Patrick Cairns
4 minute read
29 May 2017
7:44 am

Trump’s presidency is in serious trouble: EIU

Patrick Cairns

The likelihood of an impeachment has risen.

Donald Trump’s administration in the US has been under heavy fire since the president fired FBI director James Comey two weeks ago. Almost every day new, allegations against the president and his associates are being made in the American press.

A special counsel has now been appointed to investigate links between Trump’s advisers and Russian officials, as well as Russian interference in last year’s election. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) believes that under this rising pressure, Trump’s presidency “is in serious trouble”.

“Members of Congress are calling for Mr Trump to be impeached,” the EIU noted in an analysis released on Friday. “The Economist Intelligence Unit believes that the risk of impeachment has risen from low to moderate. Should the special counsel uncover a major obstruction of justice or the Republicans lose the House of Representatives (the lower house) in the 2018 mid-term elections, Mr Trump would be in a perilous position.”

The EIU pointed out that no sitting president in the US has ever been removed from office through an impeachment. Richard Nixon resigned when he realised that he wouldn’t survive the impeachment process against him, and Bill Clinton was acquitted by the senate.

A successful impeachment, which begins with the house judiciary committee finding that the president has committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanours” goes through a number of phases and it’s very difficult for it to succeed.

This is because it requires broad agreement in both houses of Congress and for some members to vote against their own party’s interests.

The risks to Trump

However the EIU argued that there are reasons to suggest that Trump could face an impeachment if things continue to turn against him.

“The first, and most serious, is that Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to investigate potential links between Mr Trump and Russia, uncovers evidence of wrongdoing sufficiently serious to turn Republican sentiment against Mr Trump,” the EIU noted. “Were this to occur, senior Republicans, such as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, would decide that the damage done to the Republican Party would be greater if it continued to support the president than if it decided to cut him loose.”

There is already some evidence that Trump may have behaved inappropriately, including his own admission that he fired Comey because of the FBI’s investigation into his administration’s links with Russia.

“Other building-blocks towards a case of ‘high crimes and misdemeanours’ might include Mr Comey’s account of being put under pressure by Mr Trump to drop his investigation into Michael Flynn; Mr Trump’s failure to separate himself from his business empire; and his careless handling of classified information,” the EIU added. “So far, none of these behaviours has shifted Republican sentiment, but it is possible that Mr Mueller may uncover something that makes defending Mr Trump impossible.”

The chances of an impeachment would also be significantly increased if Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives in 2018’s mid-term election. The EIU believes this is unlikely, but the government’s failure so far to introduce any of the reforms promised by Trump in his campaign may lead to a revival of fortunes for the Democratic Party.

Three-and-a-half more years

While these risks have increased the chances of Trump being impeached, the EIU still however argues that it is more likely that Trump will see out his full term. Currently, he still has the support of the majority of his party members in Congress and that should protect him.

“For now, we believe that there are compelling reasons to expect Mr Trump to complete his term,” the EIU said. “Perhaps counter-intuitively, the appointment of Mr Mueller will cool the political temperature in Washington. Democrats will be calmer, knowing that a safe pair of hands is leading the Russia investigation.”

In politics, however, anything remains possible.

“Maintaining the party’s majority in the chamber will be Mr Trump’s best insurance to keep himself in office,” noted the EIU. “As always, we note that the president’s impulsive character and disregard for protocol means that the unlikely is still possible. But it would take a significant shift in mood, even allowing for his existing transgressions, to switch Republican loyalty away from Mr Trump.”

Brought to you by Moneyweb