The last full working week of the Trump Presidency will be a particularly busy one — not for the pariah President, but for his detractors. Here is a list of what to expect:
After Trump’s attempted insurrection on Wednesday, and his subsequent support of people who caused five deaths at the Capitol, the Democrats have been left with very little choice but to impeach the President.
In a late-night letter to her colleagues, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi outlined the path forward. On Monday, the Democrats will issue an ultimatum to Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment of the US constitution — a provision that allows the cabinet to vote to remove a President who is unfit for office. Over the last four years, Donald Trump has made that case progressively stronger against himself, culminating in his incitement of vandals to try and reverse the result of an election that he clearly lost.
But through his Presidency, even as he tried to blackmail the President of Ukraine into giving him dirt on Joe Biden, so he could use it to win re-election, through to his threatening calls to officials in Georgia to “find” him the 11,780 votes he needed for a win after he had lost the state, no one in his Cabinet, least of all Pence, felt the need to remove Trump. Last Wednesday’s events will not likely move them either.
Trump’s supporters may have carried the confederate flag — the symbol of institutionalised slavery — into the seat of American democracy, but Trump succeeded in bringing the institution itself into the White House. Pence and the rest of the Cabinet aren’t ‘Free’ men and women, in the most profound sense of the word. They will not vote to remove their master.
The deadline to do that would expire on Tuesday morning, when the impeachment proceedings will be kicked off in the House. Democrats hold a majority in the lower chamber, so it is likely to pass there. But the impeachment ‘trial’ takes place in the Senate.
There, too, Democrats now have a tie-breaking majority with vice President Kamala Harris’s vote. However, top Democrats have already indicated that the Senate trial can wait a 100 days: President Joe Biden needs that time to begin executing his agenda, a response to the pandemic to begin with, undistracted by the impeachment of a discredited former President.
The impeachment is important for a number of reasons. First, it will force Republican lawmakers to make a choice that they do not want to make: are they with Trump or with democracy?
Although a few Republican senators and congressmen have indicated they want the President removed immediately, a conviction in the Senate is unlikely. It needs 67 votes out of a hundred, so a conviction would mean as many as 17 Republican senators need to support it.
There is one scenario where the option to convict might be attractive for Republicans. A conviction would permanently bar Trump from running for any office ever again. Republicans with Presidential ambitions for 2024 wouldn’t mind that at all. Trump still remains almost insurmountably popular among Republican voters (a close to 90 per cent approval rating), and the clear favourite to get the party nomination for 2024.
A RESIGNATION OR A SELF-PARDON?
That is the question that Trump would have dwelt on over the weekend, even as he screamed at his cellphone, and was screamed at by Melania (she is reportedly deeply upset over the events of the past week, and her husband’s leading role in them).
With his immunity about to expire Trump faces a number of legal issues that will either drain his finances or send him to jail, or both.
Most reports say Trump’s top legal advisers have advised him against the self-pardon route. It is both a legal contradiction that borders on the absurd and makes for extremely poor optics.
The resignation route is open. It allows for Mike Pence to take over as President for a day, pardon Trump for federal crimes –such as inciting an insurrection, amongst others. And should he resign, Trump may just avoid impeachment as well. There is precedence: Richard Nixon, 1974.
Twitter may have banned Trump’s handle indefinitely, but it also reported that the platform had evidence of a plan by Trump supporters to attack the Capitol, and other buildings in Washington around the time of the inauguration. It mentioned 17th as a possible day for this second attack, and Trump’s comforting encouragement to his white terrorist friends — ‘we love you’; ‘you’re very special’; ‘our fight has just begun’ — are reverberating around the echo chamber he built over four years.
The US defence department has said it has intelligence on possible unrest in Washington the week leading up to the inauguration of Joe Biden, and a variety of armed forces seem to have been primed to move quickly if there’s an attempt to repeat January 6. The law enforcement response on that day has been variously characterised as “unacceptable” and “racist”.
What has everyone worried about is Trump’s subversive message to his mob: he will not attend the inauguration, he has said. One interpretation: ‘Go on the rampage without worrying that I might get hurt’. I won’t be there.’
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