Here's Why Trump Jr.'s Emails Still Don't Mean Impeachment Is Definitely Coming

by John Haltiwanger
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If you're hoping that Donald Trump Jr.'s email scandal involving Russia is a sure sign impeachment is on the way, you might want to pump the brakes a bit.

Yes, it's true that this entire situation looks really bad for the Trump administration/campaign, and could possibly amount to a violation of federal campaign laws and perhaps even treason.

To quickly summarize what's occurred: During the campaign, Trump Jr. walked into a meeting with a lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, linked to the Kremlin under the perception he'd receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton provided by the Russian government as part of its overall effort to aid Trump's candidacy.

What's more, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, who was Trump's campaign chair at the time, also tagged along.

And we have the emails to prove it.

For his part, Trump Jr. has maintained that his behavior was unremarkable, saying in a tweeted statement that Veselnitskaya, "was not a government official" and that "she had no information to provide and wanted to talk about adoption policy."

In any case, it's not exactly a good situation for team Trump, and some argue it's the first solid proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the U.S. election.

But, impeachment is a complicated and rare process -- it doesn't happen overnight.

Impeachment rarely happens, and it's a complex process.

There are a lot of things that need to occur for impeachment to happen, it's dependent on many factors.

For context: Only two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have ever been impeached. Both were ultimately acquitted in the Senate.

Richard Nixon resigned as he faced the prospect of impeachment over the infamous Watergate scandal (people often get this wrong, but that's understandable given he would've undoubtedly been removed from office).

But, it will take a lot to impeach President Donald Trump.

First of all, while this Trump Jr. situation is unquestionably a big deal, there's still no clear evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of the Trump administration.

Shady or unethical behavior does not necessarily qualify as criminal behavior.

On top of this, Republicans control Congress, and they're highly unlikely to eat one of their own (impeachment doesn't happen without Congress).

Experts caution against hoping for impeachment.

Legal experts seem to agree that Trump Jr. likely broke the law, but probably isn't guilty of treason.

They also seem to agree impeachment is really only a possibility if the president had full knowledge of Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer.

Michael Gerhardt, who teaches at the University of North Carolina School Law in Chapel Hill, told Slate's Dahlia Lithwick what Trump Jr. did reveal he's "likely broken federal law prohibiting meetings and exchanges of the kind he had."

Gerhardt added that if President Trump or other high-ranking members of his administration were aware of or participated in meetings such as this, "there would be at the very least a basis for an impeachment inquiry."

Susan Bloch, a constitutional law professor at Georgetown and expert on impeachment, told Massoud Hayoun of Pacific Standard Magazine she believes we're "very far" from impeachment.

In Bloch's view, the news surrounding Trump Jr.'s emails/meeting is "significant," but she added she's "not sure that from what we know so far that there's anything criminal."

Long story short, it's early to begin talking about impeachment. We need to await more details.

But, it would be pretty ironic if Trump was ultimately impeached due to emails sent by his son and namesake, especially given how often he criticized Hillary Clinton over her controversial use of a private email server.