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I'm unclear why Democrats are trying to impeach Trump at this particular point in time.

The U.S. 2020 elections are less than a year (about 11 months) away, so why risk an impeachment move now when the public will vote on the next president in a few months anyway?

If they really wanted to impeach Trump, why didn't they try to do this in 2018 or even early 2019?

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    Related, but not a dup: What is the point of impeaching Trump? – BradC Dec 4 '19 at 21:54
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    Can this question by answered FACTUALLY, or does it require speculation? – BobE Dec 4 '19 at 21:57
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    @BobE Some aspects can be answered factually (Dems didn't take the House majority until Jan 2019, so impeachment couldn't have been possible before that), others aspects are more speculative but can be supported by public statements by Democratic House members. So this is well within the range of questions we regularly answer here. – BradC Dec 4 '19 at 22:03
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    @BradC, the OP asks 3 Qs: Why now, why do it at all, and why not in 2018. The last clearly can be answered factually. The other two Qs (to be answered factually) would require a public statement of the Democratic leader speaking for all Democrats. Not all democrats are of the same mind as to the why now or why not wait till June or wait till October. I know how I personally feel about the timing, but I've discovered that my view isn't shared with all other democrats. – BobE Dec 4 '19 at 22:16
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    Comments deleted. Please don't use comments for political debates or for answering the question. Please use comments for only those purposes outlined in the help article about the commenting privilege. – Philipp Dec 5 '19 at 14:40
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Setting aside possibility of group thinking (with powerful echo chamber) or making a genuine error in judgement concerning quality of evidence?

(Yes, such mundane explanations usually work. I personally find impressive, that after flop of Mueller investigation they decided to double down and this time not only make an investigation but launch an impeachment so I no longer give them any benefit of the doubt)

However, if we want a more mastermind explanation, I have one:

why risk an impeachment move now when the public will vote on the next president in a few months anyway?

Let's me take some famous quote (out context ;) ):

"if we don't impeach this president, he will get re-elected."

Your question is based on implicit assumption, that winning an election is (relatively) easy, while impeachment is (relatively) hard. Is that really the case? If one track bets, people are clearly betting on Trump. So what if Dems looked at their chances in straightforward election were bad, so there is some logic in betting everything on one card and hoping that impeachment would find actual crimes or at least dig enough embarrassing dirt on their main opponent.

  • Comments deleted. Please don't use comments for political debates. Please use comments for only those purposes outlined in the help article about the commenting privilege. – Philipp Dec 6 '19 at 9:27
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    One thing you are missing is the fact the in the Senate trial the Republicans will drag in Biden, Schiff, and all the others and put them under oath then grill them. The dirt they dig up on the Democrats will not be good for them that much is obvious. – Ray Koren Dec 6 '19 at 18:16
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Democrats didn't impeach in 2018, because they were a minority in both House and Senate until January 3, 2019. Afterwards, they didn't have the necessary evidence until the Mueller Report that would have resulted in multiple felony charges for any American other than the president, was released on April 18, 2019.

Democrats were divided on whether to impeach based on the Mueller Report and instead ended up running more investigations, until the smoking gun of the Ukraine transcript dropped September 25, 2019.

In the Ukraine episode, the President is credibly accused (given the amount of evidence, that's an understatement) of having solicited a bribe, and of having attempted to unlawfully interfere with the presidential election.

Tolerating unlawful interference into the presidential election sets an absolutely horrible precedent going into the presidential election, and invites a lot more of that unlawful interference, which didn't leave the Democrats much of a choice.

Additionally, refusing to impeach the president for obvious crimes will be seen by many left-leaning voters as a violation of their Representatives' oaths and duties, which will put their seats at risk during primaries. Not impeaching is at least as risky as impeaching.

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    Great answer! It's also the case that over the course of his administration President Trump and his attorneys have advanced an iteratively-built argument that the only possible remedy to presidential misconduct is impeachment because the President is immune from nearly all methods of prosecution or even investigation. Previously, it was less clear that their position was so absolute and so vaguely defined "other" remedies at least seemed available. – Upper_Case Dec 4 '19 at 23:23
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    Exactly: The revelations didn't leave them a choice. Pelosi really didn't want an impeachment and would have preferred a rejection by the people. That simply was not an option any longer. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Dec 5 '19 at 12:10
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    Comments deleted. Please don't use comments for political debates. Please use comments for only those purposes outlined in the help article about the commenting privilege. – Philipp Dec 5 '19 at 14:42
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    In particular, note that the House Intelligence Committee Report specifically noted (p. 10) that there was a sense of urgency to impeach the president before the very election with which he is accused of trying to interfere. – Michael Seifert Dec 5 '19 at 19:18
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    @NoSenseEtAl The question is about actions taken by the Democrats. Even if you don't believe in the smoking gun, if the Democrats do the answer is still perfectly valid. – Peter Dec 7 '19 at 23:51
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There are 3 main reasons that I see:

  1. The Ukraine scandal came to light recently. Impeachment investigation talks started very soon after the whistleblower complaint was released. Prior to this, there may or may not have not been impeachable offenses (we'll see what the current impeachment articles include) but they were presumably not serious enough to warrant congressional action.

  2. The main articles of impeachment and previous executive branch offenses (Russia scandal/Mueller report) all are related to unlawfully (abuse of office, or other accounts for indictments in the Mueller investigation) influencing an election. The current Ukraine scandal is related to influencing the upcoming 2020 election. So, congress doesn't find it appropriate to wait until the 2020 election results when the current offenses are related to influencing (and could still possibly influence) that result.

  3. You mention "risk an impeachment move now" - I assume you are referencing the political impact of having a failed impeachment trial in the senate right before the upcoming election. This was a factor in the decision to move forward with impeachment, but ultimately Nancy Pelosi thought it be best to uphold the checks and balances standards set for congress by the constitution - for sake of precedent, duty, and the previous 2 reasons mentioned.

8

From a "politicians lie when they open their mouth" perspective, there are two possible strategic reasons for doing it now, not later or earlier:

  1. The 2020 election. The recent presidential elections have been fairly close and swining just a small part of the voters in a few swing states can decide matters. The impeachment accusations are related to national pride and security and trustworthiness, things that matter to the conservative voters. But the scandal must happen close to the election to influence it - thus not earlier. It also can't happen too conveniently close to the election or the scheme is too obvious and would swing the other way.
  2. The 2020 election. If Democrats want the "we impeached the worst president the US ever had" award, now is probably the last chance. The Clinton impeachment process took over four months. The election is 11 months from now. If you get too close, the opposing site will just delay until the question is void, so there needs to be ample spare room. Impeaching the president roughly half a year before the election is close enough to the election that people remember that he was the dofus who got thrown out (he can run again, after all), but it doesn't give enough time for his vice-president to distinguish himself as a worthy candidate. None of the other three current Republican candidates have made any headlines, it's unlikely they stand much of a chance. (Note: Pence hasn't filed, but is being discussed as a candidate).

Of course, there is also the reason that the Ukraine scandal came at a convenient time. By coincident or not. Again, I am assuming that nothing a politician says in public is true. The stakes are too high and the rewards too nice for life-long expertes in manipulation to drop it and honestly say what they think. I'm quite sure everything said in this matter has been vetted by both legal and PR experts, including not just what to say, but also when and where to say it.

There's also an even more sinister thought. It should be reasonably clear that the chances are quite high that this impeachment will go the way of the last two - acquittal. So the Democrats might already be preparing their "we lost because the election was manipulated" shtick in case Trump wins again. No party in any western country in recent history has made a serious effort at self-reflection to understand why they lost an election and that it just might be due to the politics they make and the promises they all break.

Note: Might sound like I support Trump, but actually I don't care and I think The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was right: The president's job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it.

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    Correction: impeachment is not removal from office. Trump would only be removed if 2/3 of the senators vote to do so, and he would be prevented from running again if 50% voted to do so in a subsequent vote. I can’t think why someone would vote to remove someone from office but allow them to be reelected/reappointed. So there’s no realistic scenario under which Pence would take office, then lose it back to Trump. – Bobson Dec 6 '19 at 19:50
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    Correct. The scenario is not that Pence takes office and then Trump again. The scenario is that Pence takes office and then runs for election in 2020. If you give him not enough time for a campaign, he won't do that. – Tom Dec 6 '19 at 22:19
  • Ah, I understand now, and it's a reasonable point. On the flip side, we haven't even started the actual primary season yet, so Pence would have just as much chance (if not more) to raise support and awareness as whomever the Democratic nominee ends up being. – Bobson Dec 7 '19 at 22:53
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Implicit in the question is an assumption that impeachment is a tactical decision, taken in hopes of winning the election, rather than a reaction to actual Presidential misconduct. That appears to be correct for at least one Democrat but, if one takes Pelosi at face value, is not the way she sees it. She says that her decision was driven by "the facts", by which she presumably means the Trump-Zelensky call.

In the absence of a mind-reading machine, I have no way of knowing for sure if that is true or not, but the timing of the start of the impeachment inquiry suggests that it is.

  • No reason for either/or, it could be both. – Jarrod Christman Dec 5 '19 at 17:50
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    If you are going to say Pelosi is primarily driven by the facts, then you'd have to explain how a detailed document where facts were laid out by a career law enforcement official, where he specifically said it would be up to Congress to act upon those facts, did not result in the same action. That suggests a considerable tactical component. – PoloHoleSet Dec 5 '19 at 20:14
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    @PoloHoleSet I think that the tactics may go as far as "we've got only one shot at this, so better make it count" rather than timing it closer to an election. – rubenvb Dec 6 '19 at 14:01
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The best reason to impeach now has nothing to do with Trump. For the 2020 election there are 23 Republican senators up for reelection. Come election day, they will likely have concluded the trial and voted. The gamble the Democrats are making, is that repercussions of the senators vote will allow them to pick up Senate seats. If the Senate majority flips to the Democrats, it doesn't matter as much if Trump is reelected.

4

He (allegedly) interfered with the 2020 election.

The accusation is that he is using a foreign government to help him influence the election. That means that the 2020 election likely isn't a fair election.

You can't let someone undermine the integrity of the election and then say that the only thing we can do is an election.

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One item that has not been answered yet is fundraising. It's pretty clear Trump will be aquitted in the Senate and that the impeachment stands a good chance at failing. But during the entire process, Democrats can raise funds with their base. Considering how divided Democrats have been during the presidential election process up until now, this will create a good fundraising opportunity since the base has been divided among 20+ candidates who have been siphoning funds off of each other (and are likely to keep them once they bow out of the race).

While it’s not the complete story, it is certainly is one reason why this is being done now.

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As already stated in one of the other answers, it couldn't be done until the Democrats acquired a majority in the House. Even then, Pelosi was reluctant to impeach despite the evidence presented in the Mueller report, because of ambiguity in the report and the risk of losing seats to the Republicans in both houses due to optics and spin. Between the release of the report and the release of the whistleblower complaint about the infamous Zelinsky call, Pelosi's position was that it was better to see Trump voted out in the 2020 election. Investigations into the complaint and the subject phone call revealed a concerted and ongoing effort to interfere in the 2020 election to the benefit of Trump. This not only provided incontrovertible evidence of impeachable conduct, but showed that urgent action was necessary for there to be any hope of a fair election in 2020. FWIW, Pelosi didn't shift her position on impeachment, she was forced to respond to the change in circumstance that resulted from the release of the whistleblower complaint.

The impeachment "timing" was basically the earliest it could be done with any hope of a successful outcome, and the earlier the better to head off interference in the next election. Delaying impeachment proceedings would allow time to gather more evidence and depose additional witnesses, strengthening the case, but would also allow for further interference to occur. It could be viewed as a judgement call - the case is strong enough; further delay imposes undue risk of damage to American democracy.

Another way to look at it is that it is the House's constitutional responsibility to apply the appropriate checks on President's actions. To not do so would be a failure of their duties under the constitution. Prior to the whistleblower complaint, there were plenty of indications of impeachable conduct by the president, but no solid case and no imminent threat to the fairness of the 2020 election (concerns were largely focused on the 2016 election). The whistleblower complaint and the investigation it triggered provided the case, the obligation for the House to act, and the urgency to act immediately.

  • +1 I think with this answer presents the points I tried to make better than mine does, but would benefit a lot from more sources to back up the various claims. – Peter Dec 7 '19 at 23:56

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