United States Democrats have started the process of impeaching President Donald Trump. The House decided to launch a formal impeachment inquiry because Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son in the so-called Ukraine scandal. In reality, the chances of President Trump actually being removed from office appear slim. The motion to impeach will be easy to pass in the House, where the Democrats hold 235 seats, more than half. However, the Democrats only hold 47 seats in the Senate, where they need a two-thirds vote of the 100 seats to convict the president of an impeachable offense. There is probably zero chance to pass the motion.
Nonetheless, on Sept. 25, The New York Times wrote about the historical significance of the impeachment inquiry, pointing out that this has only occurred three times in the history of the United States presidency. Accordingly, the current impeachment inquiry could place considerable pressure on Trump’s political position. Among the three presidents who faced impeachment, Andrew Johnson, the 17th president, in 1868, and Bill Clinton, the 42nd president, in 1998, just barely managed to remain in office after the motion for impeachment passed the House. In 1974, after the Republican presidential camp’s wiretapping scandal known as Watergate, President Richard Nixon resigned a year after the House approved articles of impeachment against him and impeachment by the House and Senate seemed inevitable. For Trump, regardless of whether the Senate acts on impeachment or not, the fact that he was caught up in an impeachment controversy with just a year left in his term will diminish much of the advantage he would have enjoyed as the incumbent president in the coming election.
In particular, foreign relations with the Korean Peninsula could become much more volatile. Right now, the United States and North Korea are beginning a new round of negotiations on denuclearization, and President Trump has left the door open for the possibility of a third U.S.-North Korean summit. However, if the political world in Washington is drawn into this impeachment whirlwind, it is likely that foreign issues such as denuclearization in North Korea will be deferred. U.S.-North Korean negotiations could be pushed back on the U.S. government’s list of priorities.
Trump could also go in the opposite direction and tackle denuclearization negotiations more actively in an attempt to make a breakthrough in this political crisis. There will also be increased uncertainty with respect to international economic issues such as the U.S-Chinese trade war.
It is necessary to closely examine the anticipated impact that the risk of impeaching Trump could have.