The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York formally accused Donald Trump tonight of having directed a felony criminal conspiracy to alter the outcome of the 2016 election, by instructing Michael Cohen to illegally silence his mistresses during the election. This is, on its own, absolutely enough for House Democrats to impeach Trump when they take control in early January. But here’s the thing.
House Democrats can draft articles of impeachment against Donald Trump based on anything that they think is a serious enough crime or impropriety. They don’t have to meet any specific legal standards, like a prosecutor would in a courtroom. And because only a simple majority is required in order to impeach, the House Democrats can automatically force the impeach process over to the Senate, without the help of any House Republicans. But that’s where the process becomes an entirely different beast.
For the Senate to convict and remove Donald Trump, a two-thirds majority is needed. That means at least twenty Republican Senators would need to vote for his ouster. The only way this would happen is if Trump’s crimes are so over-the-top ugly, the Republican Party feels like it has to help throw Trump overboard, in the hope of selfishly protecting the party’s electoral viability going forward.
What the SDNY threw at Donald Trump today is, simply put, not enough on its own to convince twenty Republican Senators to vote for his removal. So for the House Democrats to actually oust Trump, they’ll need more ammunition than what they’ve just been handed. The thing is, Robert Mueller is likely to hand them a whole lot more damning evidence before they take control in four weeks. So while pundits will kick this around a lot this weekend, it’s probably a discussion for January 3rd, when we see what all the House Democrats are working with.