First President to be impeached twice, noose tightening on Donald Trump

Signing the article of impeachment, House speaker Nancy Pelosi of the Democratic party declared, “Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to our country.”

First President to be impeached twice, noose tightening on Donald Trump

Ashis Ray

President-elect of the United States Joseph Biden adopted a position of non-inteference in the Senate’s task of considering a conviction of the incumbent Donald Trump, who was impeached a second time by the other chamber of parliament the House of Representatives on Wednesday. All he said was: “I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the urgent business of this nation.” He was referring to the obligatory Senate confirmations of his nominees as senior secretaries in his cabinet, accelerating the covid vaccination programme and reviving the economy.

He of course underlined, the 6 January violence on the Capitol (which houses the two legislative wings) “was carried out by political extremists and domestic terrorists, who were incited to this violence by President Trump”.

Dubiously but deservingly, Trump became the first US president to be impeached twice. This time on a charge of “incitement of insurrection”. The question remains, though, as to whether he, unlike a year ago, will be convicted by the Senate to provide teeth to the House resolution.

10 lawmakers in the House belonging to Trump’s Republican party broke ranks to endorse impeachment. Another four did not exercise their vote. In sum total, 222 voted in favour, 197 against. On paper this was admittedly a bipartisan rebuke. But in practice it was not exactly a dam-bursting event.

Among the rebels were Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-highest ranking Republican in the House and daughter of Dick Cheney, who was vice-president to President George Bush. In a statement prior to formally taking her stand, she made clear: “The President of the United States summoned this mob (on 6 January), assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing.”

Signing the article of impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the Democratic party declared: “Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to our country.”

Subsequently, Trump released a video belatedly but somewhat contritely condemning violence. He, however, made no reference to his impeachment. The previous day he had ranted and raved against the House process at a rally in Texas. Intelligence gathered pointed to attempts at causing trouble by pro-Trump extremists in Washington and state capitals on the day of Biden’s scheduled swearing-in on 20 January.

It was certainly a black day for what has been the world’s most powerful country for over a century. A nation that has largely functioned as a democracy and republic under a written constitution since 1787. The image of the US and especially of its presidency today lies in tatters in the eyes of the world.

A trial in the Senate based on the impeachment by the House will only take place after Trump has exited the office. This will be presided over by the chief justice of the country, John Roberts, with the senators as the jury. It will require a two-thirds majority to uphold the motion passed by the House. The 100-member Senate will be tied at 50:50 between the Democrats and the Republicans. In other words, at least 17 Republican senators will have to vote for conviction to find Trump conclusively guilty. If this happens, he will be irreversibly barred from standing as a presidential candidate in the future. He will also lose his $200,000 a year pension, his $1 million travel allowance, and his security detail.

The influential Republican leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell holds the key to Trump’s destiny. Sources close to him believe he is inclined to exorcise his party of Trumpism and is privately signalling to his colleagues to lean accordingly.

His mind-boggling behaviour have markedly increased the likelihood of Trump being prosecuted for criminal offences after he leaves the White House. His phone call to the Georgia secretary of state pressurising him to scuttle Biden’s victory, followed by him addressing a horde to effectively encourage them to storm the Capitol, have exposed him to an unprecedented legal backlash. Opinion varies. But Harry Sandick, a prosecutor, told CNN: “He (Trump) won’t have the immunity from prosecution”.

Sandick explained: “If you only have evidence of his own words, because they’re sufficiently ambiguous, that it would be hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. But the evidence is not only his own words. He organized this event…..If you add into the case the fact that there may have been some coordination with the rioters and other speakers, then prosecutors could build a case against Trump”.

Former director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), James Comey, who stood his ground against Trump and was consequently removed, asserted the evidence he has seen so far suggests the attack on the Capitol was an organised conspiracy. “There’s no doubt there was at least some conspiracy,” he maintained in a TV interview. The FBI is pursuing perceptions that some participants at Trump’s rally left early to collect weapons, which were thereafter used in the overrunning of the Capitol.

Over and above, numerous members of the public have turned informers. Their accounts to the FBI allege a few Republican lawmakers were in touch in some form with some of the rioters.

Besides, there are pending investigations in New York into Trump’s finances, defamation suits and sexual assault accusations by women against him, not to mention his involvement with his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty and was imprisoned regarding misuse of election campaign funds. Preet Bharara, a leading attorney in the city, told PBS Cohen admitted he committed his crime “at the direction of and in coordination with” Trump.

Reports have been swirling around Washington for some time that Trump will pardon himself, members of his family and others complicit in wrongdoing. There is a mixed view on the validity of such action. Either way, the US tolerated a hoodlum in the White House.

This despicable figure was blindly and enthusiastically embraced by Narendra Modi, who sacrilegiously supported Trump’s re-election in an incredible interference in another country’s electoral affairs. He pandered to his fancy by assembling a stadium full of people to receive him in Ahmedabad – in so doing, also super-spreading covid.

Quite unenviably Indian diplomats are landed with an awkward task of being defensive towards the Biden dispensation to ensure a continuance of smooth relations. Fortunately, the president-elect is a man of maturity with a firm grasp of realities in foreign affairs. He is unlikely to take it out on India to express his displeasure about Modi.

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Published: 14 Jan 2021, 9:40 AM