HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Special Counsel Robert Mueller is spending this week outlining criminal charges against associates of President Donald Trump.
With Democrats poised to take control of the U.S. House in January, talk of a presidential impeachment has been raised. WHNT News 19 political analyst Jess Brown says the real test isn’t about the Democrats but whether President Trump can keep his base of political support.
“The whole business of impeachment will not be controlled by the Mueller report,” Brown said. “It won’t be controlled by dynamics at the courthouse. Ultimately impeachment is a political process.”
And the political process – the views of Congress – is driven by public opinion, Brown said.
“Public opinion right now is nowhere near close to being at anti-Trump levels that it needs to be to justify an impeachment,” he said.
Brown says it’s right that public sentiment will guide Congress if it does consider impeachment, for this president or any other.
“Because what impeachment does, is it overturns the consequences of an election,” he said. “And if we’re going to do that, then members of a legislative body making impeachment decisions should have some assurances that indeed, ‘we’ve got super-majority support for this action.’”
President Bill Clinton remained popular during his impeachment battle, and while the House impeached him, he was acquitted by the U.S. Senate.
Support for President Richard Nixon fell gradually during the Watergate era after investigators figured out Nixon’s role in attempting to cover up the burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.
“Nixon engaged in obstruction of justice in the form of instructing others in his government, in his administration to help cover up a burglary,” Brown said.
Nixon was facing impeachment in 1974 and chose to resign.
Brown says while Nixon’s conduct cannot be condoned, the claims being investigated against President Trump are of a different order.
“If President Trump, and or his immediate subordinates with his consent and permission, colluded with our primary nemesis on the global stage … “ That could produce serious consequences, Brown said.
“If the underlying charges are true, this is a far more serious transgression, a far more serious attack on the constitutional fabric of the United States than what Nixon did,” Brown said.
Democratic leaders have said impeachment is not a priority for the next Congress, but some incoming committee chairs have vowed to ramp up investigations of the Trump administration.