How Impeachment Proceedings are Reverberating Through the Republican Base
The impeachment inquiry into President Trump has spearheaded a call for unity within the Republican Party, raising the stakes for the upcoming presidential election.
After seemingly surviving the Mueller investigation, it is now Ukraine that threatens the Trump administration as Democrats, led by House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), initiated an ongoing formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump on Tuesday. While it’s been a rough week for the Trump administration amid a new array of controversies, the Democrat’s impeachment inquiry risks energizing Trump supporters and the Republican Party ahead of the 2020 election as Trump still stands strong in polls and has sparked a surge in fundraising.
How Impeachment Unfolded
During Tuesday’s impeachment announcement, Pelosi attempted to portray Trump’s communication with Ukraine as a profound abuse of power, stating, “The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of integrity of our elections.”
Following Pelosi’s announcement, late on Wednesday, the House Select Committee on Intelligence released the declassified whistleblower complaint by an anonymous member in the intelligence community at the center of the Trump-Ukraine scandal. The report alleges the President of the United States misused his executive power during a phone conversation on July 25 between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
According to the report, Trump pressed Zelensky to open a potential corruption probe into the frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden served as one of the board of directors at Burisma Holdings Ltd, a Ukrainian national gas extraction company.
Shortly prior to the phone call, President Trump withheld $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. The whistleblower report claims several firsthand witnesses to the phone call reported their concerns to the whistleblower that Trump’s actions during the phone call amounted to an abuse of power to further his own political gain.
Trump also pressed Zelensky to investigate allegations of Russian hackers penetrating the DNC’s networks originating in Ukraine during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. President Trump asked President Zelensky — “I would like you to do us a favor to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it.”
In response, President Trump has emphasized he did not break his oath of office and has likened the Democrat’s impeachment inquiry to a “witch hunt.” A summary of the July 25 phone call was also released and while neither the whistleblower complaint nor the summary of the phone call implicate Trump specifically stated he would continue to withhold money from Ukraine unless an investigation into Biden was opened, Democrats have likened the call to a mafia shakedown.
Voter and Republican Party Reaction
Politico/Morning Consult surveyed 1,640 registered voters after Pelosi’s impeachment announcement, which showed Americans evenly divided over support for impeaching Trump. The poll indicated “43 percent of voters think Congress should begin the process of impeachment, while an equal number of poll respondents say Congress shouldn’t begin impeachment proceedings…10 percent of Republicans now support beginning impeachment proceedings, while support among independents has reached 39 percent.”
The Politico poll showed an increase of seven percent in the number of Americans who supported impeachment since the most recent poll conducted prior to Pelosi’s announcement.
Although there are mixed responses swirling in the media and among politicians, only one Republican member of the Senate, Senator Mitt Romney, has outwardly voiced his concerns over the latest impeachment inquiry. Romney wrote on Twitter: “If the President asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out.”
On the other hand, moving forward for the Republican Party; the impeachment push could be helping President Trump’s reelection campaign. The Republican base remains vigilant in discrediting Rep. Nany Pelosi and the Democrat’s accusations.
Overwhelmingly, the majority of Republicans continue to strongly approve President Trump’s job approval after Tuesday’s announcement of the impeachment inquiry. According to a Marist Poll conducted a day after Pelosi’s impeachment announcement in conjunction with PBS NewsHour and NPR, 90% of Republicans said they approved of the job Donald Trump is doing as President.
On a national level, when asked, “Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president?” 44% of all respondents said they approved of Trump while 53% said they disapproved and 3% were unsure. The same question asked on September 12 resulted in a 41% approval rating.
Perhaps more importantly, the allegations against President Trump have spearheaded a call for unity within the Republican Party by raising the stakes for the upcoming presidential election.
The Republican National Committee and President Trump’s reelection campaign introduced a fundraising initiative to appeal to loyal conservatives and Trump supporters. The fundraising campaign urged Trump supporters to donate and join the “Official Impeachment Defense Task Force”, which garnered over $5 million in donations in 24 hours.
At the opposite end of the political spectrum, impeachment proceedings are likely to impact no Democrat more than Joe Biden. Biden has already begun to slip in Democratic contender polls and is now trailing Elizabeth Warren in the first caucus state of Iowa and the first primary state of New Hampshire with signs of slipping elsewhere. Could Trump’s spotlight on Biden and his son’s activities in Ukraine bring down his 2020 chances?