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Democrats need to wake up from the dream of a smoking gun that would kill Donald Trump's presidency.

Since Election Day 2016, the Democratic fantasy has been finding indisputable justification for removing the president from office via impeachment.

It hasn't materialized, and likely won't.

Their last hurrah came Wednesday with the appearance of former special counsel Robert Mueller before two House committees. The hope was that, in Mueller's own voice, his inconclusive report on Russian collusion in the election and obstruction of justice by the administration would come to life and point a damning finger at Trump.

Instead, Mueller's awkward and often contradictory testimony changed nothing. 

Democrats want a majority of voters behind them before they launch an impeachment effort. Mueller's report failed to convince Americans of the urgent need to abort Trump's presidency in midterm.

Going into the hearings, just 21% of registered voters believed there was enough evidence to justify impeachment proceedings. Most significantly, the independents who will be critical in the 2020 presidential balloting oppose impeachment by a wide margin. 

But Democrats couldn't let go. Noting that most voters haven't read Mueller's 448-page report, they were counting on a carefully staged theater in the hearing rooms to so outrage the electorate that it would give them the popular cover for impeachment. Committee members even staged a dress rehearsal before Mueller's testimony to get the drama just right.

But their leading man fizzled on stage.

Now, the chance that Nancy Pelosi will risk an unpopular impeachment simply to appease the more Trump-deranged members of her caucus is slim.

And even if she bowed to the pressure, time is running out. Impeachment would begin in the Democratic-controlled House, which would debate the evidence and determine whether to bring charges. Republicans would have a voice in the proceedings, and could prolong the debate.

If articles of impeachment are approved, the case against Trump would move to a trial before the Republican-controlled Senate. There, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, would assure the president is not convicted.

By then, the 2020 election will be upon us. And that's where Trump's fitness for office should be decided.

Ending a presidency at the ballot box is far preferable to terminating one through a partisan-driven political maneuver.

Impeaching Trump was always a pipe dream, and now it's busted. Instead of trying to destroy his presidency early, Democrats should prove the superiority of their leadership by actually leading on some of the issues that have fallen victim to their resistance.

nfinley@detroitnews.com 

Catch “The Nolan Finley Show” weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.

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