by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) — The U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Friday approved articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump, setting the stage for a full House vote next week. But experts are divided on the impeachment’s impact on the country’s 2020 elections.
“The impeachment vote will reinforce the political bases within each party and the open question is how independent suburban voters will respond,” Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.
“That group has been leaning against Trump in recent months, so the way they perceive the action will go a long way towards deciding the election,” West said.
“If they continue to oppose Trump, that would bode poorly for his reelection prospects,” West argued.
The impeachment imbroglio stems from what Democrats said was Trump’s threat to withhold aid to Ukraine in a bid to pressure Kiev to investigate the son of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, a potential rival of Trump in the 2020 race. Biden’s son has had business dealings in Ukraine.
Democrats said this was tantamount to betraying the nation’s national security interests for the sake of Trump’s own political gains, and they believe it is an impeachable offense.
House Democrats’ impeachment articles charge the president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
A number of experts said impeachment will stand as one of the major issues in next November’s presidential election, along with the economy and the nation’s broken immigration system.
“Impeachment … will be an important issue in the election, along with the state of the economy and issues such as immigration and trade,” West said.
But at the same time, the elections are 11 months away, and many things could become more important than the impeachment in the eyes of voters. If impeachment occurs, a trial is likely to happen in January – many months before the elections, which could give Trump some room to shift voters’ attention toward other issues.
Moreover, any trial would occur in the Republican-led Senate, and those lawmakers would be unlikely to convict the president.
Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, expressed uncertainty over whether impeachment will impact the 2020 elections.
“I don’t know that impeachment itself will have much impact on the presidential race. Trump will take acquittal as a vindication on all counts and Democrats will say it’s up to voters to do what the Senate didn’t,” Galdieri said.
Clay Ramsay, a researcher at the University of Maryland, noted there is a bipartisan view in the Senate that the trial should not last months.
“The ‘one-and-done’ approach of the House in turning over just two counts of impeachment is in line with this,” Ramsay told Xinhua, referring to the two articles of impeachment drawn up in the House.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is angling for a schedule in which the House prosecution lay out their evidence, the White House lawyers give their rebuttal, and then the Senate votes whether to proceed to the main vote of acquittal or removal, Ramsay noted.
The rules of the trial are that the members of the Senate will have to keep quiet and listen, and that they can not ask questions themselves, as they are jurors, Ramsay noted.