By Robert A. Vella
The Impeachment Inquiry
Yesterday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s attempt to get the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on his presumed Democratic opponent in next year’s presidential election (i.e. Joe Biden) in exchange for the release of military aid funding which had already been authorized by both Congress and his administration. Before getting to my analysis of this serious situation, here is some relevant information:
- At this point, Pelosi’s move is only an inquiry to discover evidence.
- If evidence is documented arising to “High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” a full vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives would determine whether or not to impeach the president.
- If the House impeaches the president by a simple majority vote, a two-thirds majority vote in the U.S. Senate (which would currently require 20 Republicans) would determine whether or not to remove the president from office.
- The U.S. Supreme Court plays little to no role in the impeachment process, and the constitutional powers granted to the House concerning impeachment are much stronger than those for ordinary oversight activities; however, this particular Supreme Court might interject itself into disputes over evidence especially since its current composition (i.e. conservative and partisan, in my view) is more favorable to Trump.
- Since Trump has already publicly admitted to the general nature of his phone call with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky, Pelosi already appears to have grounds for impeachment but her case would put much more pressure on resistant Republicans if evidence was discovered of an explicit quid pro quo offer which establishes bribery or extortion.
- Public statements on this scandal by Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials must be taken with a grain of salt. The new president is in a difficult position. His nation needs U.S. aid and support in order to maintain its independence and sovereignty from Vladimir Putin’s Russia which he would put at risk by angering a besieged Donald Trump. He also must be wary of offending Democrats who now control the House and who could win the presidency next year.
Make no mistake, this is a very serious situation. If President Trump is impeached, it would be only the third such time in U.S. history. The others were President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and President Bill Clinton in 1998. Neither were removed from office. President Nixon resigned in 1974 just before his likely impeachment. Johnson went down in history as one of the worst American presidents ever, and he is widely seen as the very worst one. Clinton’s lying about an extramarital affair forever stained the legacy of his otherwise successful presidency. Nixon’s criminal behavior and abuses of power are infamous, and it triggered structural changes in the federal government. No sitting president could remain unaffected by impeachment, and especially not a raging egomaniac like Trump. This is a really big deal.
From a strategic point of view, the impeachment inquiry will revolve around two basic issues: 1) the discovery of evidence through material documents and witness testimony, and 2) the length of time over which it will transpire. Democrats will try to obtain as much evidence as possible, and will try to conclude the process as quickly as possible – ideally before next year when the presidential campaign ramps-up. The White House will try to obstruct the discovery of evidence, and will try to delay the process for as long as they can. Observers should pay close attention to the vigor in which Democrats conduct the inquiry, and to the legality or illegality of obstruction tactics used by the White House.
With the 2020 election looming on the horizon, political considerations will enter the fray. If Democrats perceive public opinion swinging against them, they’ll likely retreat from the inquiry or cancel it altogether. If indisputable evidence of Trump’s guilt is uncovered, the numerous Senate Republicans running for reelection might be forced to choose between loyalty to Trump and their own self-interest. In any event, it will be intriguing. Stay tuned.
According to reporting by MSNBC’s Heidi Przybyla, Trump called Pelosi on Tuesday — the same day she blasted his “transgressions” in a formal press conference where she announced a former impeachment inquiry — and spoke with her to inquire about working with her and House Democrats.
“The president actually said to Nancy Pelosi, ‘Hey, can we do something about this whistleblower complaint? Can we work something out?’” Przybyla told Melber, based on he conversations with sources in Pelosi’s office.
“And [Pelosi] said, ‘Yes, you can tell your people to obey the law,’” Przybyla recounted. “So she quickly swatted that down and made it clear that it is full steam ahead” on impeachment.
In public, Trump world is casting the Democratic impeachment inquiry as more white noise.
In private, White House aides and allies say the impeachment momentum is now presenting a serious threat to the rest of President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda, to his negotiating strength with world leaders and to his concentration.
The political furor over the president’s call with the Ukrainian president will put the two pictures in contrast for at least the coming weeks, testing how well the Teflon-encased president can withstand the latest revelations that he tried to pressure a foreign leader to dig up dirt on the son of his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, heading into the 2020 campaign.
Today’s other news
A judge has stayed an order for President Trump to testify in a legal dispute brought by protesters who say Trump’s security guards assaulted them during his campaign.
New York Judge Doris M. Gonzalez previously called Trump’s testimony “indispensable” and said the president would have to sit for a video before Thursday, when the now-delayed trial was set to begin. Men who protested at a September 2015 rally outside Trump Tower claim guards shoved them and ripped their signs and that Trump’s head of security, Keith Schiller, punched one of them in the head while another staffer tried to choke a protester.
On Tuesday, Judge Dianne Renwick of the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division granted an “interim stay” of Gonzalez’s Sept. 20 order, “pending a determination of the matter by the full bench.”
Climate change is already causing staggering impacts on the oceans and ice-filled regions that encompass 80 percent of the Earth, and future damage from rising seas and melting glaciers is now all but certain, according to a sobering new report from the United Nations.
The warming climate is already killing coral reefs, supercharging monster storms, and fueling deadly marine heat waves and record losses of sea ice. And Wednesday’s report on the world’s oceans, glaciers, polar regions and ice sheets finds that such effects only foreshadow a more catastrophic future as long as greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked.
Wednesday’s report comes on the heels of other IPCC warnings about the grave threats climate change poses. Recently, the group detailed how the world’s land and water resources are facing “unprecedented” levels of exploitation and how those changes endanger the global food supply. Last fall, the IPCC also warned that the world must make rapid, sweeping changes to energy, transportation and other systems to hold warming below an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, a key threshold singled out in the Paris climate agreement.
(Reuters) – Segregation in U.S. public education has concentrated black and Hispanic children into high-poverty schools with few resources, leading to an achievement gap between minority and white students, a nationwide study showed on Tuesday.
Stanford University Graduate School of Education professor Sean Reardon and his team crunched hundreds of millions of standardized test scores from every public school in the United States from 2008 to 2016 to reach their conclusions.
The findings reinforced previous studies illustrating that poverty, linked to continuing segregation, is a key mechanism accounting for racial disparities in academic achievement.
BOSTON (AP) — The governor of Massachusetts is declaring a public health emergency and ordering a four-month ban on the sale of vaping products in the state.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s order Tuesday appears to be the first of its kind in the nation. The ban must be approved by a health council that is nearly certain to do so.
His announcement comes amid growing concern about the health effects of vaping products, including deaths.
Juul Labs Inc. said Chief Executive Kevin Burns is stepping down and will be replaced by an executive at tobacco giant Altria Group Inc., which owns a 35% stake in the e-cigarette maker.
The San Francisco company, which faces a potential crippling U.S. ban on most of its products, said Mr. Burns will be replaced by K.C. Crosthwaite, Altria’s chief strategy officer. The company cited the need to focus on regulatory matters for its decision to tap Mr. Crosthwaite, who has experience working closely with regulators.
Juul said it wouldn’t lobby against the Trump administration’s proposed ban on most flavored e-cigarettes and will suspend all its U.S. product advertising.