far, no President has been charged with bribery.
High Crimes and Misdemeanors: These terms are open to interpretation, but this aspect of a potential impeachment can be looked at through the view of partisan politics. Currently, the democrats have a majority in the House and the republicans have a majority in the Senate. Legality implications aside, impeachment is mainly partisan:
“ [AN IMPEACHABLE OFFENSE IS] WHATEVER A MAJORITY OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONSIDERS IT TO BE AT A GIVEN MOMENT IN HISTORY.” - PRESIDENT GERALD FORD
Impeachment by legal standards and impeachment by political standards serve different purposes.
At the moment, impeaching Trump is politically expedient for no one. While Democrats were able to secure a majority in the house in the 2018 midterm elections, they lost seats in the Senate and still have two (if not six) more years of a Trump presidency. Additionally, impeachment is based on the grounds of political consensus; all sides must come to the consensus that the individual in question is guilty of treason, bribery, and/or high crimes or misdemeanors. For members of Congress to convince their constituents that impeachment is the appropriate cause of action will shape their political futures. For the Democrats, impeachment could mean that the party is more focused on providing an opposition to Trump, rather than implementing or improving policies. For the Republicans, impeachment could mean that the party is not as united as they appear, especially as a Presidential election approaches. Additionally, Republicans who would theoretically vote to impeach Trump will face increased vulnerability and attacks from members of their own party, as well as alienation from the rest of the Republican Caucus, thus being easy targets once the time for reelection rolls around.
Impeachment may also create more problems for both parties if an impeachment trial in the Senate for Trump does not result in a removal from office. For Democrats, an unsuccessful impeachment may cause mass confusion and disarray, as well as a weaker case to be made for ousting him from office in 2020. A successful impeachment leaves Republican incumbents to face angry voters, while an unsuccessful impeachment could theoretically improve Trump's favorability. The effort by Republicans to impeach Clinton in 1998 led to higher job approval ratings for the President.