US President Donald Trump is in the last week of his tenure. Donald Trump is functioning with reduced support staff as several have resigned following the Capitol siege last week. Trump still enjoys the power of the US president but cannot practically get any of his orders implemented and even if he gets it done, all orders could be withdrawn in a week’s time.
So, why the Democrats in the US Congress want to evict Donald Trump just a few days short of the end of his tenure?
Abuse of power
The Democrats have accused Donald Trump of abuse of power as the US president. They have a long list of abuses allegedly committed by Donald Trump during his four-year tenure. The “crime” includes apparent defence of Russia against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over interference in the US presidential election that he won in 2016, seeking help from Ukrainian president in targeting his presidential election rival in 2020 and inciting mob riot at the Capitol.
But it is also true that Donald Trump ends his presidential career possibly as the most rebuked US president. He is the only president to have been impeached twice, courtesy the majority of the Democrats in the lower house of the US Congress. A dominance of the Republicans in the Senate, the upper house, ensured that Donald Trump was not forcefully removed from his office.
Eviction of Donald Trump from the US president’s office requires an approving vote in the Senate within this week. This seems unlikely given that despite many of the Republicans opposing him and expressing shock over Donald Trump’s call to his supporters to march on the Capitol, they overwhelmingly voted against the impeachment motion. The Republicans are also against moving a motion for forced removal of Donald Trump in the Senate.
Threat to democracy
Another argument against Donald Trump is that he is posing an imminent threat to democracy and the US constitution. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in her letter to Democratic members seeking their support for impeachment, wrote: “In protecting our Constitution and our democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both.”
However, it remains unclear how grave a threat Donald Trump can pose to democracy in the US that he could not during the past four years. Having apparently lost support of his presidential office staff and also confidence of his Vice President Mike Pence, Donald Trump has been defanged already. His any “illegal” act could easily be overturned in a week’s time. Pelosy did not explain the “urgency” to disgrace the US president further.
Public opinion has turned against Donald Trump sharply in the aftermath of the Capitol riots that led to the death of five people. In a survey, 57 per cent of the American favoured early removal of Donald Trump from the office.
However, the detailed analysis of it showed that most of those surveyed were pledged Democratic voters. A Reuters report said, “The majority of Americans who said they want Trump to leave office before his term ends includes about nine out of every ten Democrats polled but just two in ten Republicans.”
Still an overwhelming majority of the Trump supporters disapproved of his Capitol siege call. “The national public opinion survey, conducted Thursday and Friday, also showed that seven out of 10 of those who voted for Trump in November opposed the action of the hardcore supporters who broke into the Capitol while lawmakers were meeting to certify the election victory of Democrat Joe Biden,” the report said.
This means that the argument of public opinion becoming drastically against Donald Trump is not forceful. It is divided along political lines.
Pardon and 2024 election
Donald Trump may pardon himself in the final week of his tenure. This may have a bearing on the US presidential election in 2024. A US president can serve two terms, which need not be consecutive. Donald Trump is the first president since Bill Clinton not to win his second consecutive term.
To contest another US presidential election, Donald Trump needs to come clear on the allegations of tax evasion. A pardon can do away with this legal obligation and make him eligible for 2024 presidential contest.
It is in this context that the Democratic move of forcing Donald Trump out of his office just days before his term ends becomes politically loaded. A US president can be removed from office if proven unfit for holding the office.
Some experts have referred to the 14th Amendment Act that provides for barring a US president from seeking second term in office. Political commentators in the US see this Democratic move as “an idea to bar him from holding office again”.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi displays the signed article of impeachment against US President Donald Trump in Washington on January 13. (Photo: AP/PTI)
There seems to be an ego fight between Donald Trump and the Democrats. The rise of Donald Trump from a maverick businessman to the US president happened, it is said, after then President Barack Obama’s potshot at the White House correspondents dinner in 2011. Trump was the butt of the jokes Obama cracked that night. Newspapers the next day carried the headline, “Trump humiliated”.
“That evening of public abasement, rather than sending Mr. Trump away, accelerated his ferocious efforts to gain stature in the political world,” New York Times wrote in March 2016. However, some others said Trump was talking about running for president since the 1980s.
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Obama and Trump have a history of ridiculing each other. Trump also picked up fights with top Democrat Nancy Pelosi. Bitter feud between Trump and Pelosi has been evident on many occasions.
At one point, Pelosi walked out of the White House. She played the instrumental role in double-impeachment of Trump. Trump, on his part, denied her a handshake during his State of the Union speech in 2020 even as Pelosi outstretched her hand.
Trump had an acerbic presidential run against Hillary Clinton calling her “a nasty woman” in 2016. Not much changed when Joe Biden challenged him in 2020.
Donald Trump lost the election but refused to concede defeat.
Just before the Capitol siege exhorting his supporters, Donald Trump said, “You don’t concede when there’s theft involved Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.”
The Congress was in the session to certify the victory of Democrat Joe Biden when Trump supporters invaded the Capitol Hill last week. Trump has shown to have an inflated ego and in turn ruffled the ego of his Democratic rivals.
This could be why there is an added urgency among the Democrats to cut short Donald Trump’s tenure even by a couple of days. The US political game is no different from the bitter fight for power in any Asian or sub-continental country.
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