The release of the Mueller report and former FBI director James Comey’s assertion that President Donald Trump pressured him to drop an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s activities has prompted the president’s critics to consider that the president’s actions may fall into the area of obstruction of justice. Some House of Representatives members say these are grounds for impeachment.
Impeachment proceedings can be brought for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. We should remember that impeachment of a president or a high federal official does not necessarily lead to removal from office. Two presidents—Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson—were impeached but not removed from office.
The House of Representatives initiates impeachment proceedings in presenting Articles of Impeachment. A majority vote on any one article is enough to go to the next step, where the Senate carries out all impeachment trials, presided over by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A two-thirds majority is then needed for conviction.
Impeachment of President Trump could probably pass the House, but he would likely not be convicted at a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate. This would mean that he could then appeal to his political base by playing the role of a martyr who survived what he would call a “coup attempt,” just as he did after the release of the Mueller report.
For this reason, at this point I believe the House should not pursue impeachment, and should leave it to the voters to decide whether or not to remove Trump in 2020.