Robert Reich: 10 Big Takeaways From the Trump Impeachment Trial | Opinion

Don't get bogged down in the minutiae of President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial. Here are the 10 big things you need to know.

1. Did Trump commit an impeachable offense?

Yes. His attempt to get a foreign power to help him win the 2020 election is precisely the sort of thing the framers of the Constitution worried about when they created the impeachment clause. If presidents could seek foreign help to win elections, there would be no end of foreign intrusions into American sovereignty and democracy.

2. Will the Senate convict him and remove him from office?

No. The impeachment clause requires that two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict. Even if every one of the 45 Democratic and two independent senators vote to oust Trump, 20 Republican senators would need to join them in order for Trump to be removed from office. The odds that 20 Republican senators will do so are exactly zero.

3. Why won't they?

There are not 20 Republican senators with the courage and integrity to protect the Constitution and the nation from the most dangerous and demagogic president in history. Led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican senators are engaged in a concerted cover-up of some of the most outrageous conduct ever committed by high-level government officials. Even so-called moderate Republicans such as Senators Susan Collins and Mitt Romney can't be relied on to grow a spine and conduct a fair trial.

4. Why are they so spineless?

Because they want to keep their jobs, and they know that 88 percent of Republican voters approve of Trump. They fear Trump's sway over their voting base and his massive fundraising apparatus.

5. Why do 88 percent of Republican voters support him?

Because he has convinced them he's on their side and that he's the victim of a plot orchestrated by the establishment and "deep state" bureaucrats to oust him.

6. How has Trump retained the support of 88 percent of Republicans?

By lying constantly, casting the mainstream press as biased and untrustworthy, relying on his propaganda machine (Fox News and right-wing radio) to trumpet his lies, using Twitter and Facebook to deliver those lies directly to his followers, and fomenting the "culture war"—wielding deep divisions over race, guns, religion, abortion and immigrants—to fuel his base.

7. Where's the money to finance all this coming from?

Billionaires, CEOs, corporate executives and the denizens of Wall Street continue to fund the Republican Party and bankroll Trump and his propaganda machine. They're doing this because they're raking in billions thanks to the Trump-Republican tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks. Trump is already promising them more if he gets a second term. "The attitude of the business community toward the Trump administration appears quite positive," Stephen Schwarzman, who runs the huge private equity firm Blackstone, told The New York Times.

8. Will the House impeachment and Senate trial change public opinion about Trump?

No. Trump's overall job ratings haven't budged. In the most recent polls, 44 percent of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, while 53 percent say they disapprove. These percentages are almost exactly where they were in September, before the House launched its formal impeachment inquiry and voted to impeach Trump.

Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump walks to hold a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, D.C., on January 27. SAUL LOEB/AFP

9. What will Trump do now?

Trump will claim that his upcoming acquittal by the Senate clears him of all charges, just as he claimed that Attorney General William Barr's whitewash of the Robert Mueller report absolved him of charges that he sought Russian help in the 2016 election. He'll use both as "proof" that Democrats fabricated a plot to remove him from office.

10. What does this mean for the 2020 election?

None of this is likely to sway the majority of Americans who don't want Trump re-elected.

To be sure, the Republican Party will try to suppress the votes of likely Democrats, Russia will almost certainly try again to help Trump, billionaires and big corporations will spend vast sums seeking to get Trump re-elected, and the Electoral College will further handicap the Democratic candidate.

But Democrats and independents are fired up. The 2018 midterm elections featured the highest turnout of any midterm election since 1914, handing House Republicans their most resounding defeat in decades. The "blue wave" in 2020 could be a tsunami.

Robert Reich's latest book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Change It, will be out in March.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​