Saturday, February 8, 2020

Trump’s triumph or trial?

Trump’s triumph or trial?
November 05
08:56 2019

A near impossible and rare feat is to impeach a United States President. The President must have committed, either bribery, treason or other serious crimes or misdemeanors. Even at that, in the present clime, it is almost impossible to believe that the Republican members of Congress in the Senate would pass such a bill if presented with one by the lower House of Representatives.

After the American civil war and President Abraham Lincoln’s death, his Vice President, Andrew Johnson became the 17th President of the U.S. President Johnson had radical ideas and constantly was at logger-heads with the Congress by vetoing certain bills. In 1867 when he replaced the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, a man appointed by Lincoln who supported the Radical Republicans, a break -away group of the party who believed in the civil rights of freed African Americans, Congress pushed hard and presented eleven articles of impeachment alleging that President Johnson had violated what is known as the “Tenure of Office Act”, that is, a law meant to limit presidential power to remove federal appointees from office without consulting the Senate. Eventually in 1868, President Johnson was successfully impeached by a two- thirds majority of the House. This act was deemed unconstitutional years later by the Supreme Court. President Johnson was not removed from office because a single vote from seven Republicans who voted with the Democrats saved his position.

A Historian, Hans L. Trefousse wrote, “The weakness of the case convinced many that the charges were largely political, and that the violation of the Tenure of Office Act constituted neither a crime nor a violation of the Constitution but merely a pretext for Johnson’s opponents”.

Interestingly, this historic case set the tone in Washington for future Presidential impeachments to follow, namely that no President should ever be impeached for political reasons but should be impeached for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors” as clearly stated by the U.S. Constitution. Using the same paint brush of which hunting for political reasons, The White House has repeatedly dismissed claims by the Democrats that top government officials had pressured leaders of other nations, namely Ukraine, to investigate the former U.S. Vice President and 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in the personal and political interest of President Trump. President Trump has been quoted publicly as bragging that the Democrats have “no grounds to impeach.” He claims he has done “nothing wrong or illegal” in light of the formal impeachment proceedings against him recently.

In 1972, when the Watergate scandal broke, the 37th President of the U.S. President Richard Nixon struggled to cover up his direct involvement in the burgling and trespassing of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington. The scandal was intertwined with multiple abuse of power of officials of the Nixon administration, which culminated in the commencement of an impeachment process against him. Apart from overwhelming evidence of cash found on the five burglars of the DNC headquarters leading back to Nixon’s Staff, the investigation revealed that President Nixon had a tape recording system in his offices where private conversations were recorded. After grueling court battles, the Supreme Court ruled that the President was obligated to release the infamous tapes to government investigators. The tapes bore damning evidence that President Nixon was irrefutably involved in the break in of the DNC office and abuse of power to cover up the investigation. In light of a predictable impeachment, on 9th August, 1974, Nixon resigned his turbulent presidency. “Watergate” the name became synonymous with political or public scandal not just in the United States but globally as well.

On October 8th 1998, the United States House of Representatives commenced impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the U.S. under the accusation of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The reasons were for lying under oath and obstruction of justice tied to the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Clinton by a woman named Paula Jones. This would be the second time an American president would be impeached where the House formally adopted the articles of impeachment and forwarded them to the Senate for adjudication.

I remember vividly the frenzy by paparazzi when the proceedings of impeachment began in January, 1999 with the Chief Justice William Rehnquist presiding. After sensational interviews and depositions, President Bill Clinton was acquitted on February 12, 1999 on both counts of high crimes and misdemeanors as neither charges received the necessary two- thirds majority vote of the Senators present for conviction and removal from office. President Bill Clinton remained in office for the rest of his second term.

In a whirlwind twist and amidst probably one of the most surprising outcomes of a U.S. Presidential election held on 8th November, 2016, Donald Trump defeated the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and became the 45th President of the United States. This was a massive blow to the Democrats who had fought a long and grueling campaign riddled with maliciousness and allegations of the infamous email messages that were deleted by Hillary Clinton’s team whilst she was in office. Donald J. Trump won the Electoral College with 304 votes compared to 227 votes for Hillary Clinton despite pre-election nationwide polls that predicted she would win. Globally women had been excited as her victory would have been a symbol of gender equality with a female being the leader of the free world, the great United States of America, land of dreams. It was a bitter defeat for billions all over the world.

Almost immediately, President Trump’s presidency was riddled in controversies, accusations and scandals amidst a chaotic White House. One could say that ultimately Hillary Clinton may have had the last laugh after all. The White House Staff were either dismissed or they quit by themselves and replaced on a regular basis, even the press struggled to keep up with the changes. A massive scandal subsequently broke out alleging that Russia had meddled in the 2016 presidential election and the President took great pains to undermine the investigation. It posed a threat to national security and made a mockery of the American voting system. The Russia scandal, the firing of James Comey (former FBI Director), resignation of Michael Flynn (former national adviser) and many more obstacles in his administration proved this to be the most troubled presidency in modern history. All this was happening amidst a barrage of regular tweets from the President on his official account on social media, which most see as unbecoming and entirely inappropriate for a President in office.

The latest Ukraine scandal was triggered by President Trump’s alleged efforts to coerce Ukraine and other countries to provide damaging information about the 2020 Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden. President Trump was said to have pressured his personal lawyer, Rudy Gulliani, Attorney General, Bill Barr and other parties outside his administration to influence politics in Washington. The 2016 Presidential election scandal also has not disappeared.

In the middle of September, 2019, Trumps misuse of power to solicit foreign electoral intervention in the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign came into the full glare of the public because of a whistle-blower statement made in August, 2019. Then on 24th September, 2019 the House of Representatives initiated a formal impeachment inquiry led by six House Committees and the House voted to approve guidelines for the next phase of the impeachment inquiry on 31st October, 2019.

To impeach President Trump, a majority is required in the House and for conviction or removal from office a two- thirds “super majority” is required in the Senate.

The whole world waits and watches the outcome of the impeachment as they also wonder whether President Trump who could so aptly be described as the cat with nine lives (having emerged seemingly unscathed by each scandal) would survive the latest misconduct.

The question remains: Will this be Trump’s triumph or trial? We only have a short while left to see as the political games in the United States continue to unravel…

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