Trump rages as impeachment trial opens in USA

Judgment time: Trump is only the third president in US history to face impeachment. © Getty

Will this be the end of Trump’s controversial presidency? The impeachment process moves to the US Senate this week, with high-profile lawyers and politicians set to debate his wrongdoing.

“Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, all persons are commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment,” said the sergeant at arms.

On Wednesday, Nancy Pelosi, the leading democrat in the US House of Representatives, signed the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. She used eight different pens.

The president is now officially on trial in the Senate. He has hired a team of legal heavyweights to defend him, including the controversial Alan Dershowitz.

Starting this week, senators will act as a silent jury, prohibited from speaking or using electronic devices. They will listen to statements made by witnesses, Trump’s defence team and the impeachment managers.

The trial will focus on a conversation Trump had with his Ukrainian counterpart, another ex-TV personality.

On the call, Trump suggested that Ukraine would only receive $391 million (£300m) worth of aid from the US if they investigated Hunter Biden’s dealings in the country. Hunter’s father Joe is is one of the leading opposition candidates to take on Trump in the November election.

By wielding his power as president to manipulate his own chances of being re-elected, critics say that Trump has become the “Framers’ worst nightmare”. For many Democrats, Trump has abused his position and needs to be removed from office.

Trump’s team retaliated by saying that the articles fail to identify any actual crime and instead represent a “dangerous attack” on democracy. They see the impeachment process as a partisan attack – a way for Democrats to remove Trump from office without defeating him in an election.

Indeed, for all the outrage caused by Trump, it is only when he has focused on the potentially corrupt behaviour of a political rival’s child that Democrats have actually tried to remove him from office.

Critically, the Senate will have to decide whether Trump has committed a “high crime or misdemeanour”.

It will also be interesting to see if there is any further evidence that can help swing moderate Republicans to put their country before party.

And if that happens, could it be the end for Trump?

Not so peachy

It still looks like the president will be acquitted. For years, his political opponents tried to use the Russia inquiry to find some damning proof. Now, with less than a year until the next election, they are trying another tactic. Democrats are a minority in the Senate but need two-thirds of the votes for the president to be removed from office. It doesn’t look likely.

That said, if more witnesses step forward and damning accusations pile up, then there will come a point where Republicans will be wary of defending Trump. He is a reckless politician who has made a lot of enemies over the past few years. The fact that the trial is moving forwards suggests that the Democrats may yet have something up their sleeves.

You Decide

  1. Is calling up the Ukrainian president and asking a favour really the worst thing that Trump has done since becoming president?
  2. Do you, like some of the people defending Trump, think that a president should have committed an actual crime before they can be impeached?

Activities

  1. Try your hand at writing like Trump. Imagine a speech he might deliver to the Senate this week. Use lots of superlatives like worst, best, greatest.
  2. Research and read through the transcript of Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president. Identify any other points that you think make him unfit to be US president and explain why.

Some People Say...

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

John Dalberg-Acton (1834-1902), English historian and writer

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
According to polls, Trump’s popularity has remained pretty consistent throughout the impeachment process. The transcript of the call with the Ukrainian president was originally stored on a secret server. Despite the drama surrounding this week’s events, no president in US history has ever been removed from office for impeachment.
What do we not know?
We do not know whether moderate Republicans, like former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, will risk going against their party. There are also several Democratic senators in swing states (areas that could won by either the Democrats or the Republicans), who do not want to appear as being overly partisan and may not vote to impeach the president.

Word Watch

Sergeant at arms
An officer of the US House of Representatives, with law enforcement responsibilities.
Impeachment
When someone in public office is charged with misconduct. For a president, this means being accused of treason, bribery or “high-crimes and misdemeanours” and subject to trial in the US Senate.
Senate
US Senate, along with the House of Representatives, makes the laws of the US. The Senate is composed of senators, each of whom represents a single state. Each state, regardless of its population size, is equally represented by two senators who serve staggered terms of six years. At present, there are 50 states, so there are 100 senators.
Alan Dershowitz
Harvard law professor and lawyer who has previously worked on behalf of OJ Simpson, Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein.
Impeachment managers
Seven members of the House of Representatives who will lead the prosecution against Donald Trump.
Framers
The founding fathers of the USA who wrote the US constitution (the document defining the country’s fundamental laws).
Office
In this context, his position of power, his role as president.
Partisan
One-sided, in the interests of one party over another.
Acquitted
Cleared of a criminal charge by a verdict of not guilty.

Subjects

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