Whether Democrats should or shouldn’t pursue impeachment of President Donald Trump has been an ongoing debate within the party. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, although vehemently critical of the president much of the time, has stressed that she has no desire to impeach Trump — whereas Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan has called for Democrats to “impeach the motherf*cker.”
But historian Jasmin Bath, in a May 13 article for the Washington Post, asserts that Democrats could use special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report for the Russia investigation to doom Trump’s presidency even if they don’t pursue impeachment.
Bath opens her article by explaining why Democrats consider impeachment politically risky: when Republicans tried to remove President Bill Clinton from office via the impeachment process in 1998/1999, it backfired and Clinton’s approval ratings increased. Democrats, she writes, “don’t want to lose the 2020 presidential election because voters felt Trump was unfairly persecuted.” However, Bath stresses that Democrats could use Mueller’s report to sink Trump’s presidency with an anti-corruption message — and the historian uses the events of 1860 to make her point.
Back in 1860, when Democrat James Buchanan was president, the GOP (which was a new party at the time) didn’t pursue impeachment — although Republicans used an anti-corruption message to tar and feather Buchanan. Bath notes that the Covode Committee, led by Republican Rep. John Covode, “produced a detailed majority report that exposed the crimes of the Democratic Party and the president himself.” Abraham Lincoln won 1860’s presidential election and in 1861, was sworn in as the United States’ first Republican president.
The history lesson for Democrats in 2019, according to Bath, is that just as the Republicans and anti-Buchanan Democrats of 1860 used the Covode report to their political advantage, Trump’s presidency can be sunk with a message that he is untrustworthy.
“Although Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’ and eliminate corruption in Washington, the Mueller report reveals that Trump did not make any attempt to purify politics,” Bath writes. “Instead, he further contaminated them. Therefore, Democrats can ask whether he can be trusted to serve in the interests of the people. This is similar to the argument made by Republicans in 1860…. If the Covode report could help ruin a presidency in 1860, the Mueller report might just do the same in 2020—and lead to a Democratic victory.”