The Slatest

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Is Having an Online Meltdown a Good Defense Strategy?

Trump, walking outside the White House, holds a plaque in the air such that it blocks his face.
Donald Trump holds a National Sheriffs’ Association award at the White House on Sept. 26.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The original Impeach-O-Meter was a wildly subjective and speculative estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump would be removed before his term ended. Republicans have since established that there’s nothing that Trump could do to lose their support, making a conviction in the GOP-held Senate inconceivable. But as evidence of the president’s criminal unfitness for office continues to accumulate, an increasing number of Democrats are willing to say that he should be held accountable, at the least, via impeachment proceedings in the House. So we’ve relaunched the Impeach-O-Meter as a (still wildly subjective and speculative) estimate of the likelihood that the House votes to impeach Trump before the end of his first term.

House Democrats are launching their investigation of Donald Trump’s Ukraine extortion scheme with what for them is an unusual level of urgency. But it will still take some time to obtain documents and schedule witnesses, so there haven’t any major substantive developments in the story since last Friday. The facts that are already public about it are incriminating, though—and, because the bulk of the evidence against the president comes from a document whose release he authorized, they’re also unusually spin-resistant.

Perhaps relatedly, public polling is consistently finding majority support for impeachment hearings.

With both the facts and the public against him, Trump is, to use a political science term, going berserk. On Sunday he sent or retweeted 20 Twitter posts about a Fox News host, Ed Henry, who’d suggested in measured terms that Trump’s conduct toward Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky may not have been appropriate. (One of the retweets referred to Henry as a “lying shit head.”) Then he wrote out and endorsed a statement that MAGA megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress made on Fox in which Jeffress warned that impeachment would cause a “Civil War-like fracture.” Finally, Trump has begun demanding that House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff be arrested and “questioned at the highest level” for committing treason, the alleged treason having occurred when Schiff paraphrased Trump’s conversation with Zelensky in the manner of a Mafia-style shakedown during a hearing last Thursday:

(Schiff made clear before his account of the conversation that he was conveying its “essence” in “not so many words,” not reading it verbatim.)

Trump’s party does not seem to be embracing this crisis-response approach. GOP Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger (who represents a district that Trump won by 17 points) called the civil war tweet “beyond repugnant,” while Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who typically finds that Senate rules require him to do exactly what is most politically beneficial for the Republican Party, announced that Senate rules require him to hold a trial—as opposed to having a quick vote to dismiss charges or ignoring the issue altogether—if the House votes to impeach:

At some point, you’d have to imagine that the brain-possessing members of the GOP will force Trump to start taking some better legal and political advice. But it’s also starting to become possible to at least begin to think about imagining that said advice will be “you should resign because you’ve screwed everything up.” And that’s when things will really start to get interesting, because he definitely won’t want to do that!

The impeach-o-meter is set to 80 percent.
Illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo and Lisa Larson-Walker/Slate. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images.