Oct 15th 2019

Will Trump Be Removed from Office?

 

WASHINGTON, DC – For the first time, reasonable people in the United States have begun to speculate that President Donald Trump could be convicted by the Senate and thus removed from office. The likelihood is still low, but Trump’s position is weakening, and opinion polls are steadily moving against him. It is widely assumed that the House of Representatives will vote to impeach him, sending the question of his presidency to the Senate, where a two-thirds vote is needed and Republicans hold a majority.

Trump has been behaving nearly hysterically in public, his language increasingly reckless and vulgar. And he’s made major foreign-policy errors that have enraged members of his own party. Trump’s agreement, in a late-night call with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to remove US troops in northeastern Syria incited a calamity there (not for the first time, America betrayed its Kurdish allies). Turkish troops have now entered northeastern Syria and Syrian forces are advancing there as well. ISIS prisoners have escaped from some prisons once guarded by Kurds. 

Russia, no surprise, is once more at the heart of Trump’s foreign policy and is benefiting both from Trump agreeing to Erdogan’s request and his allies’ pressure on Ukraine. Trump tends to believe any fantasy he is told, in particular conspiracy theories about the 2016 election – in this case that the real culprit wasn’t Russia, which has been proven to have helped Trump, but Ukraine. Trump wanted Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate a myth put in Trump’s head by his personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani: that Ukraine helped his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton.

Giuliani’s role in the Ukraine scandal has been coming to light in the US, and an army of reporters is now trying to track down what else he’s been up to that affects US foreign policy and domestic politics, as well as who his other clients are – and who is paying him in his supposed role as Trump’s private attorney. Giuliani, once the much-admired mayor of New York City, has become a macabre figure of national mirth, seemingly out of control in his numerous television appearances. It’s known that he had business interests of his own in Ukraine – including in the highly corrupt natural gas industry, in which Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, sat on the board of a company at a time that his father was vice president and charged with cleaning up Ukraine’s widespread corruption. (No misdeeds by either Biden have been found.)

And then two Russian-born clients of Giuliani’s, who had been living in the US and were also involved in Ukraine’s energy industry, were arrested at Dulles airport outside Washington, charged with having made illegal campaign contributions of $630,000, beginning in 2016, to Republican candidates and political action committees, including $325,000 to a pro-Trump PAC. Trump denied that he knew the two men, despite photos of the three of them at a White House dinner. “I have a picture with everybody,” Trump said. This money is believed to have been provided by a Russian oligarch.

These donations included a large one to a Republican congressman whom they successfully pressed to demand the dismissal of the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who had been pursuing an anti-corruption agenda. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fired Yovanovitch in May, though a State Department official told her she had done nothing wrong. Despite White House objections, Yovanovitch testified behind closed doors before a House subcommittee. But she did release to the public her opening statement, which emphasized the “hollowing out” of the State Department during the Trump presidency.

State Department personnel have reportedly become all the more demoralized by Pompeo’s role in carrying out Trump’s political agenda, in particular his perceived failure to protect Yovanovitch, a respected career Foreign Service officer. Pompeo is known to have presidential ambitionsand has been careful not to alienate Trump or his followers. Several department officials were also troubled by Giuliani’s foreign-policy freelancing, and Giuliani is now under criminal investigation for violating lobbying laws.

Trump’s colossal blunder in agreeing to Erdoğan’s request to pull US troops out of the way so that Turkey could invade Kurdish-controlled territory in northeastern Syria worsened his political situation considerably. The Kurds enjoy bipartisan support for their loyalty to the US in Iraq and Syria, and now the US was selling them out. Trump came under searing attack even from Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the few Republican politicians to defend Trump’s approach to Zelensky. Also, most unusually, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was critical. “A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” McConnell said. “And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.” Trump’s defense of the decision was truly bizarre: the Kurds hadn’t helped the US during the World War II Normandy invasion. A bipartisan congressional group prepared tough sanctions to be imposed on Turkey. Trump imposed some that were weaker.

Trump recently lost a string of court cases, including one on whether he must turn over his tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, and another on his declaration of a national security emergency in order to divert military construction funds to pay for his infamous wall. Now, he has threatened to sue Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff for trying to impeach him. Trump has a longtime habit of making such threats and not following through. But Trump did have his White House counsel send Pelosi a letter asserting that the impeachment inquiry is unconstitutional and vowing that the administration will not cooperate with it at all. Trump’s defiance of Congress virtually guarantees that he will be impeached for obstruction, among other possible charges. Further testimony damaging to Trump is expected this week.

Assuming the House ultimately votes to impeach Trump, the fact remains that there are far fewer votes in the Senate than will be needed to convict him and remove him from office. But the willingness of Congress – including the Senate – to continue tolerating his dangerous conduct in office, including threats to US national security, is now truly in question.


Elizabeth Drew is a Washington-based journalist and the author, most recently, of Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall. 

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2019.

 


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More Current Affairs

Nov 14th 2019
Extract: "Trump, who understands almost nothing about governing, made a major mistake in attacking career public officials from the outset of his presidency. He underestimated – or just couldn’t fathom – the honor of people who could earn more in the private sector but believe in public service. And he made matters worse for himself as well as for the government by creating a shadow group – headed by the strangely out-of-control Rudy Giuliani, once a much-admired mayor of New York City, and now a freelance troublemaker serving as Trump’s personal attorney – to impose the president’s Ukraine policy over that of “the bureaucrats.” "
Nov 4th 2019
Extract: "Trump displays repeated and persistent behaviours consistent with narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. These behaviours include craving for adulation, lack of empathy, aggression and vindictiveness towards opponents, addiction to lying, and blatant disregard for rules and conventions, among others." The concern is that leaders with these two disorders may be incapable of putting the interests of the country ahead of their own personal interests. Their compulsive lying may make rational action impossible and their impulsiveness may make them incapable of the forethought and planning necessary to lead the country. They lack empathy and are often motivated by rage and revenge, and could make quick decisions that could have profoundly dangerous consequences for democracy.
Oct 31st 2019
EXTRACT: "......let’s see what happens when we have less money for all the things we want to do as a country and as individuals. Promises and predictions regarding Brexit will soon be tested against reality. When they are, I wouldn’t want to be one of Johnson’s Brexiteers."
Oct 21st 2019
EXTRACT: "Were Israel to be attacked with the same precision and sophistication as the strike on Saudi Arabia, the Middle East would be plunged into war on a scale beyond anything it has experienced so far. Sadly (but happily for Russian President Vladimir Putin), that is the reality of a world in which the US has abandoned any pretense of global leadership."
Oct 20th 2019
EXTRACT: "Europe also stands to lose from Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds. If, in the ongoing chaos, the thousands of ISIS prisoners held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces escape – as some already have – America’s estranged European allies will suffer. Yet Trump is unconcerned. “Well, they are going to be escaping to Europe, that’s where they want to go,” he remarked casually at a press conference. “They want to go back to their homes." "
Oct 15th 2019
EXTRACT: "Assuming the House ultimately votes to impeach Trump, the fact remains that there are far fewer votes in the Senate than will be needed to convict him and remove him from office. But the willingness of Congress – including the Senate – to continue tolerating his dangerous conduct in office, including threats to US national security, is now truly in question."
Oct 7th 2019
EXTRACT: "The problem didn't start with the election of Donald Trump. Nor did it begin with the Democrats launching an impeachment inquiry against Trump. This is a developing crisis that has been growing like a cancer within our polity for at least the past 25 years. Its main symptoms are a lack of civility in our political discourse, a "take no prisoners" mindset, and a denial of the very legitimacy of "the other side." Trump didn't create this crisis; he was the result of it.   When Newt Gingrich took the helm of Congress in 1995, unlike previous Republican leaders, he embarked on a campaign not only to obstruct the efforts of then President Clinton, but to destroy him. Congress launched a series of investigations accusing Clinton of everything from corruption to obstruction of justice – with hints of even more nefarious plots to assassinate those who might pose a problem to his presidency.  "
Oct 4th 2019
EXTRACT: "As the story spreads, it grows darker. Meanwhile, Trump is trying to learn the identity of the whistleblower (who is protected by law), which could expose that person to great danger. And he is accusing some people – including Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee – of treason. My sense is that Trump fears the tough, focused Schiff. Trump has ominously noted that traitors used to be shot or hanged. And he hasn’t helped himself with members of either party by declaring, in one of his hundreds of febrile tweets, that forcing him from office could lead to a “civil war.” Trump has taken the United States somewhere it’s never been before. His presidency may not survive it."
Sep 24th 2019
EXTRACT: "But regardless of whether the Ukraine scandal remains front-page news, it will haunt the US intelligence community, which has been Trump’s bête noire since the day he took office. Trump has relentlessly attacked US intelligence agencies, cozied up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and divulged secrets to foreign officials, potentially burning high-value sources. This behavior had already raised serious concerns about whether Trump can be trusted to receive sensitive intelligence at all. Now, intelligence leaders must ask themselves how far they are willing to go in toeing the White House line."
Sep 21st 2019
EXTRACT: "As Lobaczewski pointed out, pathological leaders tend to attract other people with psychological disorders. At the same time, empathetic and fair-minded people gradually fall away. They are either ostracised or step aside voluntarily, appalled by the growing pathology around them.......As a result, over time pathocracies become more entrenched and extreme. You can see this process in the Nazi takeover of the German government in the 1930s, when Germany moved from democracy to pathocracy in less than two years.......In the US, there has clearly been a movement towards pathocracy under Trump. As Lobaczewski’s theory predicts, the old guard of more moderate White House officials – the “adults in the room” – has fallen away. The president is now surrounded by individuals who share his authoritarian tendencies and lack of empathy and morality. Fortunately, to some extent, the democratic institutions of the US have managed to provide some push back."
Sep 16th 2019
EXTRACT: "If the Supreme Court does agree with the Divisional Court that the question is political rather than legal, it will take the UK constitution into quite peculiar territory. Prime ministers will be the new kings and queens. They will be free to suspend parliament at will, and for as long as they wish, without any judicial interference. Parliament will meet not out of constitutional necessity but in the service of the government’s interests – namely, to pass its legislation and to maintain appearances, rather than to hold it to account."
Sep 12th 2019
Extract: "The Republican Party has lashed its fate to an increasingly unhinged leader. Though three other presidential hopefuls for 2020 now stand in Trump’s way, none can defeat him. But they can damage his reelection effort, which is why the Republican Party has been scrapping some primaries and caucuses. How well Trump does in November next year may well depend on how his fragile ego withstands the coming months."
Sep 2nd 2019
EXTRACTS: "Most people think of revolutions as sudden earthquakes or volcanic eruptions that come without warning and sweep away an entire political system. But historians, political scientists, and even the odd politician know that the reality is very different: revolutions happen when systems hollow themselves out, or simply rot from within. Revolutionaries can then brush aside established norms of behavior, or even of truth, as trivialities that should not impede the popular will............ Only time will tell whether we are currently witnessing the hollowing out of British democracy. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson may well have crossed some invisible Rubicon by.......... Whatever happens now, British parliamentary democracy may never be the same again. It will certainly never again be the model that so many people around the world once admired."
Aug 29th 2019
EXTRACT: "Events such as prorogations and dissolutions happen when countries face difficult times. Therefore, because of the disastrous effects of Brexit: sterling in freefall; a recession looming on the horizon and Britain’s international standing at its lowest ebb since Suez, it is no surprise that the country is in this position now. The worrying thing is that using the monarchical power of prorogation does not solve problems – it has a history of turning them into frightening and often violent crises. There is a worrying relationship between the use of such powers and a complete breakdown in government."
Aug 28th 2019
EXTRACT: "Reminiscent of Don Quixote, Trump is tilting at windmills. His administration is flailing at antiquated perceptions of the Old China that only compound the problems it claims to be addressing. Financial markets are starting to get a sense that something is awry. So, too, is the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, the global economy is fraying at the edges. The US has never been an oasis in such treacherous periods. I doubt if this time is any different. 
Aug 24th 2019
EXTRACT: "In fact, with firms in the US, Europe, China, and other parts of Asia having reined in capital expenditures, the global tech, manufacturing, and industrial sector is already in a recession. The only reason why that hasn’t yet translated into a global slump is that private consumption has remained strong. Should the price of imported goods rise further as a result of any of these negative supply shocks, real (inflation-adjusted) disposable household income growth would take a hit, as would consumer confidence, likely tipping the global economy into a recession."
Aug 21st 2019
EXTRACT: "Climate change is real, and it is a problem. According to the IPCC, the overall impact of global warming by the 2070s will be equivalent to a 0.2-2% loss in average income. That’s not the end of the world, but the same as a single economic recession, in a world that is much better off than today.  The risk is that outsized fear will take us down the wrong path in tackling global warming. Concerned activists want the world to abandon fossil fuels as quickly as possible. But it will mean slowing the growth that has lifted billions out of poverty and transformed the planet. That has a very real cost. "
Aug 20th 2019
EXTRACTS: "It is no exaggeration to say that Johnson has lied his way to the top, first in journalism and then in politics. His ascent owes everything to the growing xenophobia and English nationalism that many Conservatives now espouse................Johnson has chosen a government of like-minded anti-European nationalists. His principal adviser, Dominic Cummings, was described by David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister from 2010 to 2016, as a “career psychopath.” Cummings is, alongside Johnson, the most powerful figure in the new government; he is an unelected wrecker who earlier this year was ruled to be in contempt of parliament. Fittingly, if depressingly, he now is masterminding our departure from the EU with or without parliamentary approval."
Aug 19th 2019
EXTRACTS: "Back in May, a jury found Patrick Syring, a former State Department official, guilty of 14 counts of making threats against my life and my staff at the Arab American Institute. This week, a federal judge sentenced Syring to five years in prison to be followed by three years of court-ordered probation.................It gives me no pleasure to see this man going to jail for a long period, but it does provide us all with a sense of enormous relief. I've been threatened before. My wife, my children, and I have received death threats for the past 50 years – owing to my advocacy for Palestinian rights and the rights of the Arab American community. My office was fire-bombed and an Arab American colleague, whom I hired, was murdered. Two individuals who, in the past, made death threats against me and my children were convicted and sentenced to prison terms. But this case was different."
Aug 15th 2019
EXTRACT: "Gaslighting typically refers to intimate relationships. It’s a way of controlling someone by creating false narratives – for example, that they are irrational or crazy. If such lies are repeated constantly, victims may get confused and start believing there really is something wrong with them. Confusion, diversion, distraction and disinformation can similarly be used to gaslight an entire society. So how can you tell if you are being gaslighted, and how do you avoid it in the first place?"