Trump impeachment efforts will haunt the next Democrat in the White House

Trump impeachment efforts will haunt the next Democrat in the White House
© Aaron Schwartz - Greg Nash

Not long ago, the U.S. entered the never-ending presidential election campaign, in which the next campaign begins the morning after Election Day. Americans have been groaning about the non-stop election cycle ever since.

Well, it appears we’ve entered the never-ending presidential impeachment campaign, as well.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Support for impeachment inches up in poll Fox News's Bret Baier calls Trump's attacks on media 'a problem' MORE’s alleged quid-pro-quo offer to the Ukrainian president spurred the latest push for impeachment. This was the first time Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Democrats say they have game changer on impeachment Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg would support delaying Libra | More attorneys general join Facebook probe | Defense chief recuses from 'war cloud' contract | Senate GOP blocks two election security bills | FTC brings case against 'stalking' app developer MORE (D-Calif.) greenlighted an impeachment inquiry. This time, there was enough support among Democrats in the House, where an impeachment action must be initiated. 

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And now Democrats are in full-blown impeachment mode, struggling to develop a coherent and unified message to explain why the president must be impeached, even though they know the Republican-led Senate won’t have the two-thirds vote needed to confirm the House’s actions.

Let’s not forget, a push to keep Trump from the White House started the day after the presidential election. Efforts began immediately to keep Trump from even taking the oath of office.

Actor Martin Sheen and other celebrities cut an ad encouraging Republican electors, whose vote in the Electoral College actually decides the election, not to vote for Trump — even though most electors had sworn an oath to vote for the candidate who won the state. That was only the beginning.

Right after the Electoral College tally concluded in January, several Democratic members of Congress objected to the results of the election. Then-Vice President Joe Biden, who was presiding, finally lamented to his fellow Democrats, “It is over.”

Except, of course, it wasn’t — at least not for some Democrats.

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In April 2017, Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersOn The Money: Waters clashes with Trump officials over 'disastrous' housing finance plan | Dems jump into Trump turf war over student loans | House passes bill targeting anonymous shell companies House passes bill taking aim at anonymous shell companies Avoiding the snake in the grass: Let's not allow impeachment to divide us MORE (D-Calif.) called for Trump’s impeachment and then led a chant of “impeach 45.” In July 2017, Reps. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenAl Green gives blistering speech decrying Trump 'lynching' comment: 'How dare he' Black lawmakers condemn Trump's 'lynching' remarks Al Green compares Trump 'lynching' comments to Charlottesville MORE (D-Texas) and Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanZuckerberg set for grilling over Facebook cryptocurrency Congress must push for a 'Gold Standard' nuclear agreement with Saudi Arabia Critics pounce as Facebook crypto project stumbles MORE (D-Calif.) were the first to introduce a House resolution to impeach Trump.

All of this before there was even circumstantial evidence of presidential wrongdoing.

The pro-impeachment movement accelerated with the release of the Mueller report, as a number of Democrats claimed to see collusion and obstruction of justice.

News organizations began keeping a running tally of pro-impeachment Democrats and providing lots of news coverage and air time to the standard-bearers. 

Now that an impeachment inquiry has begun in the House, we must ask Congress: Why put the country through a show trial? The answer may be as simple as this tellingly honest assessment by Rep. Green: “I’m concerned that if we don’t impeach the president, he will get reelected.”

Perhaps the biggest problem with the impeachment effort is two can — and likely will — play at this game. 

Some day a Democrat will be in the White House again — maybe as soon as January 2021. An impeachment door has been opened that Republicans will be tempted to walk through.

If a Democrat wins the White House next year, Republicans are likely to feel Democrats’ impeachment efforts robbed Trump of reelection, and dog the next officeholder for the remainder of his or her presidency. 

Republicans would be on the lookout for impeachable offenses, or at least actions that could be portrayed as impeachable and for hints of foreign interference.

And if Republicans were to retake the House, they could initiate endless rounds of investigations, subpoena members of the administration to appear before Congress and demand transcripts of possibly sensitive presidential conversations with foreign leaders that no president (or foreign leader) wants released — just like Democrats are doing.

Do we really want to go down this road? 

When Senate Democrats voted in 2013 to eliminate the filibuster for judicial nominees, excluding the Supreme Court, many people warned they would come to regret that move — and they have.

They may also come to regret setting into motion the never-ending impeachment process. I know most Americans surely will.

Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MerrillMatthews.