Donald Trump 'will almost certainly be impeached'

Americans are waking up to a day of great political theatre, one that is certain to drive the TV networks into a frenzy.

It’s 21 years since we last witnessed a televised impeachment hearing.

Throw in the most polarising figure in recent American history, social media hysteria, and the hyper-partisanship of Congress, and - yes - this will be the greatest circus for decades.

We may not learn much that is new on Wednesday - but this will be the moment when the impeachment of Donald J Trump becomes deadly serious, commanding the full attention of Americans.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called a vote to previously authorise an investigation into Donald Trump. Credit: AP

At 10am local time, in a cavernous committee room on Capitol Hill, Democrats will launch the public phase of the impeachment of America’s 45th president.

They will call witnesses and by extension attempt to persuade voters they are not engaged in a petty, partisan witch hunt but in a solemn constitutional obligation.

The first witness is Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine.

He has already given damaging testimony behind closed doors.

He is expected to repeat - this time with the cameras rolling - that he saw alarming evidence that US foreign policy was hijacked by rogue players surrounding President Trump.

That is critical to the Democrats' belief that Trump was putting pressure on the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden.

Trump was reportedly putting pressure on the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden. Credit: AP

The outcome is not really in doubt.

This is a realty TV show where there is drama but not much suspense.

The US president will almost certainly be impeached. In other words, the Democrat-controlled House will pass Articles of Impeachment next month and leave a black mark against Trump for the history books.

But for him to be removed from office requires the Republican-controlled Senate to "convict" him by a two-thirds majority.

Without a major surprise in the hearings, that is not going to happen.

So Trump is likely to end this process in the same condition as Bill Clinton in 1998. Impeached but still in office. Wounded but alive.

President Clinton during his grand jury deposition in 1998. Credit: AP

But there is a difference. Clinton was in his second term and didn’t have to face voters again. Trump is less than a year away from a presidential election.

So as we watch these television hearings, there is another way to view them. Not as a serious attempt to evict him from the White House, but as a high-stakes warm-up act for the 2020 election.

For all the noise of the next few weeks, and raucous debate it will ignite, Americans voters, not members of Congress, will ultimately decide Trump’s fate.