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Government & Politics

Professor's Impeachment Prediction Based On 'Deep Study' Of Trump's Character, Career


We're going to start the program today with the growing debate about whether to impeach President Trump. The Democrats who control the House are now in a standoff with the executive branch over a number of things - the full unredacted report of special counsel Robert Mueller, documents from former White House counsel Don McGahn, President Trump's tax returns and other financial records. Congress wants this information, and the White House so far is not giving in. Here's what Adam Schiff, who leads the House Intelligence Committee, said today on ABC's "This Week."


ADAM SCHIFF: These additional acts of obstruction - a president having obstructed the Justice Department investigation, now obstructing Congress - does add weight to impeachment. But, you know, part of our reluctance is we are already a bitterly divided country. An impeachment process will divide us further.

MARTIN: Now, Democrats have been on the fence about pursuing impeachment - and that includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - saying they prefer to take their fight to the voting booth next year, and they worry that impeachment will reflect poorly on them. So we thought this would be a good time to check back in with Allan Lichtman. Allan Lichtman is a professor of political science at American University who, with a colleague, developed a prediction model that successfully predicted every presidential election since 1984, including that of Donald Trump in 2016. But professor Lichtman also predicted that President Trump will be impeached.

Professor Lichtman, welcome back to the program. Thank you for joining us.

ALLAN LICHTMAN: My great pleasure.

MARTIN: So let me go back to 2016, when you began to predict that Donald Trump would be impeached. And this isn't based on your own political preferences. Let me be clear about that. Can you just describe for us why you said that...


MARTIN: ...Two years ago?

LICHTMAN: My impeachment prediction was based on a deep study of Donald Trump's character and his career over some 40 years. What I was able to discern was this was a president who is only concerned with his own prestige and his own power, not with the public good, that he had a history of lying, that this was a individual who had absolutely no respect for the law and would trample the law if he believed it served his personal political advantage. So this was the basis of my impeachment prediction - the study of Donald Trump prior to his presidential run.

MARTIN: You wrote a book in 2017 called "The Case For Impeachment." And in your book, you said, neither Republicans nor Democrats will tolerate a compromised or treacherous president and that an impeachment trial would be quick. Does the reaction of Republican leaders who are standing so firmly behind President Trump change your calculus at all?

LICHTMAN: It really hasn't. Right now, the onus is on the Democrats. This is their historical moment. As Shakespeare put it, the tide is at the flood. They're either going to seize the tide at the flood, or they're going to be washed away by history and be reviled as worse enablers of Donald Trump than even the Republicans.

This is not a time for timidity on the part of Democrats. This is a time for boldness. You have now 45% of the American people calling for impeachment. That's before the House votes any articles. That's before trial. That's higher than the percentage that wanted to see Richard Nixon impeached when they began the impeachment process against him.

So right now, I am very disappointed with the Democrats. They are making the same mistake Democrats always make - being too timid, playing not to lose. And that is a sure remedy for losing and a sure recipe for not doing your constitutional duty. The only way to hold this president accountable with real pain is through impeachment, which strikes at his power and his brand.

MARTIN: For those who say that they're still skeptical, they say two things. They harken back to the Clinton impeachment, and then they say that the Democrats paid a price for this subsequently at the polls. And then secondly, that this is so divisive that there has to be some sort of smoking gun evidence that is persuasive to Republicans before they think it would be prudent to proceed. What do you say to that?

LICHTMAN: First, the Democrats misread the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Sure, Republicans lost a few House seats in 1998. But they kept the House, and the impeachment of Bill Clinton gave them a vastly bigger prize - the presidency of the United States. A quarter of the voters in post-election polls said the scandal was very important to their vote. Secondly, yes, things are divisive. But that doesn't mean you turn away from your duty. If, in fact, the president has done nothing wrong, as he claims, then he should welcome a trial to clear the air. It's the only way.

And in terms of the 2020 election, the Democrats again are misreading the politics. According to my "Keys To The White House," which have been right since 1984, right now, Trump is favored to win election, and you're going to need to turn the scandal key to diminish his chances for 2020.

And the final point is, yes, Republicans are united against him. But who knows what might happen after a trial if damning evidence is presented against the president? You know, the Democrats have principles, but they need to add courage, or they're going to be - go down in the dustbin of history.

MARTIN: That was professor Allan Lichtman of American University. He's a political historian, and he's the author of "The Case For Impeachment," which was published in 2017.

Professor Lichtman, thank you so much for talking to us.

LICHTMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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