“Impeachment” is already on the lips of pundits, newspaper editorials, constitutional scholars, and even a few members of Congress. From the right, Washington attorney Bruce Fein puts the odds at 50/50 that a President Trump commits impeachable offenses as president. Liberal Florida Rep. Alan Grayson says Trump’s insistence on building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, if concrete was poured despite Congress’s opposition, could lead down a path toward impeachment. Even the mainstream Republican head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently tossed out the I-word when discussing the civilian backlash if Trump’s trade war with China led to higher prices on everyday items sold at WalMart and Target. On his radio show last month, Rush Limbaugh even put a very brisk timeline on it: “They’ll be talking impeachment on day two, after the first Trump executive order,” he said.
It’s not unusual for controversial presidents to be shadowed by talk of impeachment, once they’ve been in office long enough to make people mad. But before he’s elected? Before he’s a nominee?
Constitutional experts of all political stripes say it’s surprising for impeachment talk to bubble up this early—but then Trump has been throwing around some surprising ideas for a leading candidate, calling the Geneva Conventions a “problem” and pitching policies that many see as violating international law. “What he’s stated in my judgment would be clearly impeachable offenses,” said Fein, a former Reagan-era Justice Department official who worked on the Bill Clinton impeachment effort. Likewise, Yale Law School lecturer and military justice expert Eugene Fidell offered a similar prediction for Trump from the left. “He’s certainly said things, which if followed through on, would constitute high crimes and misdemeanors,” Fidell said. And doubtless many of Trump’s foes would like to see him impeached just on principle—the quickest way to broom out a leader who horrifies the inclusive sensibilities of Democrats, and has blown apart the Republican Party he’s nominally part of.