Sunday, November 24, 2019

Why this impeachment will simply give President Trump exoneration





By 
Douglas Schoen
opinion contributor
11/24/19 
10:00 AM EST





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The second week of public impeachment hearings has concluded, with nine witnesses testifying before the House Intelligence Committee over three days. To be sure, this week has forced both parties to confront distinct realities.

For Republicans, it has become clear that a quid pro quo scheme with Ukraine very likely existed at the direction of the president, and by many measures was unethical and well below the standards of conduct that Americans expect from their elected officials. For Democrats, it has become clear that the case for impeachment that they have set forth is unlikely to convince any Republicans to remove Donald Trump from office, and that the impeachment vote will almost certainly fall along party lines.

Americans heard hours of testimony from a range of career national security officials and political appointees, including an amended testimony from the Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, as well as from a deputy assistant secretary at the Defense Department, Laura Cooper. Sondland testified that Trump directly conditioned aid to Ukraine on a political favor, undercutting one of the main White House defenses that officials conducting this backchannel diplomacy with Ukraine were freelancing rather than acting at the direction of the president himself.

Further, Sondland testified that he was working with the personal lawyer of the president, Rudy Giuliani, on backchannel diplomacy with Ukraine at the “express direction of the president of the United States.” He admitted, “I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question. Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

Just hours after his testimony, Cooper filled in further details, telling lawmakers that on the day of the July phone call when Trump asked the Ukrainian president for a favor, Ukrainian officials had reached out to her office aware that there was some issue with the aid being released. “I would say specifically, the Ukrainian embassy staff asked what is going on with Ukrainian security assistance,” Cooper testified.

While it is now undeniable that Trump and his inner circle engaged in improper conduct, and these hours of public testimony have contributed in many ways to framing the Democrats’ impeachment narrative, the actual impact that the inquiry will have on Trump is still unclear. However, we can say with near certainty that Trump will not be removed, and that impeachment is turning into a political loser for Democrats.

According to an Emerson poll released this week, support for impeachment has flipped against the Democrats. In October, 48 percent of Americans supported impeachment, while 44 percent opposed. However, now 45 percent are opposed and 43 percent are in support. The most seismic shift was among Independents, who now oppose impeachment 49 percent to 34 percent, a stunning reversal from October, when these voters supported impeachment 48 percent to 39 percent.

Democrats have failed to sufficiently shift public opinion and build a national consensus that President Trump deserves to be impeached and removed from office. Even after two weeks of public testimony and depositions, Democrats were unable to persuade Congressman Will Hurd of Texas, a moderate Republican that many Democrats had hoped would cross partisan lines and come out in favor of impeachment. On Thursday, Hurd used his allotted five minutes to declare that he had “not heard evidence proving the President committed bribery or extortion.”

Indeed, the impending articles of impeachment will certainly be voted on along party lines, making it impossible for Democrats to achieve the two-thirds majority required for a conviction in the Senate. Once the impeachment process comes to a close, Democrats will essentially be handing Trump an exoneration, adding fuel to his claims that Democrats are solely focused on their smear campaign against him, and not on working with him.
In the coming weeks, it will be crucial for Democrats to consider the implications that this inquiry will have on the election next year. When the first votes are cast in 72 days, it will be issues like health care, economic equality, climate change, and gun control that drive people to the ballot box. Thus, if Democrats are going to be successful in 2020, they will have to pivot from impeachment and focus on the core issues that everyday Americans are concerned with—or risk four more years of Trump.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. He is a political consultant, Fox News contributor, and the author of “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”

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