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Trump's economic shield against impeachment

Illustration of an upward trending line graph with a knot in the middle
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

President Trump always counted on the economy to carry him to re-election, but now he's testing it as a central argument against impeachment.

Why it matters: If Americans see their economic fortunes tied to whether Trump is impeached, it could make Democrats' next moves on impeachment that much harder — and give Trump a new insurance policy for the general election.

His argument has two parts:

  • Americans would be crazy to eject someone from office who is presiding over historically low unemployment and high stock gains.
  • If the economy tanks before November 2020, don't blame Trump — blame Democrats for fomenting uncertainty and gridlock via impeachment.

Driving the news: Trump goaded Democrats on Twitter Friday when the latest jobs numbers showed the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to a 50-year low: "Wow, America, lets [sic] impeach your President (even though he did nothing wrong!)."

  • But about the same time, the Trump campaign's communications director, Tim Murtaugh, pushed a parallel message about the perils of impeachment: "They are willing to plunge the whole country and people’s lives into turmoil through impeachment talk, all because of their hatred of @realDonaldTrump."

The big picture: If the election were today, Trump could run on some very strong results including positive signs for Latinos and African Americans. But there are already signs the economy is buckling under the weight of Trump's trade war.

As Axios' Dion Rabouin notes:

  • The U.S. manufacturing sector has been in recession all year, and the latest reading showed the industry falling into an outright contraction and at its weakest point since the financial crisis.
  • U.S. services have been following manufacturing lower this year, with this week's data showing the sector at its weakest in 3 years.
  • The U.S. Treasury yield curve has been inverted since May — a near-perfect recession indicator economists at the Federal Reserve recently called "the best summary measure" of a looming economic downturn.
  • Income inequality in the U.S. grew last year to its highest level in more than 50 years, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released this week.
  • Though Trump has touted "tremendous" growth in the U.S. stock market since he became president, the S&P 500 is within spitting distance of where it traded around 2 years ago.

Be smart: Trump already plans to blame Democrats and impeachment — and minimize his own responsibility — if legislation on trade, prescription drug prices, gun safety and infrastructure stalls this fall.

  • But the economy could be an especially potent issue in swing states he needs to hold next year, if he can convince voters impeachment has anything to do with it.