Washington It was one of those now legendary tantrums by the US president – only that Donald Trump's furor did not manifest itself in the form of a tweet, but in a six-page letter. It was addressed to Nancy Pelosi, his democratic opponent in the US Congress.
"By continuing with your invalid impeachment, you are violating your oath of office, breaking your allegiance to the constitution, and openly declaring war on American democracy," Trump wrote in the letter, which was new in form and content – and even surpassed what the president had done to date during his almost three-year term.
Trump's furor was not just about Pelosi, but above all about the procedure for which the Democratic majority leader of the House of Representatives stands: it is an attempt to remove the president from the office because of the Ukraine affair.
It was only the overture on this memorable Wednesday in this complex and lengthy process called "Impeachment". The climax of this foreplay is likely to end with a clear vote against the American president. The debate started early in the morning (local time).
Already at the beginning of the session it was foreseeable that the whole thing would drag on for a long time – after German time probably until Thursday night. Republicans in the House of Representatives delayed deliberations with motions and procedural steps. After a debate on the procedure, six hours were allotted to debate the charges.
At the start of the debate, Democrat Nancy Pelosi defended the expected opening of impeachment proceedings against Trump as a Congress duty. Nobody will go to Congress to remove the President, Pelosi said. But the MPs swore to protect the constitution from foreign and domestic enemies. "If we don't act now, we will give up our duty," she warned. "He didn't give us a choice."
The president misused his office to gain a personal advantage, Pelosi complained. He had broken the constitution and was a continuing threat to democracy, the upcoming election and the country's national security. He also launched an “unprecedented campaign” to hinder Congress's investigation into the case. He had acted as if he were above the law.
Pelosi said, facing the United States Congress's Capitol, that "under the dome of this temple of democracy" we had come together to take this serious step. "We are here today to defend democracy for our people."
Backing for Trump
It is already clear that the result of the vote will not come as a surprise. The majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives will vote against the President.
That means Donald Trump faces impeachment after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 as the third president in American history. Richard Nixon, who had also been threatened with impeachment, escaped the proceedings in the 1970s by resigning from his party colleagues.
Trump is experiencing the same thing is almost impossible. The Republicans stand firmly behind their president – the more violent the criticism and the more incriminating the allegations, the more closed. This is the pattern that emerged after this overture.
So that the trial that begins in January in the Senate ends with Trump's condemnation is ruled out. This would require a two-thirds majority in the chamber, 20 republican senators would have to switch to the Democrats' side. From today's perspective, this is hardly conceivable.
The Democrats have so far hardly been able to influence public opinion with their procedure. 47 percent of those questioned are against the impeachment procedure and against Donald Trump's dismissal, only 45 percent are in favor. In November, 50 percent spoke in favor of impeachment.
The political mood in the American population plays a crucial role because the senators always vote with a view to their re-election chances. A change of mood against Trump among the population would be the minimum requirement for a successful democratic conclusion to this procedure.
However, hearing countless witnesses who more or less burdened Trump was not enough to bring about this change in mood. The opposite seems to be the case at the moment.
The Democrats accuse the President on two points: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress investigations. According to the indictment, Trump is said to have exerted pressure on the Ukrainian government to provide him with campaign support: Kiev should have discredited Trump's rival Joe Biden and publicly accused the lie that it was not Russia but Ukraine that intervened in the 2016 US elections.
Trump has jeopardized national security because he has used US military aid disbursement to Ukraine as a leverage for personal gain, the Democrats argue. Ergo: Donald Trump is a threat to America's democracy.
The Republicans' view, of course, is quite different: Since Trump won the 2016 election, the Democrats have tried to get rid of a legitimately elected president. First in the alleged Russia affair, now in the Ukraine affair. But "despite years of witch hunts" (Trump interview), the Democrats had so far "not had the slightest evidence" of an offense by Trump that justifies impeachment proceedings.
These are the perspectives of the two blocks, which are completely irreconcilable. And the previous process shows that these blocks solidify.
This letter once again showed the mood in the republican camp. Trump complained that he had been denied fundamental rights during the Democratic investigation – such as the possibility of hearing witnesses in the House of Representatives.
On the other hand, the accused in the "Salem witch trials" were "granted a fairer trial". In 1692, infamous trials had begun in Salem, Massachusetts, in which numerous people were accused of witchcraft. 19 innocent people were hanged. He, Trump, wrote the letter for historical reasons in order to keep his thoughts "permanent and indelible".
Pelosi himself was stunned and described Trump's allegations as ridiculous. "We didn't read it completely, we worked," she said. But that is "really sick". If there was still evidence to show that the relationship between Democrats and Republicans has been broken, this remote dialogue has provided it.
From January onwards, the Senate will be responsible for this procedure. The actual “process” then starts there. The Senate meets in the first week of January, under the chairmanship of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. The Democrats read the charges, assume the role of prosecutor and present their evidence, and the Republicans then take the plea.
The 100 senators, Democrats and Republicans play the role of a jury that decides on the future of the president. Overall, this process can drag on until a few months before the presidential elections in November 2020. The two impeachments against Andrew Jackson and Bill Clinton have taken 94 and 127 days, respectively.
In theory, the Republicans could just decide to reject the case. However, it is more likely that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, will initiate proceedings. The powerful Republican has repeatedly made it clear that he intends to acquit the President.
More: Decline in morals among the Republicans: No matter how hard the witnesses charge Trump in impeachment proceedings, his party is loyal to him – even if it harms democracy.
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