New polling showing public opposition to impeachment has some Republicans along with officials in the White House voicing skepticism that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will go through with a vote on articles of impeachment.
Even President Trump, while insisting he wanted an impeachment trial, predicted Friday that Pelosi would not go through with impeachment.
“No, I don’t expect it,” he said in an interview on “Fox & Friends.”
“I think it’s very hard for them to impeach you when they have absolutely nothing,” he added.
While Pelosi has not guaranteed there will be a vote, it’s hard to imagine she would risk a backlash from the Democratic base by cutting the process short after two weeks of public hearings. Many Democrats saw the hearings as providing damning testimony against Trump.
A House Democratic leadership aide called it “fantasy land” to think there won’t be a vote on the House floor.
“The hearings were nearly flawless and extremely damning for the president,” said the aide, who added that a decision to not go forward would be trumpeted by the president.
“While no decision has been made to proceed with impeachment, the key facts are uncontested and not proceeding at this stage will be called a ‘total exoneration’ by the president,” the aide said.
Polling released last week showed rising opposition to impeachment.
A new national poll from Emerson College showed that support for impeachment has slipped since October, when 48 percent of registered voters supported it and 44 percent opposed it. Now 45 percent of voters oppose impeaching Trump while 43 percent support it.
The biggest swing was seen among independents, 49 percent of whom now oppose impeachment compared to 34 percent who support it. Last month, 48 percent of independents supported impeachment, according to Emerson.
A mid-November Marquette University poll conducted in the battleground state of Wisconsin found that only 40 percent of registered voters think Trump should be impeached and removed from office while 53 percent do not think so.
This has fueled speculation among Senate Republicans that Pelosi may opt for a vote on a censure resolution and skip the prospect of a Senate trial that could drag on for a month or more, during which impeachment fatigue among voters could intensify. Pelosi has ruled out a censure vote.
“You’ve seen the polls over the last week. I’m going through the roof,” Trump told “Fox & Friends.”
“If you look at the swing states, I’m way up in every one of them because of the impeachment thing,” he stated.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says senior White House officials think there’s a better than 50-50 shot Pelosi decides to avoid a Senate trial.
At the same time, Graham, who served as a House prosecutor in the 1999 Clinton impeachment, is advising White House lawyers to buckle up for a potentially lengthy Senate trial.
“They think they've got a better than 50-50 [chance] that maybe this doesn't happen in the House,” Graham said after meeting with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway Thursday.
“I don’t know if they’re going to impeach the president or not but if they do, you need to be ready for that to happen,” he said.
An impeachment trial could give Senate Republicans the chance to call witnesses to poke holes in the House Democratic case or play offense against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, whom Republicans say need to be investigated for links to Ukrainian corruption.
“There's a growing school of thought that rather give Senate Republicans or the White House an opportunity on a level playing field on a large stage, Democrats would be better off just saying, ‘we're going to look out for the country, not drag the country through this, we've made our point,’ and have a vote of censure-ship,’” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), one of Trump’s loyal allies in the upper chamber.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday guaranteed that Trump would be acquitted.
“It’s inconceivable to me there would be 67 votes to remove the president from office,” he said.
Josh Holmes, a Republican strategist and former chief of staff to McConnell, pointed to polling showing that public sentiment appears to be turning against impeachment and noted that Pelosi initially resisted calls by liberal colleagues to begin impeachment proceedings earlier in Trump’s tenure.
But Holmes said it would be very difficult to stop short of a final impeachment vote now that the House has spent so much time and energy on its investigation. Anything short of a vote to impeachment would be seen as an embarrassing failure, he said.
“This is not going as planned,” Holmes said of reports that public support for impeachment is dimming.
“I honestly think that Pelosi may have been skeptical about the political merits of this strategy from the beginning. She basically held the liberals off in her caucus for a year plus,” he said. “I can’t imagine she’s totally surprised by it.
“That being said, if you’re going to basically set aside the entire work of the American people to turn the House of Representatives into a circus over an impeachment hearing, anything less than driving that to a conclusion in the House has to put her speakership at risk,” Holmes added.
Holmes said Pelosi faces a real risk that more Democrats wind up voting against articles of impeachment than there are Republicans who vote for it. Not a single Republican voted for the resolution formally setting out the rules for the impeachment inquiry while two Democrats voted against it.
But he said the failure to put the matter to a final vote would be a bigger risk.
“The idea that she couldn’t even bring it to a vote, I think it’s hard to express how bad that would be for her,” Holmes said.