What you think about the impeachment of President Donald Trump is likely influenced greatly by your opinion of the man and his leadership capacity. If you previously were inclined to oppose him, you likely support Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. If you previously supported — or at least tolerated — him, you probably still do.
We’re not reading minds. We are reading polls.
On Wednesday night, the Democrat-led U.S. House approved two articles of impeachment against Trump in near-unanimous party-line votes: Dems for, GOP against. The Republican-majority Senate likely will acquit Trump at trial. A RealClearPolitics polling average shows the country split evenly on impeachment and removal, 47% in favor and 48% opposed. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that 90% of Republicans oppose impeaching Mr. Trump and removing him from office, while 83% of Democrats favor it.
These are not final judgments on Trump. They are snapshots reflecting the bitterly partisan tenor of American political life. The president is polarizing. His approval rating has climbed since the House began impeachment hearings but hasn’t reached 50%, according to Gallup.
Safe to say impeachment isn’t changing many minds on Trump so much as distilling opinions.
No wonder Thursday in Washington brought friction rather than collaboration. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unexpectedly withheld transmitting the impeachment articles to the Senate. Instead, she traded barbs with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
If there is to be a trial in January, as the American people have been led to believe, we expect House and Senate leaders to get past their pregame jawboning and deliver on their responsibilities. We anticipate arguments regarding trial rules, each side seeking the advantage. The two sides tussled Thursday over Democratic insistence that Senate Republicans call witnesses, including White House officials who have declined to participate.
Go ahead and tussle, Speaker Pelosi and Leader McConnell. Negotiate, if you can. Then try the case. The impeachment trial shouldn’t be held up indefinitely for a continuation of arguments from the impeachment inquiry. The American people are waiting.
Speaking of the American people: Our focus since the impeachment inquiry began has been on the voters who elect presidents to four-year terms. The House debate involved a decision whether to remove Trump from office because of the seriousness of his misconduct, or leave Trump’s fate in the hands of voters. That is, to overturn the 2016 election — or not.
Our view is that Trump deserves censure, not impeachment and removal from office. He committed serious misconduct by attempting to shake down the president of Ukraine for personal political gain. Trump abused presidential power. But his misdeeds regarding Ukraine did not threaten the security and integrity of American governance. We’ve said often that voters should be the ones to judge Trump’s fitness to continue in office. The Senate trial, even if it changes few minds, will provide the public with the fullest account of the impeachment allegations, including Trump’s defense.
Then it will be on to Election Day, when Americans will vote for president, U.S. House members and one-third of the Senate. All, including Trump, will be rewarded or punished for their job performances, related to impeachment and beyond.