Trump Points to Successes, Popularity Among Base as Wall Against Impeachment

January 5, 2019 Updated: January 15, 2019

President Donald Trump laid out his argument against impeachment after a Democratic lawmaker re-introduced articles of impeachment against him Jan. 3 in the newly Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.

“How do you impeach a president who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong (no Collusion with Russia, it was the Dems that Colluded), had the most successful first two years of any president, and is the most popular Republican in party history 93%?” Trump said in a Jan. 4 tweet.

He elaborated when talking to media in front of the White House that day.

“You can’t impeach somebody that’s doing a great job. That’s the way I view it,” he said. “I’ve probably done more in the first two years than any president, any administration in the history of our country.”

He gave examples of his tax cuts, deregulation, allowing veterans to choose health care providers, increased military spending, and a plethora of positive, and at times, record economic indicators.

Unlikely Avenue

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) introduced the impeachment resolution in the first session of the new Congress.

He and several other Democrats have introduced such resolutions four times before over the past year and a half, but the measures were either shelved or died in the House Judiciary Committee while the Republicans controlled the chamber.

With Democrats taking over the House, there was some anticipation among far-left, progressive partisans to push the impeachment process forward.

But, as Trump pointed out, the old guard Democrats led by new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have indicated an unwillingness to proceed with impeachment.

“Nancy said, ‘We’re not looking to impeach you.’ I said, ‘That’s good, Nancy, that’s good,’” Trump said after meeting leaders of congressional Democrats on Jan. 4. Pelosi’s office didn’t respond to a request for confirmation and comment.

Democrats are aware that the Republican effort to impeach President Bill Clinton in the 1990s appeared to backfire among voters. It could be that attempts to impeach Trump would fire up his base.

It’s exactly Trump’s popularity with his base that has been pointed out as a major hindrance to impeachment.

Sherman’s measure was referred to the Judiciary Committee, now chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) who said that “you should be very reluctant” to initiate impeachment, partly because one wouldn’t want to “tear the country apart” over it.

“You don’t want half the country to say to the other half for the next 30 years, ‘We won the election. You stole it from us,’” Nadler told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in November. “You have to be able to think at the beginning of the impeachment process that the evidence is so clear, or offenses so grave, that once you’ve laid out all the evidence, a good fraction of the opposition, the voters, will reluctantly admit to themselves ‘They had to do it.’”

There’s no sign of such a shift among Republicans, of whom 85 percent approved of Trump’s handling the presidency in a Dec. 30-Jan. 1 YouGov poll (pdf). In his tweet, Trump was likely referring to his 93 percent approval among female Republican registered voters in a Dec. 9-Dec. 11 Fox News Poll.

Moreover, Sherman said in a Jan. 3 tweet that his resolution was exactly the same as the one he introduced in July 2017. That suggests that after 18 months, he hadn’t strengthened or expanded his argument with any new evidence that could potentially sway some Trump supporters. It also appears there were some issues with his evidence.

Flynn Request

The resolution only has one article, which argues that Trump obstructed justice.

Sherman laid out his evidence in an October 2017 Huffington Post op-ed.

“[Then FBI Director James] Comey testified that in February [2017] the president threatened him in order to get him to curtail the investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn,” Sherman said.

But Comey has since provided additional testimony and, when pressed by GOP lawmakers, acknowledged that he didn’t know what was Trump’s intention.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump had said, according to Comey’s memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Comey said that Trump asked everybody else to leave the room before making the statement, which Comey found unusual.

The trouble is, Trump denies Comey’s account. In fact, Trump was under the impression at the time that Flynn wasn’t under investigation, according to a February 2017 memo by White House Counsel Don McGahn, leaked to The New York Times.

Only later that year was Flynn charged with lying to the FBI. Prosecutors recently recommended no prison time for Flynn in light of his help with several investigations.

Comey Firing

Sherman further alleged that Trump obstructed the FBI investigation of Russian interference into the 2016 election and that Trump’s campaign aides may have colluded with the interference.

“In May, President Trump fired Director Comey and indicated that his purpose was to thwart the Russian collusion investigation,” Sherman said. But Trump had indicated no such thing.

As evidence, Sherman referred to Trump’s May 2017 interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt.

In the interview, Trump said he wanted the Russia investigation conducted properly but believed the “collusion” allegations to be false. He suggested Comey was more concerned with his own image than with running the bureau.

“He’s a showboat, he’s grandstander, the FBI has been in turmoil,” Trump said. “You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.”

Indeed, there was a concern among the FBI rank-and-file that Comey and others in the FBI leadership were politicizing the bureau.

Trump later said that he “faced great pressure because of Russia” but after Comey’s firing, “that’s taken off,” an unnamed official source told The New York Times.

The White House responded by saying it was Comey’s actions regarding the investigation, rather than the investigation itself, that was affecting Trump’s diplomacy with Russia.

“By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia,” then-White House spokesman Sean Spicer said. “The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it.”

Then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe confirmed in a congressional testimony that the investigation had not been impeded. Still, Comey’s departure prompted the hiring of Special Counsel Robert Mueller who took over the probe.

Comey previously said he thought his termination had to do with the Russia investigation but in his most recent congressional testimony, he said he didn’t really know.

The testimony suggested Comey’s firing would have had little influence on the Russia investigation since he appeared to have been kept out of the loop or didn’t remember major aspects of it.

He replied “I don’t know,” “I can’t remember,” or “I don’t recall,” at least 236 times during the testimony, according to the GOP lawmakers who interviewed him.

Firing Mueller

Lastly, Sherman argued that “in July [2017], President Trump made comments to the ‘New York Times,’ on the record and on audio tape, that were interpreted by many as threatening Special Counsel Robert Mueller for the purpose of preventing him from looking at Trump’s financial dealings.”

Yet the published excerpts of the interview suggest that Trump was commenting on what would be in and out of Mueller’s purview.

“Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia—is that a red line?” reporter Michael Schmidt asked.

Reporter Maggie Haberman added, “Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?”

“I would say yeah. I would say yes,” Trump replied.

The law requires a Special Counsel to be provided “with a specific factual statement of the matter to be investigated.”

Mueller has been provided with a clarified, and mostly classified, outline of what’s in his purview. There’s no indication that Trump’s family finances unrelated to Russia are on the list.

As proven to be Mueller’s practice, he refers matters outside of his charge to relevant branches of the Justice Department.

It has been Trump’s position that the collusion investigation has been illegally orchestrated by certain people within the Democratic Party and the government. A plethora of evidence suggesting so has been unearthed since his election, including Democrats’ funding of the infamous Steele Dossier, a collection of unsubstantiated claims about Trump-Russia ties that were used by the FBI to obtain spying warrants on Trump campaign associates.

Still, Trump has shown no intent to fire Mueller.

Watch next:

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2018 proved to be a year of numerous revelations that provided clarity regarding events leading up to—and following—the 2016 presidential election.

Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab