Even before the House Intelligence Committee wrapped up its public impeachment hearings, the punditariat and the president’s defenders defiantly declared this whole matter “over” because polls show Americans don’t care, ratings show not enough of them watched, and though some vaping voters may abandon Trump, elected Republicans never will.
This week the impeachment process moves over to the House Judiciary Committee, where we will hear from Republicans over and over that these proceedings are an embarrassing failure. When the process reaches the House floor, either late this month or in January, we can expect Republicans to vote en masse against articles of impeachment and throw triumphant press conferences celebrating the Democrats’ political suicide. Somewhere senators are practicing their gleeful but disgusted chuckles.
It seems all but certain that a Senate impeachment trial won’t remove Trump from office, since reaching the necessary supermajority of 67 votes would require the support not only of all 47 Senate Democrats and independents but also of 20 Senate Republicans.
Yet surely there are at least 12 Republican senators who could find themselves unable to absolve the president of his demonstrably impeachable conduct. A bipartisan majority vote declaring his actions a betrayal of his oath of office is still critically important. A partisan acquittal would represent a grave threat to the Republic: Trump would view it not only as approval of his past abuse of power and attempted bribery but as permission for more. This outcome, senators know, would invite Trump to break our system for good.