As jconway writes about here, it’s unlikely that the Electoral College will block Trump on December 19th, in part because the vote is only a week away and in part because most electors are political activists that will stick with Trump through thick and thin. It’s unfortunate, since one of the only remaining reasons to keep the EC is one of the original reasons — to block a profoundly unqualified and corrupt individual from the presidency.
Still, it’s amazing that we’re just about a month removed from the election and there are already several concerns that quite conceivably could lead to full-blown impeachment inquiries not too far down the road. To wit:
(1) The subject of jconway’s post, namely Trump’s possible connections with Russia and possible direct ties to Russia’s interference in the election. This is the most serious issue, and it’s a real one. It is not hyperbole to suggest that this sort of foreign interference in our elections is a major threat to American democracy. If Trump’s team had any hand in that at all during the campaign (or current connections with Russian hackers or intelligence services), then it’s difficult to see how even Republicans could refuse to support an impeachment inquiry.
(2) Trump’s violation of the previously obscure Emoluments Clause prohibiting officials from receiving gifts from foreign states, which will immediately arise starting on Jan. 20th in the context of Trump profiting from foreign delegations using his hotels and other branded properties. The meaning of the constitutional provision has rarely been tested, and it’s difficult to see how a case against Trump would reach the courts given the lack of standing by any potential plaintiff. Still, the prospect that Trump could be repeatedly violating a constitutional provision through his business dealings is a serious matter and could be the subject of impeachment inquiries even if any legal case had difficulty getting into court.
(3) Apart from the Emoluments Clause issue, possible direct connections between executive decisions made by President Trump and the prospects of the Trump Organization profiting directly from those decisions. It is already clear that Trump has little interest in reducing these conflicts; he’s claimed he is exempt from concerns about conflict of interests (true only in the narrow sense of certain federal statutory laws; impeachment inquiries are another matter). He’s also delayed his announcement, originally scheduled for this Thursday, concerning what his connections to his business will be once president. That’s a clear sign that neither he nor his team has a real plan to take this problem seriously.
(4) I would also add actions that Trump has already done, and which will likely continue and get worse — namely, calling out specific companies and individuals on Twitter for the purposes of destroying them and their reputations. When it comes to Boeing and Lockheed Martin, for example, Trump’s tweets have already demonstrated the power to cause a significant hit to stock prices. He’s also gone after Carrier’s union chief personally, who has subsequently received death threats from deranged Trump supporters. If Trump continues to use this technique to destroy reputations — especially if it leads to someone’s death (unfortunately, quite plausible) — then this will be another avenue for an impeachment inquiry.
Keep in mind that this is where we are just five weeks after the election. The above list will likely grow considerably, and impeachment will be more plausible given Trump’s historically terrible approval ratings even before taking office (ratings that will likely decline further, especially if there is an economic downturn).
Buckle up; we’re in for a ride.