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Donald may well Trump the impeachment motion

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Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan
Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan
The author is practicing advocate in the Madras High Court

United States of America is the oldest democracy. It became free on 4th, July,1776. The founding fathers with James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin, taking the lead. adopted the US Constitution on Sept,7,1787. Now, on 31st Oct,2019, for only the 4th time in the nation’s journey, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to formally launch the impeachment proceedings against Donald J Trump, President of USA (POTUS). It is an epochal and iconic moment of enormous significance. But, what is obvious is that Trump is not going anywhere. He is unlikely to be removed upon impeachment as Andrew Jackson , or resign as Richard Nixon did. He may become the second POTUS in the nation’s history, like Bill Clinton to be impeached by the House, but rejected by the Senate, which alone has the right to remove POTUS. It requires 2/3rd majority or 67 votes and the Democrats need 20 Republicans, which can be ruled out, at the present moment.

Let’s get real with the facts. Donald J Trump can be removed, upon impeachment for ‘”High Crimes and Misdemeanours” which is the requirement from Section 4 of Article Two of the US Constitution: President …, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanours.”. “High,” in the legal and common parlance of the 17th and 18th centuries of “high crimes,” is activity by or against those who have special duties acquired by taking an oath of office that are not shared with common persons. A high crime is one that can be done only by someone in a unique position of authority, which is political in character, who does things to circumvent justice. The phrase “high crimes and misdemeanours,” used together, was a common phrase when the U.S. Constitution was written and did not require any stringent or difficult criteria for determining guilt but meant the opposite. Harvard Law Review says “The majority view is that POTUS can legally be impeached for ‘intentional, evil deeds’ that ‘drastically subvert the Constitution and involve an unforgivable abuse of the Presidency’ – even if those deeds didn’t violate any criminal laws”.

This is a high bar. Impeachment is not a judicial process. It is a political process yet imbued with judicial – due process of law. Ever since Donald came down the elevator of Trump Towers, New York, in Jun,2015, USA has been on a chaotic spin, reverberating across the world. It has been 24×7 reality show from a reality TV star- who was the Star in his Apprentice with his credo “You’re Fired”. Would he now be Fired by the US Congress. That is the question looming large as a human drama unfolds in Washington.

Most unlikely, is the ready answer that comes to the fore. Despite loss in popular vote by 3 million, Trump made it to the Presidency thanks to the peculiar and queer Electoral College route in the US Constitution. Each of 50 States has got electoral votes and votes/size hardly matters. The result can be skewed as it was in 2000 when Bush -Vs- Gore went up to the US Supreme Court, and George Bush was declared winner. Trump beat Hilary Clinton thanks to critical wins in States that mattered.

Trump’s win was totally unexpected and it was against the run of play. Media has not stopped analysing how they missed the beat of Trump’s base, and a white lady put it beautifully. “While we took Donald Trump’s weird pronouncements on the campaign trail seriously, the media took it literally and got trumped.” True.

Trump’s administration has not settled down even after 3 full years and 2020 beckons with the next election. Over 76 personnel, be it his Chief of Staff, Defence Secretary, Secretary of State, Environment Secretary, Homeland Secretary, FBI Chief, Attorney General et al, it has been one revolving door policy. Trump, as promised. wrecked the Iran Nuclear deal, signed by USA, Russia and entire European Union nations. He came out of France Climate Accord, which Barack Obama put together, after years’ of painstaking diligence, to which India and China had also accorded their consent. NATO, 70 years old and a strong alliance, after the second world war, is under constant tension with Trump’s open disdain and indifference.

As for the Middle East, Trump has wreaked havoc with his now on now off foreign policy. His sudden and unilateral withdrawal from the Northern Syria border and ‘abandoning the Syrian Kurds who had stood shoulder to shoulder in the fight against ISIS”, has come in for stinging criticism from his own party Congressmen. A rare dissent amidst sycophantic ‘Yes Sir’ retinue, to all of Trump’s shenanigans. Tomes have been written on the ‘chaos within Trump’s Presidency’ including “Fear” by the legendary Bob Woodward, he of the twin with Carl Bernstein of Washington Post fame, who brought down the Nixon presidency in the wake of Watergate scandal. And the parallels in Trump presidency to Watergate are striking.

The Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, at the instance of Trump’s own Justice Department, recorded not one but 10 instances of Obstruction of Justice acts indulged in at the instance of White House. Trump escaped by the skin of his teeth thanks to the ‘beyond reasonable doubt requirement’ to establish a conspiracy between his campaign and the Russian State to get him elected in 2016, as the legal benchmark was unscalable. But collusion and co operation was made out without doubt. It was only Mueller’s age and reticence to use pungent language in his report or deposition that let Donald get away with evident handshaking with Russians. It was a close shave but Trump called it “Collusion Delusion”.

A day after Mueller’s deposition in US Congress, Trump brazenly spoke to Ukraine President, a new elect and erstwhile comedian, seeking his ‘announcement to investigate Joe Biden’s (possible Democratic opponent in 2020 elections to Trump) son Hunter Biden on his Directorship in Ukraine when his father was Vice President of USA”. The ‘perfect call’ as Trump patted himself, revealed a clear quid pro quo to Ukraine, to provide 239 million dollar help to Ukraine to stave of Russian’s annexation attempts.

A whistleblower started it all and now picked up by several White House aides, including war veterans. The ‘smoking gun’ that Nixon’s tapes were, is now a ‘bush fire’ in Trump’s Ukrainegate. White House Official after WH official has gone on record that there was a quid pro quo in the Donald J Trump- Volodymyr Zelensky phone call. And the Factchecking reveals the ‘pressurising began long before the July phone call with a team of Trump acolytes on the loop’. But there are no Harold Bakers or Lawrence Hogan Srs or Barry Goldwaters, now in the ranks of Republicans to tell Trump ‘ In the Name of God, Go”. The present GOP Congressmen ‘are either scared of Trump or made over sycophants with selfish interests”, as Politico concludes.

There is now overwhelming evidence to establish Trump’s guilty call, which he has admitted and Acting Chief of Staff too has dismissed it with “Get over With it”. Republican members of the Congress are not budging. Senate Republican Majority leader Mitch McConell now christened Moscow Mitch has made it clear that “Impeachment by House will arrive dead to the Senate”. Notwithstanding the indisputable ‘high crimes and misdemeanours and more’ (as Thomas Friedman put it) the shame is, Donald Trump’s seat is safe. If anything, the impeachment proceeding may lend him more energy and ammunition to go after the Democrats, harder than in 2016. We feel so good that we are only 72 years old as a democracy, while Putin’s Russia may be laughing all the way…

(Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan-Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)

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Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan
Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan
The author is practicing advocate in the Madras High Court
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