Online searches for ‘How to impeach a President’ soared 5,000 per cent on the day Donald Trump won the US election.
What started out as concerns over how the billionaire would manage his vast business interests has morphed into fears over Russia’s involvement in the election and, specifically, Mr Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey – the man meant to investigate the interference.
A year ago when Trump became President-elect in the shock election, the odds of him being impeached were 10/1.
Over the course of the year they have gradually shortened.
When Trump introduced his ‘Muslim ban’ in January they shortened to 2/1; national security adviser Michael Flynn was found to be speaking to Russia they shortened still further to 6/4.
Most recently, following the arrest of three of his aides, they now stand at 7/2.
According to a Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll in the middle of August, support for impeaching Trump, who has repeatedly insisted he has done nothing wrong, has risen markedly as his term has progressed.
In fact, 40 per cent of Americans think Trump he should be impeached, up 10 percentage points from February. More than seven in ten (72%) Democrats now approve of impeaching him – up 14 percentage points from six months previously.
This month, three individuals with links to Trump’s campaign – Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos and Rick Gates – were also indicted by Comey’s successor in charge of the Russia inquiry, Robert Mueller.
All this has only served to stoke the flames of anticipation around his impeachment.
History, though, suggests this is unlikely to ever happen.
The US Constitution states there are only a few reasons to impeach a president – ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours.’
Only two presidents in US history have ever been impeached.
The first was Andrew Johnson, the 17th president. Impeached on 24 February, 1868, he was accused of violating the Tenure of Office Act three days after firing his Secretary of War without upper Congress approval.
Bill Clinton was the second, on 19 December, 1998, following his extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky and the lies that followed.
Both were eventually cleared because impeachment requires a majority in the House of Representatives to go to trial and a two-thirds majority in the Senate.
As it stands, the house is split 238:193 Republican and Democrat respectively, making that process even harder.
And though impeachment may be unlikely, according to research company Gallup, Trump’s latest approval rating is a mere 35% – and he’s already spent more time below the 40% mark in his first year than any previous US president.
‘Most presidents begin with a honeymoon period and then go down from that, and Trump had no honeymoon,’ said Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport.
President Truman was the only person to spend months below the 40% line and to be re-elected.
But even if it’s unlikely to be successful, people are still trying to impeach Trump, one way or another.
Larry Flynt, best known as the publisher for Hustler Magazine, posted an ad calling for information surrounding Trump’s impeachment in The Washington Post. Including no pictures or fancy fonts, it simply read: ‘$10 MILLION FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO THE IMPEACHMENT AND REMOVAL FROM OFFICE OF DONALD J. TRUMP.’
The ad called for Trump to be impeached on a variety of conditions ranging from ‘compromising domestic and foreign policy with his massive conflicts-of-interest global business empire’ to ‘telling hundreds of bald-faced lies’ and ‘gross nepotism and appointment of unqualified persons to high office.’
The Democratic Party, and in particular Rep. Luis Gutiérrez – one of Trump’s most prominent critics – are also working towards the goal of impeachment. Previous efforts are already known, and Rep Gutiérrez told The Hill just last week: ‘I assure you we will not leave you lacking for reason.’
The most recent high-profile person to invest their money in an impeachment process is Tom Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund operator.
He bought ad space on Fox TV and created an advert calling for the US president to be taken out of the White House. ‘People in Congress and his own administration know that this president is a clear and present danger, who’s mentally unstable and armed with nuclear weapons, and they do nothing,’ he said.
His $10 million ‘Need to Impeach’ ad campaign was launched in October and already has more than 1.5 million signatures.
Although a petition may not be representative of the general public’s thoughts, betting odds have shortened on Trump’s impeachment over the course of the year.
Data from Paddy Power put Trump’s impeachment at 2/1 on 31 January when he introduced his Muslim travel ban.
On 16 February, when Michael Flynn resigned amid Russian accusations, the odds were 6/4; and on 9 May, when Trump fired James Comey at the height of Russian scandal, the odds were 4/6.
The most likely reasons for impeachment are treason (10-3), followed by tax evasion (4-1); perjury (7-1) and bribery (10-1).
An organisation called ‘ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow’ has received more than 1,200,000 signatures in support of its online petition. Edward Erikson, from the campaign, told Yahoo News UK more than 250,000 signatures were added to the petition on the day of Trump’s inauguration.
He said: ‘We argue that Trump was in violation on the day he took the oath of office, of both the domestic and foreign emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution because he failed to divest from his business holdings prior to assuming the office.
‘We have since expanded the call for impeachment proceedings to include obstruction of justice and other abuses of power.’