Juan Williams: Democrats can't let Trump off the hook

Well, that was fast. There goes the Republican argument that House Democrats don’t have a strong case for impeachment.

Even Republican Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamUS defense chief says Taliban deal 'looks very promising' but not without risk Lawmakers wary as US on cusp of initial deal with Taliban Graham requests interviews with DOJ, FBI officials as part of probe into Russia investigation MORE (S.C), John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.) and Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntBooker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' McConnell displays mastery of Senate with impeachment victory MORE (Mo.), big Trump fans, said Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDOJ lawyers resign en masse over Roger Stone sentencing George Conway: We might have to impeach Trump again How Lamar Alexander clouds the true meaning of the Constitution MORE (D-Calif.) did a “good job,” was “eloquent,” and made “admirable presentations” in making a compelling, fact-based case against Trump.

Best of all, Schiff created a good story by asking Republican senators to stand up for what is right. “If right doesn’t matter,” he said, “we’re lost. If truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost.”

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Lots of people agree.

Last week, Pew reported 63 percent of Americans — including 32 percent of Republicans — agree that Trump has “probably” or “definitely” engaged in illegal activities.

Polls released last week also show big majorities of Americans want the Senate to allow new evidence and witnesses. The American people want a fair trial.

But then there’s this:

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren highlights work with Obama, Harry Reid in new Nevada ad Biden on Univision: Deporting 3 million 'was a big mistake' Pelosi: 'I'm not counting Joe Biden out' MORE, campaigning in Iowa recently, said he is frequently asked, “Isn’t the president going to be stronger and harder to beat if he survives this?”

And the answer is “Yes, probably,” according to the man leading national polls for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Biden is right. Trump will use even a slim, party-line acquittal in the Senate to portray himself as the victim of a “hoax.”

That is one of Trump’s signature moves. It will be a repeat of his claim that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a “made-up story” — a claim that won PolitiFact’s 2017 “Lie of the Year.”

We saw the same move from Trump when he falsely claimed that Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation exonerated him. That lie is now repeated endlessly in right-wing echo chambers, despite the fact that Mueller explicitly told Congress he did not exonerate Trump.

So, Trump is certain to stick with what works with his base. He will use any acquittal to claim his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect,” and then stir up right-wing grievance, pull in more donations and excite higher turn-out for his reelection campaign.

“From the campaign side, our numbers have gone up [since impeachment],” Trump campaign manager Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE told Fox News last week. "It's going to create lots of fundraising — we have over $200 million in the bank between our committees — our numbers have gone up, and independents see this farce, and this hoax.”

Since no president has been impeached and then sought reelection, it is not clear how the politics of impeachment will shake out in November.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: 'I'm not counting Joe Biden out' Trump quotes NY Times article citing Emerson quote about going after the 'king' Overnight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit MORE (D-Calif.) was reluctant to begin impeachment until public support for such a move began to crescendo last year in the wake of the revelation of Trump’s call with Zelensky.

Those numbers have not gone away.

A CNN/SSRS poll out last week found that a majority of Americans — 51 percent — want the Senate to remove Trump from office.

The RealClearPolitics polling average on Friday showed a 47 percent tie for or against removal.

As data website FiveThirtyEight noted earlier this month, Trump is the most unpopular president to run for reelection since Gerald Ford. His job approval rating, which has mostly lagged in the low-to-mid 40s, has never been higher than the public’s disapproval of his work.

On the plus side for Trump, impeachment has not prompted a big decline in support.

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Also, his supporters are giving him money.

His presidential campaign’s most recent quarterly filings showed it banked $46 million in the last three months of 2019, beginning 2020 with $103 million cash on hand.

Democrats are raising money, too. But with no candidate, Democratic donor dollars have been dispersed among the presidential candidates.

As ABC News reported last week, “The Democratic presidential field and the Democratic National Committee together raked in a total of about $580 million in 2019, surpassing President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpChanges in policies, not personalities, will improve perception of corruption in the US Union leader: Bloomberg can go all the way Pelosi: 'I'm not counting Joe Biden out' MORE and the Republican National Committee's combined total of about $463 million by more than $100 million, according to a DNC spokesperson.”

And the political winds blowing through Congress don’t look good for Trump.

Earlier this month, longtime Tennessee Republican Rep. Phil RoeDavid (Phil) Phillip RoeUS to evacuate Americans from cruise ship in Japan Overnight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Lawmakers call on US officials to evacuate Americans from quarantined cruise ship MORE became the 26th House Republican to announce his retirement. The wave of retirements shows that GOP lawmakers fear losing if their name appears on the ballot below Trump in November.

Once you’re impeached, “you’re impeached forever” Pelosi recently said, as she gave liberal comedian Bill MaherWilliam (Bill) MaherBill Maher booed on HBO show after mocking liberals for calling Bloomberg racist Bill Maher warns 'woke-y' Democrats: 'Trump had his best week ever,' will be 'hard to beat' Bill Maher to Steve Bannon: 'I wish we had someone on our side as evil as you' MORE a celebratory fist-bump on his HBO TV show.

I appreciate the Speaker’s enthusiasm for holding Trump accountable. But lots of tough politics are ahead.

After Schiff’s brilliant call for the Senate to do what is right, it is key for Democrats to make sure that powerful message reaches educated suburban voters and especially people who voted twice for President Obama but in 2016 shifted to Trump.

History’s judgment is one thing — the judgment of voters in the general election ten months from now is another matter entirely. 

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.