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Now that Democrats have lit the impeachment fuse, there will be no holding back the explosion.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the formal impeachment inquiry Tuesday without waiting for the release of the transcript of President Donald Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president in which he encouraged an investigation into an alleged scheme by former Vice President Joe Biden's to enrich his son, Hunter.

The partial transcript, made public Wednesday, indicates Trump did ask the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens, but didn't link the request to the withholding of U.S. aid.

Pelosi didn't need to wait for the details. They were never going to deter Democrats, who felt they had finally found the smoking gun they've been hunting for since Election Day 2016.

Just like with the Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, each piece of exculpatory evidence produced by the White House will be followed by a demand for another piece.

Pelosi had resisted launching the formal impeachment proceedings, recognizing the American public didn't support such a disruptive exercise. Now, she apparently believes Trump's sleazy effort to enlist foreign help in embarrassing his main Democratic rival will move them.

Maybe it will. I'm not about to defend what Trump did. But I do fear the impeachment process will further shred a country that is dangerously divided by hyper partisanship. And to no good end.

Trump will be impeached. Count on it. Now that the inquiry has begun, it's on cruise control and the outcome is inevitable.

Democrats who see impeachable offenses in every Trump Tweet can't possibly come to the end of the hearings and not vote to impeach the president, regardless of the quality of the evidence produced.

To do so would make a lie out of everything they've said about him for three years. They may as well skip the hearings and schedule the vote.

So Pelosi's Democratic House will impeach the president and send his fate to the Senate. Just as predictably, that GOP-controlled chamber will not convict Trump, no matter how concrete the case presented by the House.

The country, then, will spend the next several months tearing itself apart and, just as with the Bill Clinton impeachment, in the end the president will still be sitting in the White House.

Pelosi knows this. Her expectation is not to remove Trump, but to fatally wound his reelection bid. That could backfire, of course. If the country concludes, as it did with Clinton, that this is a politically motivated witch hunt, it could rally those Trump voters who went dormant in 2018. If it becomes damaging to the economy, Democrats could pay a price.

In 13 months, Americans will go to the polls to decide whether to keep Trump or replace him. He has made, and continues to make, a powerful case against his reelection. 

Rather than put the country though a wrenching impeachment, Democrats should have trusted the electorate to deal with Trump and, better, offer up a compelling alternative to take his place, something they haven't done with their current field.

nfinley@detroitnews.com 

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN 

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