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‘Chances of Senate Conviction Remain Slim’: Experts Speculate on Trump Impeachment

© REUTERS / Jonathan ErnstUS President Donald Trump addresses a news conference on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City
US President Donald Trump addresses a news conference on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City - Sputnik International
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Earlier this week, US House Democrats announced an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. There remain more questions than answers and experts weigh in on the upcoming event.

The first and foremost question regarding the Trump impeachment is, of course, whether the motion will succeed beyond a mere judgement of impeachment and allow for the actual removal of the president from office.

Christopher Slobogin, professor of criminal law at Vanderbilt Law School, believed that the chances that Trump will be ousted from his office are slim. According to Slobogin, the House will likely secure the simple majority required for impeachment, but the issue will then be handed to the Senate for an actual conviction, and that’s where perspectives get gloomy.

“The chances of Senate conviction on that issue remain slim at this point. There is no smoking gun in the summary transcript of the call or in the whistleblower’s complaint—that is, no clear evidence of conditioning aid on investigating the son of a political rival,” Slobogin says.

The professor argues that there is more than enough “circumstantial evidence” that could be shoehorned into the case, including Trump’s framing of his request to the Ukrainian president as a “favor” and the order to withhold aid to Ukraine, among other things.

“But unless that transcript reveals a more direct quid pro quo, advocates for Trump, of which there are still many in the Senate, can say he was merely asking for foreign help investigating a series of events that might have harmed American interests, which the US government does all the time,” Slobogin says.

Another big mystery connected to impeachment is the identity of the anonymous whistleblower who filed the initial complaint that kick-started the impeachment process.

According to Laura Wilson, political science professor at the University of Indianapolis, their identity will be made public eventually, but she does not believe this is likely to happen soon, citing the notorious Watergate scandal and the fact that the whistleblower who exposed US President Richard Nixon’s wrongdoings became known to the public only decades after events.

“We will likely someday know who this source is and who served as the whistleblower, but the public shouldn't expect for that information to come anytime soon,” she says

Wilson notes that while the whistleblower is legally protected by a “myriad of laws,” it may not be enough to ensure their safety from disgruntled Trump supporters. Therefore, it would be better, in her opinion to “remain anonymous as long as possible.” 

Speaking on the prospects of impeachment, Wilson notes that a number of lawmakers still remain quiet, apparently waiting for the results of the investigation. She says a vote outcome is hard to predict, as not every lawmaker is keen to “blindly stick with the party line,” especially those who are not up for reelection in 2020 and can afford more leeway in their judgement. Still, she believes lawmakers with strongly outlined positions are unlikely to change.

“We wouldn't expect to see Democrats resist the issue of impeachment, at least at this point, and likewise Republicans who solidly report the president are probably not going to suddenly switch their opinion,” she says.

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