WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump became the third president in history to be impeached Wednesday after a bitterly divided House formally charged him with “high crimes and misdemeanors” over his request to Ukraine to investigate a political rival.
After a daylong debate marked by fiery recriminations, lawmakers voted largely along party lines in favor of impeachment, reshuffling American politics at a time when voters were already profoundly divided over the nation’s leadership and direction.
Democrats and Republicans disagreed sharply over the president’s actions, the ramifications of the historic vote, and each other’s motives in either defending Trump or prosecuting the case against him. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., stepped to the dais at one point to chide Republicans for what he described as choosing party over country.
“Many of my colleagues appear to have made their choice to protect the president, to enable him to be above the law, to empower this president to cheat again as long as it is in the service of their party and their power,” the House Intelligence Committee chairman said. “They have made their choice and I believe they will rue the day that they did.”
Republicans claimed Democrats were grasping for any excuse to undermine an unconventional president who unexpectedly and narrowly won election in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. They repeatedly described the process used in the run up to the vote as unfair, sidestepping the fact that the White House rebuffed invitations to take part.
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“One week before Christmas, I want you to keep this in mind,” Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., told his colleagues during the debate. “Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president.”
Will the Senate remove Trump?
The Democratic-led House approved 230-197 the first article of impeachment accusing Trump of abusing his power by asking Ukrainian officials to announce investigations that would benefit his reelection. Minutes later, the House approved a second article, voting 229-198 to charge Trump with obstructing the congressional investigation into that request.
Though the historic votes ended a hurried effort by Democrats to advance impeachment articles before the end of the year – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the inquiry into Trump’s actions less than three months ago – it will kick off an exceptionally rare trial in the Senate to determine whether the president will be removed from office.
Republican leaders expect that trial to begin next month, though Pelosi was noncommittal during a press conference after the vote about when the House would send the articles to the Senate for their review.
In an emotional moment during that press conference, Pelosi raised the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and former chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform who died in October.
“We did all we could, Elijah, we passed the two articles of impeachment,” Pelosi said. “The president is impeached.”
Speaking earlier on the House floor, Pelosi said the vision of the nation conceived by the Founding Fathers was “under threat” from the White House.
“He gave us no choice,” Pelosi said.
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Impeachment, which Pelosi and other Democratic leaders initially resisted, could also have consequences for the 2020 election, where a field of candidates angling to unseat Trump have sought to focus the nation’s attention on health care, immigration and education while tiptoeing around the constitutional dramas unfolding in Washington. Trump is betting impeachment will sour swing voters on Democrats for years to come.
Trump’s response: Defiance
As if to underline that point, Trump remained defiant throughout the day, accusing Democrats of “atrocious lies” and an “assault on America” in a series of tweets. The president, who did not take questions from reporters throughout the day, left the White House before the impeachment votes, departing Washington for a campaign rally in the presidential battleground state of Michigan.
Trump took the stage in Battle Creek just as the House began voting, setting up an extraordinary split screen image for cable news networks.
“It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” Trump said as the votes were being tallied during the first article of impeachment. “We did nothing wrong and we have tremendous support in the Republican Party.”
After initially sticking to rally talking points, Trump abruptly relayed one of the votes to the crowd and embarked on an extended criticism of Democrats.
“This lawless partisan impeachment is a political suicide march for the Democrat party,” he said. “Have you seen my polls in the last four weeks?”
Within the West Wing, aides went about their regular duties in a mood of grim defiance, holding meetings and calls while occasionally glancing at banks of television screens where the debate played. They had anticipated this day for weeks, some said, and have felt under siege since Trump moved into the White House in early 2017.
Others said they wanted the House to get it over with and send the impeachment case to the Republican-led Senate, where Trump is expected to be acquitted.
Senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway attended a Republican Senate luncheon to discuss impeachment and the latest polls before appearing for a pair of media interviews and an impromptu news conference with reporters, during which she criticized the impeachment articles as “spare” and “specious.”
Underscoring the discord among voters, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released hours before the House vote found the nation evenly split, with 48% of Americans saying Trump’s actions demanded impeachment and removal from office and an equal 48% saying they disagree.
At the center of the impeachment is a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump asked his counterpart to look into a conspiracy about Democratic misdeeds in the 2016 election and, separately, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Defying Trump’s orders not to testify, a handful of State Department and White House officials detailed for lawmakers in televised hearings how the administration held up nearly $400 million in military aid for Ukraine as leverage to pressure Zelensky to announce those investigations.
Voters get final say
Trump and his allies said the “perfect call” was an attempt to address corruption in Kyiv, not swing an election.
In that sense, the divisions on display recalled the atmosphere from 1998, when a Republican-led House impeached President Bill Clinton for lying under oath to hide an affair with a White House intern. President Richard Nixon, by contrast, resigned in 1974 to avoid almost certain impeachment after he lost support from Republican defenders.
Past is prologue: The political ‘fire extinguisher’ of impeachment is more common
Throughout the day, Republicans argued the Founding Fathers would have condemned an impeachment playing out along partisan lines. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., vowed Republicans would take that argument to voters in next year’s election.
“It is a matter for the voters, not this House. Not in this way,” Collins said. “The people of America see through this.”
John Fritze covers the White House. Follow him @jfritze.
Contributing: Courtney Subramanian, David Jackson, Michael Collins, Ledyard King, Maureen Groppe.
Conservatives accused of 'playing politics' in the House, raising questions about pandemic election – CBC.ca
All federal party leaders maintain they don’t want an election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Conservatives appear to be pursuing a strategy that could give the Liberals justification for calling one.
Liberals are accusing the Conservatives of systematically blocking the government’s legislative agenda, including bills authorizing billions of dollars in pandemic-related aid and special measures for safely conducting a national election.
The Conservatives counter that the Liberals have not used the control they have over the House of Commons agenda to prioritize the right bills, while other parties say both the government and the Official Opposition share the blame.
“They’re playing politics all the time in the House. It’s delay, delay, delay — and eventually that delay becomes obstruction,” Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez said in an interview, referring to the Conservatives.
“It’s absurd. I think it’s insulting to Canadians, and I think people should be worried because those important programs may not come into force … because of the games played by the Conservatives.”
Conservatives blocking legislative agenda, Liberals say
Rodriguez pointed to the three hours last week that the Commons spent discussing a months-old, three-sentence committee report affirming the competence of the new Canadian Tourism Commission president.
That was forced by a Conservative procedural manoeuvre, upending the government’s plan to finally start debate on the pandemic election bill. It contains measures the chief electoral officer has said are urgent given that the minority Liberal government could fall at any time if the opposition parties unite against it.
A week earlier, MPs spent three hours discussing a committee report recommending a national awareness day for human trafficking — something Rodriguez said had unanimous support and could have been dealt with “in a second.”
That debate, also prompted by the Conservatives, prevented any progress on Bill C-14, legislation flowing from last fall’s economic statement with billions in expanded emergency aid programs and new targeted aid for hard-hit industries.
That bill was introduced in December but stalled at second reading, with Conservative MPs talking out the clock each time it did come up for debate. After eight days of sporadic debate — more than is normally accorded for a full-fledged budget, Rodriguez noted — Conservatives finally agreed on Friday to let the bill proceed to committee for scrutiny.
‘Modest debate’ warranted: O’Toole
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has argued that “modest debate” is warranted on C-14, which he maintains is aimed a fixing errors in previous rushed emergency aid legislation.
Last December, the Conservatives dragged out debate on Bill C-7, a measure to expand medical assistance in dying in compliance with a 2019 court ruling.
For three straight days last week, they refused consent to extend sitting hours to debate a motion laying out the government’s response to Senate amendments to C-7, despite a looming court deadline that was extended Thursday to March 26.
Conservatives say they offered the previous week to extend the hours to allow a thorough debate, but the government waited five days before tabling its response to the amendments.
Liberals can’t cut debates short alone
For Rodriguez, it all adds up to “a pattern” of obstruction aimed at blocking the government’s legislative agenda.
Procedural machinations are commonly used by opposition parties to tie up legislation. But Rodriguez argued it’s inappropriate in a pandemic, when “people are dying by the dozens every day.”
If the government held a majority of seats in the Commons, it could impose closure on debates. But in the current minority situation, it would need the support of one of the main opposition parties to cut short debate — something it’s not likely to get.
In a minority Parliament, Rodriguez argued, all parties share responsibility for ensuring that legislation can at least get to a vote.
Opposition parties point fingers
But Conservative House leader Gérard Deltell lays the blame for the legislative impasse squarely on Rodriguez.
“The government House leader has failed to set clear priorities and has therefore failed to manage the legislative agenda,” he said in a statement to The Canadian Press, adding that “my door is always open for frank and constructive discussions.”
Bloc Québécois House leader Alain Therrien agrees that the Liberals have “mismanaged the legislative calendar and must take their responsibilities.” But he doesn’t exempt the Conservatives.
He said their obstruction of the assisted-dying bill and another that would ban forcible conversion therapy aimed at altering a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is “deplorable.”
“These are files that require compassion and rigour. It is inexcusable to hold the House hostage on such matters,” Therrien said in an email, suggesting that O’Toole is having trouble controlling the “religious right” in his caucus.
As far as NDP House leader Peter Julian is concerned, both the Liberals and Conservatives are trying to trigger an election.
“We believe that is absolutely inappropriate, completely inappropriate given the pandemic, given the fact that so many Canadians are suffering,” he said in an interview.
Julian accused the Liberals of bringing forward unnecessary legislation, such as the election bill, while “vitally important” bills, including one implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and another on net-zero carbon emissions, languish.
The intention of the Liberals, he said, is to eventually say there must be an election because of “all these important things we couldn’t get done.” And the Conservatives “seem to want to play into this narrative” by blocking the bills the government does put forward.
Rodriguez must be at ‘wits end’: May
Veteran Green Party MP Elizabeth May, however, agrees with Rodriguez, who she says must be “at his wits’ end.”
“What I see is obstructionism, pure and simple,” she said in an interview.
She blames the Conservatives primarily for the procedural “tomfoolery” but accuses both the Bloc and NDP of being “in cahoots,” putting up speakers to help drag out time-wasting debates on old committee reports.
“It’s mostly the Conservatives, but they’re in league,” May said.
“They are all trying to keep anything orderly from happening that might possibly let the Liberals say we’ve accomplished a legislative agenda. Whether the bills are good, bad or indifferent is irrelevant in this strategy.”
Politics Chat: Former President Trump To Speak At CPAC – NPR
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
* And there he was…
GARCIA-NAVARRO: …This time in the form of a golden statue rolling through the Hyatt Hotel last week in Orlando, Fla., as the Conservative Political Action Conference kicked off. The gleaming figure of former President Donald Trump looks like a cousin of Shoney’s big boy, except with a red tie, stars-and-stripes swim trunks, flip flops and the Constitution in one very shiny hand and a wand – maybe a wand – in the other. The real Donald Trump speaks today as CPAC wraps up. Meanwhile, the man who beat him in November, President Joe Biden, is himself courting Republicans in an effort to ensure the success of his political agenda. Joining me now to talk about all this is NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The speech by the former president is unusual for former presidents – not so unusual for this former president, who has made it clear he plans to try and remain relevant.
RASCOE: Yeah, Trump never adhered to norms as president, and he’s still not doing it. But we should say it is really unprecedented. Presidents who lose reelection and even those that don’t generally try to stay out of the spotlight after leaving the White House. The reason why it’s worth paying attention to Trump at this moment is because he has so much influence on people who are still in power and those running for office.
There are some high-profile Republicans, like Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who have said that it’s time for the GOP to move on from Trump, but it doesn’t seem like Republicans are ready to quit him just yet. And people like Senator Lindsey Graham have basically said, yes, Trump’s a handful, but there’s no way Republicans win without him. Most Republicans seem to agree with Senator Graham. So this is the first time that Trump is making this sort of speech since he left office. And it’s a big deal because he’s able to really dictate the direction of the Republican Party.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what are we expecting to hear from him?
RASCOE: We are expecting him to declare himself the leader of the Republican Party. Beyond that, he will almost certainly lay into his perceived enemies. I mentioned Liz Cheney, who voted for his impeachment. He’s already come out against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. So expect to hear him on the attack. He will almost certainly want to relitigate the 2020 election, especially considering he never stopped talking about the 2016 election, and he won that one. So everyone will be waiting to hear whether he teases a 2024 run.
With Trump in the picture, he’s really freezing the Republican field right now. And I should remind everyone that it was at CPAC a few years ago that Trump talked for almost two hours and hugged the flag and did all of that. So it would not be surprising to see Trump do something like that again. With no social media megaphone, he probably has a lot to get off of his chest. But what his advisers and probably a number of Republicans will want Trump to do in this speech is to go after President Biden, especially on the issue of immigration, which is sort of – which is the sort of issue that can really rally the base. We will see whether that happens.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So not exactly healing the divides within his own party. Let’s turn to the actual president, Biden. He’s set to meet virtually with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Border policy is on the agenda.
RASCOE: Yes, this meeting comes as Biden has been facing pressure from the left because of the surge in unaccompanied minors at the border. The White House has defended its handling of the situation, but some progressives have raised concerns about the conditions of the facilities where these children are being held. So this is an issue that’s going to be on the agenda when he talks to Lopez Obrador in Biden’s second virtual meeting with a foreign leader.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That’s NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe.
Thank you so much.
RASCOE: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.
An American dystopia: QAnon represents perfectly the paranoid streak in US politics that Trump embraced – Economic Times
In 1964 Richard Hofstadter, a noted historian from Columbia University, published an essay in Harper’s Magazine, The Paranoid Style in American Politics. In this essay, which has become justly famed over time, he argued that a strain existed in American politics that was akin to the clinical diagnosis of paranoia.
This deranged view of politics saw a conspiracy amongst a swath of the country’s elite composed of international bankers, Jesuits, Freemasons and others. And this unhinged perspective had a peculiar appeal to those on the fringes of the American political right.
Objectively, those on the right had little to fear in a mostly conservative country where social and political change only occurred in small, incremental steps. Nor, for that matter, barring under exceptional circumstances, such as in the wake of the Great Depression, did the country even contemplate any substantial, let alone radical, transformations. Nevertheless, those on the hard edges of the American right feared dispossession.
Hofstadter attributed these fears, especially in the postwar era, to three pervasive beliefs: that President Roosevelt’s New Deal had undermined free market capitalism, that officialdom was infiltrated with Communists and the “whole apparatus of education, religion, the press and the mass media is engaged in a common effort to paralyse the resistance of loyal Americans”. It is necessary to include that direct quotation from his essay because it has an eerily contemporary ring to it.
The issues he had highlighted in that sentence came to the fore over the course of the past four years when Donald Trump was at the helm of the presidency. Despite his defeat, and the emergence of a seasoned, centrist Democrat, Joseph Biden, as president, this paranoid style that Hofstadter had identified nearly 60 years ago still remains a significant force in American politics.
Even as a prospective presidential candidate, Trump had started to give currency to this propensity. It started with his so-called “birtherism” when President Obama assumed office. Any number of Trump’s followers accepted his ugly and baseless claim that Obama was not a natural-born American (and was also secretly a Muslim according to many of them). In an attempt to quell this growing chorus of distrust Obama released his birth certificate from Hawaii.
Sadly, these bizarre views did not subside as the 2016 election campaign went into gear. Instead, they gained greater steam. One of the more absurd such conspiracies held that Hillary Clinton (and by extension, the Democratic Party) was running a child sex and human trafficking ring from the premises of a pizza restaurant in Washington, DC. Despite acquiring considerable traction amongst members of the right-wing media, this episode, popularly referred to as “pizzagate”, was bereft of any substance. Nevertheless, it attracted such a substantial following that a man actually drove up from North Carolina and fired a shot inside the restaurant. The owner of the restaurant was also subjected to death threats.
It’s widely believed that this conspiracy theory was the forerunner to another, QAnon. This has acquired an even wider following in American politics. Launched on an internet platform in 2017, it asserted that President Trump was engaged in a concerted effort to end a vast, sprawling network ranging from Hollywood elites to high government officials who are involved in global sex trafficking. The anonymous individual who posted this outlandish claim also stated that he was someone who possessed the highest levels of security clearance in the US government. Astonishingly, this theory quickly gained ground as it coursed through the internet and became the fodder of many chat rooms across the country.
The attraction of this grotesque idea amongst members of the lay public was bad enough. More disturbingly, however, it also started to attract support amongst aspiring politicians who either tacitly or even explicitly endorsed the allegation. Few politicians, however, have acquired as much notoriety for their flirtation with this conspiracy theory as Marjorie Taylor Greene, a newly elected representative from the southern state of Georgia.
During her campaign, when QAnon endorsed her, she made little or no effort to distance herself from it. Even after the brutal assault on the two Houses of Congress on January 6 of this year which, amongst others, involved QAnon believers, she refused to promptly disavow any ties with its adherents. Only when faced with censure from her House colleagues and being voted off all committee assignments did she make a lukewarm effort to distance herself from the movement.
She may be the most prominent case of a politician who has traded in this outrageous conspiracy theory. However, she’s hardly alone. A host of Republican Congressional candidates from across the country have either endorsed QAnon or have offered varying degrees of support for its twisted claims. Among them is a first-time House member, Lauren Boebert, a restaurant owner and an unrelenting gun rights advocate from Colorado, who has made only half-hearted attempts to distance herself from her initial attraction to QAnon beliefs.
What’s striking about the vast majority of QAnon advocates is that they are overwhelmingly if not exclusively white, they are not especially well-educated and have a decidedly right-wing political orientation. Needless to say, when in office, Trump studiously refused to publicly disavow QAnon, thereby granting it a certain stamp of credibility if not legitimacy. Even with him out of office, many of his more avid followers still remain its faithful adherents.
Hofstadter, decades ago, had accurately unearthed a strain in America’s political culture that had no moorings in reality. His views have, tragically, proven to be altogether prescient.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
END OF ARTICLE
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