Enjoy our faster App experience

Trump should pay the price for breaking the law

Allegations are so grave that House Speaker feels she has little choice but to press for his removal.

By James Astill (Top Post)

Published: Sun 13 Oct 2019, 10:37 PM

Last updated: Mon 14 Oct 2019, 12:41 AM

Nobody could accuse Nancy Pelosi of taking the decision to impeach the president lightly. Ever since she resumed as Speaker of the House of Representatives in January, the veteran Democrat had been resisting demands from some in her party to put Donald Trump on trial for his job in the Senate.
Though the Democratic-controlled House might win a vote to issue articles of impeachment against Trump, she argued, the Republican-controlled Senate would not vote to convict him. And a failed impeachment could potentially be a vote-winner for Trump, just as, arguably, it was for Clinton's party in the late 1990s.
Moreover, Pelosi would add, the president was just 'not worth' taking any sort of political risk for. A rule-breaker, whose behaviour has grown predictably more egregious during his tenure in the White House, she argued, no one should waste time being outraged by him.
Then why did Pelosi so dramatically change tack two weeks ago? After all, most of her aforementioned reasons for resisting the pressure from the pro-impeachment left of her party probably still hold good. The latest allegations against Trump are so grave that Pelosi felt she had little choice but to press for his removal. And, for much the same reason, Pelosi would have faced opposition from within the ranks of her own party if she had continued to desist.
Though Pelosi has committed only to investigating Trump with a view to a possible impeachment charge, there is already little doubt that a charge will ensue. It also seems that the expected articles of impeachment, which will be drafted by the House Judiciary Committee, will focus quite narrowly on the Ukraine scandal.
While some Democrats would prefer to see a longer list of charges Pelosi believes that might seem to corroborate Trump's claim to be a victim of a left-wing witch-hunt.
Bizarrely, Trump has done nothing to reassure his doubters. It is so hard to think how the administration could have considered this record exculpatory that some suspect Trump of setting a cunning trap. He must want to be impeached, they argue. He must have concluded, with Pelosi, that such a course would be bound to fail, probably to his and his party's advantage.
Such oddities aside, it only takes half a minute perusing the president's Twitter account to conclude that there is nothing terribly cunning about his behaviour.
The crazy invective he is firing off at his 'treasonous' Democratic accusers, often in the early hours, does not point to a man in control of his emotions, much less to tactical nous. It points, as so much of Trump's behaviour does, to an intemperate narcissist with a sketchy idea of the limits of presidential power and no interest in educating himself. Making matters worse for Trump's fragile state of mind, he is said to be keenly aware of the stain Bill Clinton's impeachment attached to his presidency, albeit that it did not curtail it. Far from welcoming his looming impeachment, Trump is horrified by the prospect.
Even so, the president's self-incriminating behaviour could conceivably work to his advantage in a couple of ways. It can be viewed as an effort to shift the boundaries of acceptable presidential behaviour - by admitting everything, but refusing to accept there was anything wrong in it. That may be the only defensive course available to him. His administration is as leaky as can be. Moreover, the instant House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry into him, their subpoenas grew legal teeth.
Though it is early days for Pelosi's impeachment inquiry, it already seems all but certain that Trump will become the third US president impeached by Congress. Once the Judiciary Committee has drafted its charge-sheet, House Democrats are expected to vote more or less unanimously to send it up to the Senate.
Pelosi's original calculation, that there is no serious prospect of the Senate mustering the requisite two-thirds majority to convict Trump, probably still holds good. For, this would require 20 Republican Senators to turn against a president who boasts record-high approval ratings among Republican voters. And there is little in the latest opinion polls to suggest the prospect of Trump's impeachment is making many Republicans question their loyalty to him. Yet, a few of them are looking shaky.
Whether they maintain their opposition to the president, and even grown in number, will probably depend on a few Republican Senators also condemning his behaviour. Again, that level of Republican dissidence would not lead to Trump's removal. But it would make it harder for him to rally doubtful Republicans by dismissing his impeachment as a partisan stunt.
Such are the new uncertainties that Trump's latest scandal has suddenly injected into American politics. It hardly seems fair to America, and us all, after so many bouts of unseemly and often gratuitous Trump-related scandals and uncertainty, to have this thrust upon us. Millions of Americans - Republican and Democratic alike - have had enough of the turmoil Trump has brought. The world, with more to worry about than the latest Trump-orientate drama, has had enough of it. All the same, a presidential impeachment is no small affair and it would be a mistake to underestimate the potential America is now facing for a truly historic political drama and disruption. Of all Trump's innumerable scandals, this looks like being the big one.
- theopenmagazine

More news from OPINION