America’s ‘Caesar’ to face impeachment

Imperious: Donald Trump has said the US constitution means “I can do whatever I want”.

Is this the end for Donald Trump? After three swashbuckling years of tearing up the rulebook in the world’s most powerful job, the US President faces his ultimate challenge. Will he lose?

Julius Caesar was the Roman leader who became over-mighty, trampled all over the political system of his time and declared himself an emperor.

He also was notoriously prickly, vain, struggled with his thinning hair and was a notorious womaniser. “Romans lock up your wives, the bald adulterer’s back in town,” his soldiers would sing as they marched through the streets every time he returned from yet another successful foreign conquest.

In the end, Caesar came to grief, famously stabbed to death on the Ides of March, 44 BC, by senators who feared he was about to declare himself king for life.

Things were rougher then.

Donald Trump is not facing a violent end. In the present-day USA, presidents who over-reach their powers meet their end through the legal process of impeachment — the process by which a standing US official is formally charged with “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanours”, according to Article Two of the United States Constitution.

The process begins with US Congress voting to impeach. If Congress passes the motion by a majority, it will appoint members to act as “prosecutors” in a subsequent Senate “trial”. Senators act as a jury on the president’s guilt, with the Attorney General as judge.

A president is removed from office if they are found guilty by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

Only two US presidents have been impeached before: Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1998). Both were acquitted. Richard Nixon was threatened with impeachment over the Watergate scandal (1974), but resigned before Congress could vote on whether to proceed.

Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the US House of Representatives, announced an official impeachment inquiry following a whistleblower’s complaint regarding alleged violations by Trump, setting the stage for a long and rancorous fight in the run-up to next year’s presidential election.

Donald Trump privately urged the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rival Joe Biden, according to an explosive transcript of a phone call released yesterday.

The US President suggested that Volodymyr Zelensky “look into” Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who once worked for a Ukrainian gas company.

Zelensky, who became Ukraine’s leader in May, appeared open to the request, responding that a new prosecutor general who would be “100% my person” was going to be appointed.

During the call, Trump also suggested that Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, and William Barr, the US attorney general, would get in touch to discuss any inquiries.

So, will Donald Trump be impeached and removed from office?

Downfall?

On the face of it, this seems unlikely. Trump’s Republican Party controls the Senate, so any impeachment process would face considerable resistance. The Senate now has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who usually vote with the Democrats. Conviction and removal of a president would require 67 votes. So, for Trump to be removed from office via impeachment, at least 20 Republicans and all the Democrats and independents would have to vote against him.

But today, The Washington Post reports that cracks are appearing among Senate Republicans. Several Senate Republicans were privately stunned on Wednesday and questioned the White House’s judgment after it released a rough transcript of Trump’s call with the Ukraine president. One, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said: “This remains deeply troubling and we’ll see where it leads. But my first reaction is it’s troubling.”

You Decide

  1. Does power always corrupt people?
  2. Do you think the US President is actually the most powerful person in the world?

Activities

  1. Make your own poster of Donald Trump as Julius Caesar, complete with Roman toga if you are good enough at drawing!
  2. Make a list of what might constitute “high crimes and misdemeanours” worthy of impeachment.

Some People Say...

“Impeachment is not just another form of political combat: it’s an emergency measure meant to save the democratic foundation on which all other politics unfold.”

Laurence Tribe, US scholar and author

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a phone conversation on 25 July, this year. A transcript of the call shows that the US President pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, who was a board member for a company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.The call came after the Trump administration had delayed releasing US military funds to Ukraine until mid-September. Trump also referenced the 2016 hacking of the Democratic email server in the call to Zelensky — and seemed to imply that the server still exists somewhere in Ukraine.
What do we not know?
Whether there is anything to these allegations about Joe Biden and his son. No evidence has so far been produced to indicate that Biden either acted corruptly or was influenced by his son’s work in Ukraine. However, critics believe at the very least the Biden family’s ties to Ukraine raise the perception of a possible conflict of interest.

Word Watch

Ides
In the ancient Roman calendar, it was a day falling roughly in the middle of each month (the 15th day of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th of other months) from which other dates were calculated.
Andrew Johnson
The impeachment of Johnson was a result of political conflict and the rupture of ideologies in the aftermath of the American Civil War. It rose from a contest for power in a nation struggling to heal the wounds of war.
Bill Clinton
The charges against Clinton were lying under oath and obstruction of justice, charges that stemmed from a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by Paula Jones.
Richard Nixon
An impeachment process against Nixon began in the United States House of Representatives on 30 October 1973, following the Watergate scandal. He resigned before it was completed.
Rancorous
Bitter and resentful.

Subjects

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