The potential impeachment of President Donald Trump looms larger than ever, with the recent revelations regarding his actions involving an investigation in Ukraine of Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who has consistently pushed back against calls for impeachment by the more liberal members of her caucus, has now reversed course, supporting an impeachment inquiry. While this may seem to be a major change for Pelosi, in fact it may turn out to be a largely symbolic one. Several different House committees were already investigating Trump, and the House Judiciary Committee voted to start calling it an impeachment inquiry almost two weeks ago. So, Pelosi’s announcement that she now supports moving forward with an impeachment inquiry may have in fact been a distinction without a difference.

Even so, Pelosi’s formal endorsement certainly accelerates the process. It seems clear now that Democrats are seriously investigating the president, rather than just trying to make noise in advance of the 2020 elections. That’s not to say that any impeachment inquiry — and subsequent Senate trial, if it comes to that — won’t be a political process. Any impeachment is inherently political; that’s the nature of an investigation and trial conducted by politicians, rather than police, prosecutors, and a jury. Regardless of how far it goes, that’s worth keeping in mind throughout this process.

Pelosi’s decision to accelerate impeachment at this juncture is a thoroughly political one. She didn’t suddenly find mounds of new evidence to convince her that Trump was guilty of a crime: she simply faced an increasingly restless caucus that was more willing to embrace impeachment. The first few public polls since the Ukraine scandal broke show that the public may be coming around to that view as well, so moving forward will seemingly cost Democrats less politically.

While more and more House Democrats support impeachment, it doesn’t seem to necessarily be gaining a lot of support amongst Senate Democrats, and Republicans are largely defending Trump or being cautiously neutral. This reality was well-reflected in reactions from the Maine delegation. The only member of the delegation who enthusiastically supports impeaching Trump is First District Democrat Chellie Pingree, who hails from a safe Democratic district easily won by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Her Second District colleague, freshman Jared Golden, is one of a dwindling number of House Democrats who won’t even officially endorse an impeachment inquiry, let alone voting for it on the floor. His caution is certainly understandable, as he narrowly won in a district that Trump carried, and as a freshman remains a political target. He knows that to be re-elected next year he’ll need to get the support of Trump voters in his district, and he can’t afford to totally alienate them.

Democrats’ quick movement towards an impeachment inquiry puts him — and other Democrats from districts Trump won — in an increasingly perilous position. If the House investigation doesn’t reveal any major new information and they move forward with impeachment anyway, Golden will come under intense pressure from both sides. If it reaches the floor of the House, a vote on impeachment could well determine Golden’s political future, one way or another.

The reaction of Angus King and Susan Collins was more muted. As senators, their role in impeachment will only begin once the House votes in favor of impeachment. Then a trial would begin in the Senate, with an eventual vote on whether to convict Trump. King offered lukewarm support for an investigation, but didn’t try to tell the House what to do, while Collins didn’t comment either way on the House investigation. That’s an entirely appropriate, and expected, reaction for both of them.

The initial, and continuing, reactions of the Maine delegation to impeachment should be viewed as a guide to how the rest of Congress will react. As the House investigation proceeds, it’s worth carefully monitoring them as a gauge of where the rest of Congress — and the public as a whole — stands on impeachment. If Golden moves towards supporting it, impeachment will almost certainly pass the House, forcing a trial in the Senate.

On the Senate side, if Collins tries to broker a compromise, it could be a sign that Trump is in trouble with fellow Republicans. If King supports those efforts, some Democrats might go along with him; if he doesn’t, most Democrats are probably going to vote for a conviction. Maine may be a small state, but in impeachment, the actions of its delegation could well be of enormous significance.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jimfossel


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