Quick Take

Trump likely to survive impeachment and gain from it

| Updated on November 02, 2019

US President Donald Trump (file photo).   -  REUTERS

While the Republican Party is fully behind him, Democrats don’t have the numbers in the Senate. Meanwhile, Trump can gleefully play the ‘victim’ card

Here’s an early bet on the President Donald Trump Impeachment Sweepstakes: he’ll be acquitted in the Senate whatever political dirt comes up on this most unconventional and, possibly, unprincipled of US presidents ever. It’s not hard to figure out why. In fact, by now, pretty well everyone’s realised the truth of that infamous Trump boast during the 2016 election campaign: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Trump’s unshakeable hold on the Republican Party and the fear of going against him were on full display when the House of Representatives voted on the parameters of the impeachment motion that will go to the Senate. Not one Republican broke ranks to vote for the motion and only two Democrats resisted the enforcers of their own party to oppose impeachment. This contrasted with the fact that when the Republican-led House voted to begin impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton in 1998, more than 30 Democrats supported the motion. Even more starkly, only four Republicans sided with President Richard Nixon, during a vote on subpoena powers for the Watergate inquiry. Republicans fear they will be punished by voters if they go against their own president, no matter if he’s broken the law or been unprincipled in his dealings.

The Democrats have always been in two minds about attempting to impeach the president, seeing as it’s almost certain to come a cropper in the Senate where they don’t have the numbers to push it through on their own. It’s now less than a year away from the next presidential election and a failed impeachment motion is certain to be exploited against them in the polls. Trump is now tweeting up a storm and directing his broadsides against House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, branding them both as “corrupt politicians”. The president’s also in a powerful position to attract attention and the fear’s always been an impeachment move would allow him to play his favourite “victim” card. Pelosi had initially blocked impeachment moves by more firebrand elements in her own party but was then left with no choice after the revelations about Trump’s calls to the Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky and the president’s attempts to arm-twist the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on possible 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

The Democrats are aware that they are on a losing wicket – or its baseball equivalent – unless they can persuade a large number of Republicans to vote for impeachment. (Removing a president requires a two-third majority in the Senate). The allegation by Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s Ukraine expert, that crucial parts have been left out of the transcript mean that there could be more bombshells from Trump’s Zelensky conversation. One thing is guaranteed: the political atmosphere will get considerably more vitriolic.

Published on November 02, 2019

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