SPONSORED:

Trump seethes over impending impeachment

President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE is facing down a historic impeachment vote Wednesday that will give him the dubious distinction of being one of just three U.S. presidents to be impeached by the House.

The president seethed Tuesday during an Oval Office meeting and sent a blistering six-page letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.), calling for an end to the “impeachment fantasy” and accusing Democrats of “subverting America’s democracy.”

Trump has been defiant throughout the months-long impeachment process, refusing to cooperate with House Democrats or accept a shred of culpability for landing in his current predicament.

ADVERTISEMENT

“No. I don’t take any. Zero, to put it mildly,” Trump said Tuesday when asked if he takes any responsibility for his impending impeachment. 

Still, he has at times acknowledged the historical weight of impeachment and lamented its toll on his presidency and his family. By Wednesday’s end, Trump will be the first president to be impeached by the House while also seeking reelection.

Some White House officials began acknowledging weeks ago that they were preparing for the House to impeach Trump as current and former administration officials gave damaging testimony in private and in public.

Those close to Trump say he is not relieved by the process coming to an end with Wednesday's House vote, and the president himself has bemoaned that the impeachment proceedings have tied him to what he has termed a “dirty word.”

Publicly, Trump has projected a mix of confidence and righteous indignation, insisting he did nothing wrong and portraying himself as the victim of a “witch hunt,” a “sham” and a “hoax.”  

He’s hungry for the GOP-controlled Senate to vindicate him in an impeachment trial, even suggesting the Senate call House members like Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn MORE (D-Calif.) as witnesses as he seeks to turn the tables on his accusers. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Many in the White House, buoyed by a particularly strong week of deal-making in a boon to the president’s agenda, are increasingly optimistic about how the Democratic-led impeachment effort might play with voters in 2020 and have taken to viewing Wednesday’s historic vote as a blip on the radar. 

“They’ve been trying to impeach him since before he got elected, and while he got elected and while he was being sworn in,” White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration Lara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report Press: Where is Jim Baker when we need him? MORE told reporters Tuesday. “When haters are hellbent on doing something, they find a way to do it. The question is at what cost to them.”

Pelosi has asserted that Trump left House Democrats “no choice” but to impeach him for what they view as a flagrant and dangerous abuse of his office for his own political benefit. 

The impeachment effort is likely to carry political implications, coming less than two months before the Iowa caucuses and less than a year out from Election Day 2020. 

The president will attend a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Mich., Wednesday evening, offering up an opportunity to castigate House Democrats — as he has done at more than a half-dozen rallies since Pelosi announced the inquiry in late September.

The House is poised to approve two articles of impeachment accusing Trump of abusing his power and obstructing Congress, a vote that’s certain to fall along party lines. The timing will set up a remarkable split-screen moment, as Trump could take the stage just a short time after the House votes to impeach him.

Trump is expected to join the ranks of Andrew Johnson and Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College Obama: 'Hopeless' to try to sell as many books as Michelle Dow breaks 30,000 for first time as Biden transition ramps up MORE, both of whom were impeached by the House before being acquitted by the Senate. Some have drawn parallels between the current impeachment proceedings and those against Richard Nixon, who faced similar articles but resigned from office before the House could vote on them.   

Initially, Republicans backed Nixon.

“In 1974, Republicans called the impeachment inquiry a witch hunt, a kangaroo court, and a lynch mob,” said Ken Hughes, a historian with the University of Virginia’s nonpartisan Miller Center. “In terms of political rhetoric, 2019 is like a photocopy of 1974.” 

But Republicans abandoned Nixon as support for impeachment grew and he was forced to resign in August 1974 following the release of the so-called smoking gun tape. 

“Republicans in the House and Senate said, we can’t support you anymore,” Hughes said. “It was partly because the evidence of his guilt was plain and it was partly because primary season was over and Republicans in the House and Senate were no longer worried about losing their jobs in a primary by offending a base, they were worried about losing their jobs in a general election of offending the middle, which had concluded that Nixon was guilty.”

The president appeared acutely aware of the historical significance of Wednesday’s vote in his letter to Pelosi. He warned the Speaker that “history will judge you harshly” and compared his treatment unfavorably to those accused in the Salem witch trials.

ADVERTISEMENT

“One hundred years from now, when people look back at this affair, I want them to understand it, and learn from it, so that it can never happen to another President again,” Trump wrote.

Trump’s impeachment has actually served to galvanize his support among Republicans in the House. While a few GOP members have said Trump’s conduct was improper, none are expected to vote for the articles of impeachment.

Meanwhile, polls have shown the American public deeply divided over impeaching the president, and weeks of public impeachment hearings have not shifted public opinion significantly in one direction or the other. 

Quinnipiac University recorded Trump’s highest job approval rating — 43 percent — in a poll released Monday which also found that 45 percent of Americans believe he should be impeached or removed from office. 

“Whatever enthusiasm exists on the left for impeachment, we should expect a similar enthusiasm on the right in support of Trump,” said Democratic strategist Basil Smikle, who noted that Democrats must be cognizant of the challenge that awaits them post-impeachment, especially given Trump’s loyal base of support and the strength of the economy. 

“Democrats have a twofold challenge — one, persuading the rank and file as well as independents to embrace our nominee and two, protect our vulnerable members who supported impeachment,” Smikle said. “It’s difficult but not impossible.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

At the center of the inquiry is a July 25 call during which Trump asked Ukraine’s president to investigate a debunked theory undermining the conclusion about Russia's election interference, as well as former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays MORE and his son Hunter Biden's dealings in Ukraine. 

Democrats have collected witness testimony they argue supports their case that Trump tried to use a White House meeting and nearly $400 million in security assistance as leverage to push for the investigations. 

Trump and his White House have dismissed the accusations as false or unsupported by the evidentiary record while casting doubt on the credibility of witnesses. But instead of trying to formally rebut Democrats’ claims during the actual proceedings, the White House has refused to participate in the investigative process in the House entirely. 

That is certain to change in the Senate, where aides have insisted Trump desires a “full and fair” trial and the White House is poised to mount a full defense of the president’s conduct.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone has been engaging with Senate Republicans on the parameters of a trial, and Trump on Tuesday said he would defer to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAs Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on Harris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE (R-Ky.) on whether to call witnesses, something McConnell said he would prefer to avoid.

The president’s deference to the majority leader set the stage for what could be a quick acquittal in the Senate, allowing Trump to claim vindication with his sights on the 2020 election.

“The voters are wise, and they are seeing straight through this empty, hollow, and dangerous game you are playing,” Trump wrote to Pelosi. “I have no doubt the American people will hold you and the Democrats fully responsible in the upcoming 2020 election.”