The somber spectacle of a presidential impeachment is just beginning in Washington, DC. Following Wednesday’s House of Representatives vote to impeach Donald Trump, the Senate will likely begin its constitutionally mandated trial during the second week of January.
It is a testament to Trump’s power of personality within the Republican Party that according to a recent Economist/YouGov poll a majority of Republicans (53%) say President Trump is a better president than Union savior and Civil War icon Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican president. It is just the third time in US history that a president has been impeached by the full House; Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1998) were both later acquitted during a senate trial. A two-thirds vote of the Senate (67 senators) is required to convict and remove the president from office. The Senate can also simply dismiss the charges after they are presented.
The US Constitution sets the parameters of impeachment charges that can be pursued by Congress: “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Hence, impeachment is a process based as much in policy and politics as it is in criminal conduct enumerated in criminal code.
President Trump’s actions this past spring and summer related to military aid to Ukraine and his stated desire for a Ukrainian government investigation into a domestic political rival (former Vice-President Joe Biden as well as his son) have led to two articles of impeachment: abuse of power by the executive (using his office for personal political gain) and obstruction of Congress (refusing to cooperate with Congress, its committees or its constitutionally-authorized investigative role).
Public polling during the past month indicates a steady 45-50% of Americans support impeaching Trump and removing him from office. The results indicate a genuine split opinion on the impeachment issue that mirrors the partisan divide in the United States on several major policy issues. By comparison, as President Bill Clinton faced impeachment in the fall of 1998 his public approval rating was a robust 63%. Most Americans preferred that he only be censured by Congress for his misconduct. In August 1974, nearly one-third of fellow Republicans (31%) wanted Richard Nixon removed from office for the Watergate affair.
Whether impeachment is a “partisan attempted coup” by Democrats or a historic abuse of power by the president the process will be debated in the Senate with live TV coverage.
While the impeachment drama unfolds, Congress and the Trump administration will move forward on major pieces of legislation that present bragging rights for both Democrats and Republicans, tentative bipartisanship seemingly operating in a parallel reality. Both the House and Senate have just passed an enormous nine-month spending package this week worth about $1.4 trillion that covers everything from border security to public health research on gun violence to food aid for low-income families.
The House also just passed the US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) free trade agreement, a top priority for Donald Trump as candidate and president. Labor protection related changes favored by Democrats were added to the trade agreement.
Is the whole world watching? Casually, I’m sure. While visiting friends and colleagues in my former Peace Corps site in Errachidia Province a young Moroccan friend asked me if Americans are becoming fatigued by all the drama in Washington. A valid question. I told him that politics is a passion for many people especially in the age of social media. American allies, too, are facing profound political and social challenges of their own, from the ongoing Brexit saga in the United Kingdom to pension reform protests in France, among others.
An observation from the 33rd President of the United States, Democrat Harry Truman, is relevant as both Democratic and Republican leaders—confident in their own arguments—move forward on the impeachment of the 45th president: “I never gave anybody hell! I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.
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