Public Remains Largely Opposed To Impeachment

The Mueller hearings don't appear to have moved the needle of public opinion when it comes to impeachment.

The first poll released in the wake of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committee shows little change in public opinion when it comes to whether or not the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives should pursue impeachment against the President:

A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, conducted immediately after former special counsel Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony, shows little impact on support for impeaching President Donald Trump, with a plurality of voters still opposed to beginning proceedings that could result in Trump’s removal from office.

Only 37 percent of voters say Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against Trump, according to the poll, which was conducted Thursday. More voters, 46 percent, say Congress should not begin impeachment proceedings. Sixteen percent of voters are undecided.

“Robert Mueller’s testimony did little to change public opinion around impeachment,” said Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult’s vice president — who also noted that, in the previous POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, conducted last Friday through Sunday, 38 percent of voters supported launching impeachment proceedings, while 50 percent opposed it.

But while public sentiment overall continues to lean against impeaching the president, the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll also underscores the quandary facing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders: Democratic voters are strongly in favor of impeachment, with 64 percent supporting it, combined with 18 percent who oppose it.

Democratic support for launching impeachment proceedings contrasts sharply with Republicans (6 percent support, versus 86 percent oppose) and independents (34 percent support, versus 42 percent oppose).

While Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday did not immediately move the needle on impeachment, other measures suggest the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election continues to dog Trump. More than four-in-10 voters, 42 percent, say they believe Russia influenced the 2016 election, and another 22 percent say Russia tried to affect the election but failed. Only 17 percent say they believe Russia did not try to influence the election.

While Trump had claimed since the release of Mueller’s report that it exonerated him — a claim Mueller rebutted on Wednesday — only 35 percent of voters say Mueller exonerated Trump. Four-in-10 voters, 40 percent, say Mueller didn’t exonerate Trump, but fully 25 percent say they don’t know if Mueller exonerated Trump.

Voters are also split on whether Trump’s campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election: 43 percent say that it did, while 39 percent say that it didn’t. Mueller’s report said it found insufficient evidence to sustain any charge that the campaign conspired with Russia.

But nearly half of voters, 49 percent, think Trump tried to impede or obstruct the Russia investigation — more than the 35 percent who say they don’t think so. Sixteen percent of voters don’t know whether Trump tried to obstruct the investigation.

Four-in-10 voters say the conclusions from the Mueller investigation will not impact whether or not they vote for Trump in the 2020 election, while 29 percent say they are less likely to vote for Trump, and 17 percent are more likely to vote for Trump.

Another poll from ABC News and Ipsos show that there has been little movement in public opinion on the issue while the expected partisan differences remain:

Following more than six hours of questioning of former special counsel Robert Mueller before two different congressional committees, Democrats and Republicans remain largely splintered on impeaching President Donald Trump, even as nearly half of Americans show little movement on their support or opposition to the move, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll.

The poll, conducted using Ipsos’ Knowledge Panel, asked Americans about the former FBI director’s testimony Wednesday in consecutive hearings before the House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees.

Whereas for Republicans, only 3% said they were more likely to support impeachment, 42% said they were less likely, and 54% were unchanged. Independents were split, with 26% saying they are more likely to support impeachment and 29% saying less likely. 45% of Independents said they feel the same as they did prior to Mueller’s testimony.

Among those who read, saw or heard about Mueller’s testimony, 47% said it made no difference in their views about impeaching the president. The public hearings had opposing impacts based on partisanship: among Democrats, 48% said they are more likely to support the process of impeachment that could ultimately lead to Trump’s removal from office, 8% said they are less likely to support impeachment and 44% said they feel the same as they did prior to Mueller’s testimony.

An overwhelming majority of Americans — 71% — said that they had either read, seen or heard about Mueller’s testimony this week, the first time he publicly answered questions about his 22 months-long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice by the president, which culminated in a 448-page report.

But a majority of Americans expressed little confidence in the country’s ability to stave off potential foreign attacks on U.S. democratic institutions in 2020, after Mueller testified that Russia’s effort to interfere in 2016 “wasn’t a single attempt … they expect to do it during the next campaign.”

While these are only two polls taken over a short period in the immediate aftermath of the hearing on Wednesday, it is consistent with previous polling on the impeachment issue and with the assessment that many, including myself, have made that the hearing weakened the case for impeachment. Even before Mueller’s testimony yesterday, polls have shown that the American public is generally not supportive of the idea of impeachment. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, for example, found that 59% of Americans do not believe that Congress should go forward with an impeachment inquiry. A smaller percentage, just 37%, support moving forward with impeachment. Not surprisingly, these numbers vary depending on political party, with 61% of Democrats supporting impeachment while the vast majority of Republicans oppose the idea. Among independents, the level of opposition to impeachment is roughly the same as in the public as a whole. This is consistent with earlier polling which has indicated that the American public does not want to see Congress pursue impeachment at this time. Additionally, reports on the ground continue to show that Congressional Democrats who talked to constituents back home have found little support for immediate moves to impeach the President even among Democrats. Instead, these voters want to see Congress focused on health care reform and other issues of importance to the average voter. 

These new numbers on impeachment are consistent with the general impression I was left with after Mueller’s testimony last Wednesday that the former Special Counsel’s testimony had mostly likely weakened the case for an immediate move to impeachment. Indeed, Democrats have largely left the question of whether or not they intend to move forward impeachment up in the air when they left town for a six-week-long summer vacation. While they are moving forward in court with the steps necessary to enforce subpoenas and obtain other documents from the Trump Administration, it’s likely that this legal process will take months to resolve itself and could take longer if the Administration decides to appeal any adverse decisions that may be entered against it, or if its necessary for Congress itself to appeal an adverse decision. This legal process could take months, and by the admission of Congressman Jerrold Nadler, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and others it would be next to impossible for the House to proceed with impeachment without access to the documents in question. Given all of that, there’s a strong possibility that Congress may not be able to begin, never mind conclude, an impeachment investigation before the calendar changes to 2020. At that point, the entire prospect of proceeding with impeachment becomes even more doubtful.

Leaving aside the timing, though, without at least some public support for proceeding with impeachment, it seems clear to me that Democrats would be taking a huge political risk in moving forward. It may be possible that the impeachment process itself would change public opinion on the matter sufficiently that moving forward makes sense. It also seems likely, though, that the public will continue to be both unenthusiastic and divided on the issue and that an impeachment that will most likely end with acquittal by the Senate would end up backfiring on Democrats.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Donald Trump, Impeachment, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Here’s the thing: if we won’t impeach this blatant criminal and traitor, when exactly do we imagine the impeachment power would ever be used?

    I don’t care what the polls show. He should be impeached. Because if he isn’t impeached no president will ever be impeached. We will have surrendered entirely to rampant corruption, malfeasance and incompetence. It will be yet another surrender of congressional oversight power, yet another increase in the power of the executive. If we can’t impeach this piece of sht, regardless of politics, we will have taken a very big step down the road to dictatorship.

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  2. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    The seemingly high number of undecideds seems to be the significant number for this question. Are those people genuinely undecided? ambivalent/DGAF? tired of living at the circus (which always seems more exciting than it turns out to be)? These distinctions may be important.

  3. @michael reynolds:

    Is the fact that conviction and removal in the Senate is basically out of the question at all relevant to you?

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  4. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    No. Not everything is political calculation. Sometimes you just have to do what’s right.

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  5. Stormy Dragon says:

    The impeachment of Nixon was unpopular when the Watergate impeachment inquiry was convened too. The inquiry is what built public support for impeachment.

    The problem is this requires the congressional democratic leadership to take a risk and lead, rather than the current strategy of hoping a parade will spontaneously start so that they can jump in front of it and claim to be leading it.

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  6. @michael reynolds:

    So if impeachment and failure in the Senate leads to Trump coming out of all of this looking like a winner to the point where he gets re-elected in 2020 it would have been worth it?

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  7. @Stormy Dragon:

    There also wasn’t a Presidential election on the horizon when the Watergate Judiciary Committee hearings began in January 1974.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    If, if, if.

    I don’t buy the premise. We won the popular vote last time, Trump is nailed to 42% support, and I do not think a McConnell kangaroo court would help his prospects.

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  9. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    @michael reynolds:

    Months ago I asked the question if Tiny wasn’t impeachable than what would a prez have to do to be impeached. Even if the Senate won’t convict for party loyalty reasons, the House should proceed.

    From a political standpoint, the success or failure of impeachment with the voters will highly depend on how the proceedings are conducted. If the House follows the Repub lead from the Clinton impeachment, essentially relying only on the Starr Report and a narrow reason for the impeachment, then it will be a political disaster. But if they follow the lead of Peter Rodino in the Nixon impeachment and build a strong case on several of Tiny’s actions it will be a benefit. If they proceed and the investigation doesn’t provide sufficient evidence to support the impeachment, the House could vote not to impeach and claim that the investigation cleared Tiny.

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  10. @michael reynolds:

    The priority, at least in my opinion, is getting Trump out of office. Impeachment is not going to do that and acquittal raises the risk of giving Trump an avenue toward re-election. Also, the closer the calendar gets to the 2020 election the less realistic an impeachment inquiry becomes.

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  11. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    It’s very hard to stop a person who actually wants to commit suicide. It may well be that the United States is intent on suicide. If Trump is re-elected that will be the shotgun in the mouth of American democracy.

    Until then, we have to defend the rule of law and the constitution and basic standards of justice. If, upon seeing the evidence, the American people still insist on ending the American experiment, well… bang.

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  12. @michael reynolds:

    As I have said before, I think Democrats can, and should, make the case against Trump as we get closer to the election but stop short of actually voting to impeach. Let the voters decide.

  13. Alex Hamilton says:

    Can we stop with the apocalyptic tenor? Republicans said that Obama ended Democracy but here we are. Trump is weak and ineffective. What has he accomplished that any other Republican President wouldn’t have done as well (Tax Cuts, the courts, deregulation, etc.)? It could be way worse. We could have had a real legislative operator during the first 2 years.

    Bottom line, democracy will not end if Trump is re-elected. It’ll be painful and exhausting, but not the end.

    Also, think about it. Let’s say he squeaks out another electoral college victory, Trump will be the lamest of ducks. Kind of how Obama was over his 2nd term.

    What you don’t want is to give him any wins with independents (aka people who don’t pay attention). That’s what a failed impeachment would be.

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  14. michael reynolds says:

    @Alex Hamilton:
    I agree Trump is weak, but Mitch McConnell is not, nor is Putin and between them US democracy is clearly endangered.

    Trump just replaced his DNI with a man who refuses to believe in, let alone respond to, Russian election interference. The 2016 election was tainted, the 2020 election could be outright stolen and there won’t be anyone on the US side to find the truth. McConnell will rubber-stamp it all. If we lose the integrity of our elections we’ve lost our democracy.

    So, no, I won’t stop the apocalyptic tenor. It is justified by the facts.

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  15. Teve says:

    Yet, despite the increasingly negative views of Nixon at that time, most Americans continued to reject the notion that Nixon should leave office, according to Gallup. Just 26% thought he should be impeached and forced to resign, while 61% did not.

    how the Watergate crisis eroded support for Richard Nixon

  16. grumpy realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I’m following your rationale. Even though I believe Trump has carried out impeachable acts, I think that there is no way that an impeachment would be approved of by the Senate, considering its present political make-up.

    We are going to have to learn the hard way what it means to run a country with politicians who lack integrity.

  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I don’t see the scenario you present as a cause/effect thing because Trump can be re-elected simply by not forking up the economy. Nevertheless, I disagree with Reynolds on impeaching because “it’s the right thing to do.” This is politics, not civics class. You do things because they advance the party/agenda/re-election/control, but you don’t do things for principle unless you’re sure your principle can prevail or you can’t lose anything for the attempt. The Democrats are not on the can’t lose for trying side of this issue. Moreover, [ETA: even if impeachment led to conviction} incumbent Pence with a year of relative peace leading into the election seems a rookie mistake move to me. Getting rid of Trump doesn’t fix GOP governance, it only consolidates the power linked to a more benign face. That’s called a mistake!

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  18. DrDaveT says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Even though I believe Trump has carried out impeachable acts, I think that there is no way that an impeachment would be approved of by the Senate, considering its present political make-up.

    …and this is why the Politico poll is a piece of crap. They did not ask the necessary baseline question, which would have been something like “Setting aside questions of political feasibility or consequences, do you believe Donald Trump’s actions merit impeachment?” Without such a question, you can’t tell the difference between “I don’t think the Dem’s should start impeachment proceedings because I think it would backfire” and “I don’t the Dem’s should start impeachment proceedings because Donald Trump is the greatest president we’ve ever had.”

    Where did these bozos learn survey design???

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  19. Scott F. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Why would an impeachment inquiry become less realistic as the 2020 election approaches? That would only be the case if there was a requirement that stated the inquiry had to be initiated with sufficient time to proceed to a trial in the Senate during the term. I know of no such requirement.

    The slow playing being done by Pelosi, Nadler, et al, strikes me as the right approach. Start impeachment proceedings in all but name in the Judiciary Committee. Exhaust all means available to that committee to gather the evidence that has been held back by the administration to date. If the evidence is ultimately provided, make public all the incriminating information, then advise impeachment inquiry to the full House; if the evidence is still held, use that obstacle to advise impeachment inquiry to the full House as the means to that evidence. Take your time running the impeachment inquiry, use the distraction of the primaries as an excuse to drag things out if you must, so that the House doesn’t take a vote on impeachment until shortly before the election. Give McConnell only enough time to publicly back Trump, but not enough time to hold the Senate hearing that would acquit him.

    If the Republicans complain, tell them to let the voters decide like McConnell did with Merrick Garland. When the rules weren’t explicit, the GOP made up rules that favored them. It’s time for the Democrats to make up their own rules.

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  20. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @michael reynolds: Personally, I want an electoral defeat rather than impeachment. One possibility is that, if Trump is re-elected, the IRA and other Russian actors will turn anti-Trump. Trump will be a lame duck who won’t have the ability to do anything important to help Russia, and it’s in their interest to undermine American self-confidence.

  21. JKB says:

    @Scott F.: so that the House doesn’t take a vote on impeachment until shortly before the election.

    You do realize that everyone voting in that little drama will also be on the ballot in that election?

    Also, that by that time, 90% of voters will have decided and be a hard vote to change regardless?

    That the most likely privileged, or grand jury, or other private “evidence” the committee collected under the pretense of a legislative rather than partisan investigation you want released might cause voters to move to teach the Democrats a harsh lesson against abuse of government to go after political rivals?

    It’s a bold plan, but not without its own peril.

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  22. Kathy says:

    One reason there’s little support for impeachment, is that the case for it hasn’t been made. Most people are largely unaware of the Mueller report or the hearings.

    The other reason is that obstruction of justice tends to look like desperate attempts at defense. In this case, wither Trump was guilty of conspiring with the Russians, or he was trying to impede the investigation on Russian interference in the election. of course it’s serious, but ti has to look serious to the public if there is to be support for impeachment.

    Lastly, there’s Dennison himself. I’ve noticed when accused of anything, no matter how minor, he attacks his accusers savagely. In a way this makes him seem innocent to many people, not just his supporters, as he seems to be fending off an unjustified attack against him. The day h issues an apology, he’ll be toast.

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  23. @Scott F.:

    Why would an impeachment inquiry become less realistic as the 2020 election approaches?

    Let me put it this way. If we haven’t had a Senate trial by this time next year, then it isn’t going to happen. Congress has already passed a two-year budget that basically means it won’t have much work to do during calendar year 2020. The attention will be focused on the Democratic nomination race and then on the two party conventions. There simply won’t be time for a full impeachment inquiry, vote, and if necessary Senate trial. In fact, some have suggested that if the process doesn’t start by September 1st of this year it isn’t going to happen at all.

    I tend to agree.

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  24. Scott F. says:

    @JKB:

    That the most likely privileged, or grand jury, or other private “evidence” the committee collected under the pretense of a legislative rather than partisan investigation you want released might cause voters to move to teach the Democrats a harsh lesson against abuse of government to go after political rivals?

    Please, please, speculate on what “evidence” you think might cause voters who aren’t already brainwashed Trumpaloons that Trump is the one being abused. You know, as anybody paying attention knows, that if there was anything in the privileged, or grand jury, or otherwise private information (like his tax returns) that helped Trump, he wouldn’t be fighting like hell to keep it from public scrutiny. He’d be presenting this information on the big screen at his rallies and tweeting about it night and day.

  25. Teve says:

    @Scott F.: I’m sure he sent his lawyer to threaten those schools not to release his grades because he just didn’t want to embarrass everyone else he surpassed. 🙂 His flaw is he’s Too Considerate!

  26. Scott F. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    And all I’m saying is that if we haven’t had a Senate trial by this time next year, that is likely a good thing for anyone who wants to see a President held to account without the opportunity for political acquittal at the hands of a friendly Senate.

    I agree with you that Trump’s removal must be the primary objective. I also agree with you that an impeachment inquiry that ends with Senate acquittal does little good and could be counterproductive to that objective.

    Where I disagree is that the impeachment process has to proceed in such a way that it ends in an acquittal in the Senate and the election calendar actually helps in that regard. If you want to get to the truth of Trump’s illegal actions, you only need the impeachment inquiry, not the House vote or the Senate trial. The House vote could be deferred to the week before Election Day 2020 or not at all so, as you’ve said, we could let all voters decide. Hell, wouldn’t that be seen to be the most de-politicized outcome – trial with the American people as jury?

  27. Jax says:

    Slightly OT, but I have a question for those of you who are better versed in the laws regarding term limits…

    So….say Trump gets re-elected, Democrats flip the Senate, he gets impeached and removed from office during his second term, and Pence becomes President. Would Pence be eligible to run for re-election for two more terms after he finishes Trump’s, or would the term he would be finishing out for Trump be considered his first term, and only be eligible to run for one more term?

  28. Bruce Henry says:

    Jax, I think the rule is he can run for a “third” term if his “first” was less than two years. Like if LBJ had kept running and had won in 1968.

  29. Kathy says:

    @Jax:

    According to the text of the 22nd Amendment, two years of one term counts as one whole term if the person serving two or more years succeeded to the office.

    Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.

  30. Jax says:

    @Bruce Henry: I see. Thanks!

  31. SenyorDave says:

    @Jax: If the Democrats flip the Senate there is no reason to believe that Trump would get convicted without a bunch of smoking guns. A 2/3 majority would still be needed to convict, and I can’t see that happening unless there is ironclad evidence, like photos of him meeting with Putin to plan the overthrow of the US.

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  32. dennis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So if impeachment and failure in the Senate leads to Trump coming out of all of this looking like a winner to the point where he gets re-elected in 2020 it would have been worth it?

    Doug, I’m of the opinion that Trump is going to get re-elected, so the Dems may as well do their duty and impeach this crooked s.o.b. It’s the right thing to do.

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  33. dennis says:

    @SC_Birdflyte:

    . . . if Trump is re-elected, the IRA and other Russian actors will turn anti-Trump.

    On what are you basing that premise? I’m genuinely curious, not being critical.

  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @dennis: Under those circumstances, your position becomes more reasonable, but I’m intrigued that you seem to not believe that the Democrats can find 200,000 or so additional votes in 3 states. Do you believe that at the end of the day, the various constituencies that make up the party will not agree to go “this way” for the sake of the party and winning the White House–and possibly retaking the Senate?

    That makes you somewhat of an outlier at least at this forum.

    I’m also a little curious about whether you believe that getting rid of Trump is valuable enough to put a less obnoxious and toxic personality at the helm of a genuinely obnoxious and toxic policy stance. Is the House impeachment just for show, or the lulz?

  35. dennis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Apart from all that, Doug, this “president” has already co-opted and corrupted the DoJ; now, he’s attempting to co-opt and corrupt the U.S. intel machinery, all in order to protect his corrupt self. Impeachment is the right thing to do.

  36. dennis says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Do you believe that at the end of the day, the various constituencies that make up the party will not agree to go “this way” for the sake of the party and winning the White House–and possibly retaking the Senate?

    Were you asleep in 2016? If the Dems know anything, they know how to muck up an election.

    I’m also a little curious about whether you believe that getting rid of Trump is valuable enough to put a less obnoxious and toxic personality at the helm of a genuinely obnoxious and toxic policy stance. Is the House impeachment just for show, or the lulz?

    I believe the preservation of our institutions is paramount. I also don’t buy the premise that impeachment will backfire. Even if Trump is re-elected, the info/evidence getting out may change the electorate dynamic. It will also expose further the GOP’s feckless ass-kissing, not that they gaf.

  37. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @dennis: Not asleep, just don’t meet very many people who are that cynical about the Democrats who aren’t also Trumpies. As I noted, you seem to be an outlier on the continuum.

  38. dennis says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Well, as with most things, I’m sure I’m not the only one.

  39. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @dennis: Their objective is to hurt the U.S., not to help Trump. Getting him elected to a first term was part of the plan. Assuring he’s ineffectual in a second term is a continuation of the overall plan.

  40. Alex Hamilton says:

    I don’t get this whole argument that if the Democrats make their case during impeachment then it will change minds. If you haven’t paid attention over the last 3 years then what about another sensationalized congressional hearing on the news will move the needle? What information in impeachment proceedings will be different than what was in the Mueller report?

    To me this is just semantics. The Democrats have for all intents and purposes tried to impeach Trump in the media and they lost.

    The spectacle of an impeachment barring new evidence is going to fall flat. If you want Trump out you need to vote his ass out along with a healthy group of Republican Senators (not likely). Elections have consequences and my sense is we’re going to feel this pain for a while longer.

  41. An Interested Party says:

    Elections have consequences…

    Indeed, particularly ones that are influenced by hostile foreign powers or decided by the Supreme Court…as a country, we’ve really been screwed over the past few decades…