This week the Senate will very likely end its consideration of Donald Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives.
Trump will always be the third president in American history to have been impeached.
The Republican-controlled Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, will also face the judgment of history.
Trump will be the only person to have had a Senate impeachment trial without any live witnesses. Americans overwhelmingly supported hearing witnesses and getting documents the administration withheld.
Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, the two Republican senators who voted for witnesses last week, initially voted against hearing from any. According to Politico, Sen. Lamar Alexander told Collins he would oppose witnesses before she announced she’d support them. The vote for witnesses failed 49-51.
To hear from Mainers about impeachment, Sen. Angus King held a listening session on Sunday. As this paper reported, “no one spoke in support of Trump or the Republican-led Senate that is likely to acquit him.” Collins held no town halls to get feedback from Maine people.
Most Americans judge Trump critically. According to a recent Pew poll, 70% of Americans think Trump “he has probably or definitely done things that are unethical” during his last presidential campaign or as president and 63% think Trump has acted illegally. Majorities in a new NBC/Wall St. Journal poll agree with the charges in the articles of impeachment. Just 37% say Trump did not obstruct Congress and 41% believe he did not engage in abuse of power.
What happens next?
For one, the events underlying Trump’s impeachment — his use of official powers and taxpayer money to pressure a foreign government to try to hurt a domestic political opponent and his stonewalling of witnesses and documents — is not going to fade from public view.
While the Senate blocked former National Security Adviser John Bolton from testifying, Bolton’s book will be published, he will widely talk about what his book contains and this will garner wide publicity.
Lev Parnas, who worked with Trump’s private lawyer Rudy Guiliani in Ukraine, was arrested in late October and his case will move forward. The House Intelligence Committee has a number of his communications and very well may hold hearings with Parnas..
The White House just admitted it has two dozen emails going back to June 2019 that reveal Trump’s thinking about blocking aid to Ukraine. While the Trump administration wants to keep those secret, a court may force their release.
Thus the Trump-Ukraine shakedown story is by no means over.
Second, it’s very likely that Trump will engage in further abuses of power. That’s because Senate Republicans, even those critical of him, haven’t shown any real interest in limiting what he does.
During the Senate impeachment trial, Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz promoted a view of executive power and impeachment that makes the president an unaccountable monarch. The founders believed that Congress would check the president through our checks and balances system that, as James Madison put it, sets “ambition against ambition.” But Senate Republicans have not cared to limit this president’s actions. This is dangerous for democracy.
Third, health care will matter as much in 2020 as it did in 2018 when voters remembered how Trump tried to cut Medicaid and subsidies for private plans and gut protections for pre-existing conditions.
Last week, when impeachment led the news, the Trump administration rolled out Medicaid block grants.
What the administration calls greater Medicaid flexibility is uncertain funding with a strong potential for cuts. As Kaiser Health News explains, “States seeking the new authority would be able to make new cuts to benefits, including which prescription drugs are covered, and impose new out-of-pocket costs on enrollees.” States could cut certain cancer drugs “and a comprehensive series of preventive, diagnostic and treatment services that are a pillar of the program.”
In contrast, every Democratic candidate wants to increase coverage.
In this election year, as news comes out about Trump’s abuse of power, health care, job quality, education and the environment will also matter.
Politicians love to say that this is the most important election of our lifetimes. In this case, it surely will be.