The Slatest

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Pelosi Reportedly Set to Flip, Announce “Formal Impeachment Inquiry”

Rep. Antonio Delgado, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, and Rep. Mikie Sherrill.
From left: Rep. Antonio Delgado, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, and Rep. Mikie Sherrill.* Photos by U.S. House Office of Photography/House Creative Services

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.

It’s happening! Probably!

As recently as Monday morning, cautious Democrats were merely hinting that Donald Trump’s suppression of a whistleblower complaint involving his demand that Ukraine stage a corruption investigation of Joe Biden’s son was something that might lead to impeachment. As of Tuesday, though, even Dems who represent House districts that Trump won in 2016 are saying, straight out, that it’s impeachin’ time. Take, for instance, New York Rep. Antonio Delgado, who’s from a district that Trump won by 7 points, on Tuesday morning:

The key event here seems to have been the decision by seven freshman House Dems who have worked in national security or served in the military to announce in the Washington Post, in an op-ed published Monday night, that they are fed up:

The president of the United States may have used his position to pressure a foreign country into investigating a political opponent, and he sought to use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to do it. … If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense. We do not arrive at this conclusion lightly, and we call on our colleagues in Congress to consider the use of all congressional authorities available to us, including the power of “inherent contempt” and impeachment hearings, to address these new allegations, find the truth and protect our national security.

(By the way, here’s some background on what Hunter Biden actually did in Ukraine; the long-story-short of it is that he was on the board of a company that was at one point the subject of an investigation that’s been dropped, but there’s no evidence he was ever personally under scrutiny or that the investigation was dropped because of political pressure.)

That group of seven includes four women—Virginia Rep. Elaine Luria, New Jersey Rep. Mikie Sherrill, Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin, and Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger—who represent predominately white, middle-class, suburbs-y districts that flipped to the Democrats in 2018. With this section of the caucus supporting immediate impeachment proceedings, there’s going to be little excuse for those in much safer seats not to do so. [Update, Sept. 24, 2019, at 12:30 p.m.: Longtime Georgia Rep. John Lewis just gave a speech on the House floor in which he said that “The time to begin impeachment proceedings against this president has come,” which would seem to presage similar announcements by other senior Democrats.] [Update, Sept. 24, 2019, at 1:05 p.m.: Longtime D.C. writer Howard Fineman is reporting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will announce ” a formal impeachment inquiry” later Tuesday and “imply” that she herself supports impeachment.]

The question then becomes: Will Democrats actually vote to impeach when the proceedings are finished? It’s hard to see logically why they’d end up backing down in this particular case given that Trump has already admitted to bringing up Biden with Ukraine’s president at the same time that he was already known to have been withholding aid from the country. But perhaps no explicit “pro” between the quid and the quo will be discovered, public polling on the subject will show that support for booting the president from office is still tepid, and swing Dems will decide to let the matter drop. The Meter is up … but not that far up.

The Impeach-O-Meter shows a 60 percent likelihood of impeachment.
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 Image

Correction, Sept. 24, 2019: A photo caption in this post originally misidentified Mikie Sherrill as Elissa Slotkin.