Democrats claimed success in Tuesday’s election by making it about health care, but exit polling showed many voters were instead motivated by President Donald Trump.
Overall, in exit polls, 40 percent of voters said they want to see Trump impeached. Among self-identified Democrats, it was much higher — 77 percent, CNN reported.
Whether the new Democratic U.S. House majority takes that step, Iowa political scientists expect subpoenas to start flying in January as the party takes control of committees with responsibility for oversight of the executive branch of government. Already some Democrats have called for subpoenaing Trump’s tax records.
Iowa State University political scientist Dave Andersen doubts it will stop there.
“The party is immediately going to launch into investigations into just about every administration official. That is just about certain,” he predicted.
He’s less certain House Democrats will attempt to impeach the president, as Republicans did against President Bill Clinton in 1988.
“This is purely a political strategy intended to embarrass the administration since they know that a Republican Senate is never going to sustain an impeachment,” Andersen said.
Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was in the Senate when it acquitted Clinton, has little doubt the Democratic House majority will pursue impeachment.
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“The importance of this midterms is if (Nancy) Pelosi takes over the House, the president will be under impeachment and that’s the end of all the good work this president has done,” he said shortly before the election that saw the Senate expand its GOP majority even as Democrats flipped the House.
Impeachment is a two-step process that requires action by both chambers of Congress.
The House considers the accusations against the president and, if it favors impeachment, the president is “charged.”
Then the Senate considers the evidence before voting whether to remove the president. That requires a two-thirds majority vote.
However, not everyone is as certain as Grassley that impeachment proceedings will commence in January.
In the run-up to the midterms, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said impeachment was “not a priority.”
Second District Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I want to make sure we finish the Mueller investigation. I want to make sure nobody gets in the way of that,” he said, referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the possible involvement of members of the Trump campaign, and the potential obstruction of justice by the president.
“When that’s over, then I think if there are reasons to bring forth articles of impeachment, then certainly as a country we ought to do that,” Loebsack said. “But we certainly need to wait until the Mueller investigation is over.”
Democrats are expected to take action to protect Mueller from presidential interference.
“I think even Trump realizes it is too much of a political hot potato to fire Mueller,” said Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa political science professor.
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Oversight investigations would be a better approach than impeachment for Democrats because “it would cause distractions for the Trump administration and keep it from its agenda.”
Likewise, University of Northern Iowa political scientist Donna Hoffman expects oversight and not impeachment.
She expects Democrats to investigate several aspects of the Trump administration “because that is what the independent branch of Congress is supposed to do and Republicans in the House have largely neglected that aspect of their jobs.”
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