Following Buzzfeed’s publication on Thursday 17 January of an article which claimed that Donald Trump had instructed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the US president’s business ties with Russia, odds markets went into over-drive on a Trump impeachment going into the weekend.
Wisdom-of-the-Crowds platform PredictIt saw shares in the outcome being traded at 54c [corresponding to an implied probability of 54%] – a record high for the market, having climbed from 48c only a few hours earlier.
However, in an unusual step, Robert Mueller’s office swiftly issued a public statement denying Buzzfeed’s claims – the first such statement coming from Mueller as part of his ongoing investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony .. are not accurate,” stated a spokesman for Mueller’s office.
The result has been a collapse in the market’s pricing of a Trump impeachment, with the market now trading at 48c once more – Mueller’s statement having effectively wiped out the sudden gains arising from the Buzzfeed piece.
Buzzfeed, however, struck back almost immediately in a Tweet reaffirming its original claims, and asking Mueller’s office to provide further details on the inaccuracy – something which Mueller is unlikely to provide in the context of an investigation which remains ongoing, and whose report may not be fully disclosed to the public even when it is published.
In response to the statement tonight from the Special Counsel’s spokesman: We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) January 19, 2019
The Trump impeachment market continues to enjoy some of the highest volume of trading on PredictIt for any political market. The outcome is not predicated, however, on Donald Trump’s removal from office.
Requiring only that Congress approves one or more articles of impeachment to be directed at the president, “neither trial nor conviction by the U.S. Senate, nor removal from office, is necessary to cause this market to resolve as Yes,” the platform states.
With a 30-day rolling average currently hovering at around 50c, most analysts have essentially been interpreting longer-term market sentiment as an effective coin toss on an impeachment outcome.
Only two presidents in US history have been impeached – Andrew Johnson in 1867 and Bill Clinton in 1998, with both motions having subsequently been voted down in subsequent Senate votes. With a current Republican majority in the Senate, few political commentators expect a successful impeachment of Donald Trump at any stage.