By Robert A. Vella
The full House of Representatives will vote on two articles of impeachment (i.e. abuse of power and obstruction of Congress) against President Trump later today concerning his official conduct in the Ukraine scandal. Currently, six hours of debate is being conducted where members are allotted time to speak publicly about this issue on the House floor. Since such debates are typically partisan and rhetorical, I generally don’t pay much attention to them. It is expected that the articles will pass by simple majorities, with few Democratic defections and probably no Republican defections. If either pass, Donald Trump will be only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. The other two were Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, neither of whom were removed from office by the Senate (note: facing pressure from his own party, Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before his impending impeachment).
What comes next
An impeachment trial will be held in the Senate next month to decide whether Trump is acquitted of the charges or is removed from office. Removal requires the high standard of a two-thirds majority vote which America’s founding fathers designed to prevent partisan abuse. The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts, will preside over the trial; but, how it actually proceeds will be determined by simple majority votes (e.g. which witnesses are called to testify, if any). Theoretically, Roberts may issue his own rulings to ensure constitutionality and fairness; although, exactly how he will perform this role is anyone’s guess.
Since Trump’s guilt was clearly proven in the impeachment inquiry, the facts of which were not even contested by House Republicans, the Senate trial should result in a conviction. That is, if Senate Republicans uphold the constitutional oath they will soon take:
”I solemnly swear (or affirm) that in all things appertaining to the trial of ____, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”
Unfortunately, for the sake of the democratic republic this nation was founded on, Senate Republicans apparently have no such intention (see: Sen. Mitch McConnell breaks impeachment oath before taking it and GOP Senators Seek Quick Acquittal for Trump. The President Wants More.). Through willful participation, forceful coercion, or through any other means, the Republican Party has become a subservient cult beholden to a megalomaniac hell-bent on turning America into an oppressive, hierarchical, authoritarian state ostensibly serving the exclusive interests of white Christian conservatives. The analogy to fascism in Europe between the two world wars is not hyperbole. This is precisely what is happening now in the U.S.
What it all means
Like elsewhere around the world, America is moving headlong towards authoritarianism. The Enlightenment values (i.e. democracy, the rule of law, human and civil rights), upon which nearly four hundred years of government and social institutions were built, are being systematically torn down by self-serving interests, public ignorance, moral decay, and even larger forces beyond the limits of humankind to control (i.e. overpopulation and climate change). I wish this wasn’t the case, but scholars more learned than I and minds more capable than mine see the same thing. In 1930s Germany, the people refused to stand-up against what they knew to be abjectly wrong for the sake of perceived expediencies. Later, they came to regret it most emphatically. But, history cannot be undone. It can, however, repeat over and over again.
Here’s a personal anecdote which illustrates this point. When the topic of Trump inevitably came up in a recent discussion with a visiting relative, the young man (who doesn’t approve of the president) said:
“Well, at least he hasn’t done any damage yet.”
I wonder what hole he’s been living in for the last four years. I wonder how many others joined him.
Today’s news and headlines
From Boston Common to the French Quarter in New Orleans, a series of protests reverberated across the country on Tuesday evening to call for President Trump’s removal from office, a prelude to momentous impeachment votes set for Wednesday in the House of Representatives.
In Center City Philadelphia, a group of demonstrators held up signs with LED lights spelling out IMPEACH at the base of a bronze statue called “Government of the People,” while Times Square in New York teemed with protesters chanting, “No one’s above the law.”
As the House of Representatives prepares to vote on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, the majority of Americans think that the president will face a fair trial in the Senate, but that top aides who have not cooperated with House impeachment investigators should be allowed to testify.
A poll released Tuesday by ABC News and The Washington Post found that about 7 in 10 Americans think the administration officials should be able to testify. In an example of bipartisan agreement, 79% of Democrats, 64% of Republicans and 72% of independents agree that Trump should allow them to appear in a Senate trial in the likely event that the House votes to impeach him.
A Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) judge published an unusual and harsh rebuke of the FBI over its handling of wiretap applications and demanded that the bureau respond to the court by next month with a plan to ensure that the information in its surveillance applications is true and reliable.
Collyer’s order came about a week after the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI Russia investigation was released. Though the IG found no political bias in the FBI’s decision to open an investigation into associates of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Michael Horowitz concluded that the FBI had mishandled the surveillance applications for Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
The report identified a total of 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the applications and said that the probe found that “the surveillance of Carter Page continued even as the FBI gathered information that weakened the assessment of probable cause.”
(Bloomberg) — A Pakistani special court sentenced former military dictator and president Pervez Musharraf to death in absentia, ending a six-year long high treason case against him and delivering a historic verdict against the country’s powerful army.
It is the first time in Pakistan’s 72-year history that a military ruler has been tried with high treason — in this case for imposing emergency rule and suspending the constitution in 2007. Musharraf, as the army chief, toppled the civilian government of ex-premier Nawaz Sharif in 1999 and later became the country’s military president. The south Asian nation has a history of being ruled by army dictators, who have imposed four martial laws since independence from the U.K. in 1947.
Musharraf was a key ally of the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York until he was forced to step down in 2008 to avoid impeachment by Parliament. Sharif began treason proceedings against Musharraf soon after he came back to power in 2013.
California’s coastal waters are acidifying twice as fast as the rest of the oceans, a study published Monday shows. And some of California’s most important seafood — including the spiny lobster, the market squid and the Dungeness crab — are becoming increasingly vulnerable.
The carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to the planet’s rapidly warming climate are also changing the chemistry of the world’s oceans, which have absorbed roughly 27 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted worldwide.
Ocean water is ordinarily slightly basic, or alkaline, but is becoming more acidic as it absorbs carbon dioxide. This can harm marine life, especially shellfish, because they struggle to make their shells in acidic waters.