UPDATE Aug. 17, 2017: A prominent Tennessee congressman said it's high time President Donald Trump was removed from office, following heated comments the president made Tuesday in defense of white nationalist protesters who participated in the deadly Charlottesville, Virginia rally last weekend.
Rep. Steve Cohen announced via Twitter Thursday he is introducing articles of impeachment against Trump, saying he had "failed the presidential test of moral leadership."
“Instead of unequivocally condemning hateful actions by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Klansmen following a national tragedy, the President said ‘there were very fine people on both sides,’” Cohen said in a statement. “There are no good Nazis. There are no good Klansmen.”
Cohen will be the second congressman to introduce articles of impeachment, following the lead of California Rep. Brad Sherman.
Original Aug. 16, 2017: President Trump has attracted intense criticism for his handling of the domestic terror attack last Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a neo-Nazi rammed a car into a crowd protesting a white-supremacist rally, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
The president's response was slow and vague, many said: On Saturday, he laid blame on "many sides." Only after intense political pressure did Trump condemn white-supremacist groups by name, two days after the tragedy.
On Tuesday, he reverted to his "many sides" argument, seemingly defending the racist hate groups. He said there were "many fine people" on that side in attendance in Charlottesville, and asked why the "alt-left" hadn't attracted blame for the altercations.
The president's remarks drew bipartisan condemnation, with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) criticizing Trump by name. “The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win. We can not allow this old evil to be resurrected,” tweeted Rubio after doing so.
Will Trump be impeached?
Some Democrats had previously called for Trump's impeachment over the mushrooming Russia investigation, and those calls have grown after Charlottesville. On Monday, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), tweeted, "My Republican friends, I implore you to work w/ us within our capacity as elected officials to remove @realDonaldTrump as #POTUS. #Impeach45"
“POTUS is showing signs of erratic behavior and mental instability that place the country in grave danger,” tweeted Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA). “Time to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
What are the odds that the president will be impeached? Not likely, says Vanity Fair.
The 25th Amendment would require Trump's Cabinet to give him a vote of no confidence, thus installing Vice President Mike Pence. Not only is that unprecedented, Trump's Cabinet shows signs of sticking with him so far. No resignations have been tendered, despite calls for them by Republicans like MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, a former communications director for President George W. Bush. Today, economic adviser Gary Cohn, who is Jewish, said that he would stay.
The president's impeachment odds come down to political calculus: As long as Trump's Republican base is loyal, he seems to be safe. Although the president's approval ratings are historically low nationwide — around 34% after Charlottesville — they are still high among Republicans: Almost 79%, even though that number has fallen 6 points in a week. Analysts say that's why Republican politicians have been slow to criticize the president, much less break with him.
That will only change if the base erodes significantly. “For every vote you lose on a Republican right now, you don’t gain it with an independent,” a Republican strategist told Vanity Fair in June. “If that changes and he's not as popular among Republicans, and you do get some benefit—you get more benefit out of going to the middle than you do being with the president, then that's when you would see the wheels start to come off.”
And the effect of Charlottesville on the base has yet to be fully seen. Said Business Insider’s Josh Barro: “There is a large portion of Trump's white voter base that's really offended by the idea they are associated with white nationalists or overt racists—even if, at the same time, appeals to white resentment are a part of what draws them to Trump.”
This week's polling will provide a clearer picture of where the momentum lies.