After senators finished the question portion of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Thursday, the likelihood that Republican Senators would agree to call witnesses seemed to diminish. And given the Senate’s Republican majority, it’s unlikely the body will vote to remove the president from office.
Whatever the outcome, though, the impeachment trial will have a lasting effect on American political life for years to come, say Steven Vladeck, professor at the University of Texas School of Law, and Rebecca Deen, chair and associate professor of political science at UT-Arlington.
Deen says she’s watching to see how lawmakers respond if the Senate votes against removing Trump from office but then damning evidence comes to light afterward. Some are expecting that to happen based on reports about what’s in the forthcoming book written by former National Security Adviser John Bolton. Vladeck says House Democrats, theoretically, could open a new impeachment investigation, but with great political risk.
“I don’t think this is, by any stretch, the end of the story. It’ll just be the end of this particular impeachment proceeding,” Vladeck says.
Deen says public sentiment about the impeachment trial proceedings are divided along partisan lines. Democrats tend to favor calling witnesses while Republicans don’t, and Independents are split on the matter. She says that division fuels, in some circles, a mistrust of the impeachment process altogether.
“It depends on what perspective you have and where you sit, whether or not you see this as appropriate or valid or good for our democracy,” Deen says.
Assuming Trump is not removed from office, he would be the first president to run for reelection who has also been impeached. Deen says whether that would affect Trump’s chance of winning in November would depend upon whom Democrats elect as their nominee.
“If the eventual Democratic nominee is able to gin up enthusiasm and use impeachment as part of that in a way that doesn’t alienate those Independents and weak Republicans, then, potentially it could be a factor,” Deen says.
Vladeck says while it’s too early to know how the rest of the impeachment trial will unfold, it’s clear that it will have lasting effects on everyone involved. He says that was the case for those involved in President Nixon’s impeachment.
“Five, 10 years from now, we’re gonna look back on this week, this month, this moment, as a pretty profound turning point, and the question is, ‘A turn toward what?'” Vladeck says.
Written by Caroline Covington.