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Trump's State of the Union address, 2020. Photo: Public Domain

Trump's State of the Union address, 2020. Photo: Public Domain

The failure to impeach Trump was all too predictable, only a mass movement can end the corruption in the White House, argues Sean Ledwith

When Trump entered the White House in 2017, it seemed inevitable that he would be impeached for some form of egregious transgression of Presidential norms. A man so used to utilising bullying and skulduggery in his previous careers to get his way was always likely to commit a glaring breach of protocol. His acquittal this week on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress, however, was equally inevitable. The Democrats have spent months trying to collate a case against Trump that his threat to withhold military assistance to Ukraine’s President Zelensky last year amounted to grounds for impeachment and removal from office.

Predictable

The fundamental flaw in the protracted process was that a successful case depended on a significant number of Republican senators being willing to cross the aisle and vote against a President from their own party. In an election year, it would be political suicide for most Republicans to contemplate such a move. As it turned out, only Utah Senator Mitt Romney was willing to take the plunge. Romney has a history of butting heads with Trump so his defection to the Democrats during the vote was no surprise. The 52-48 vote was therefore virtually straight down party lines and entirely predictable.

President for Life?

Trump, in characteristically hubristic and hyperbolic style, has sought to exploit the botched impeachment and glorify himself in terms that seem ridiculous even by his debased standards. Apparently unaware that the 22nd amendment in the US Constitution limits Presidents to two terms, Trump tweeted an imaginary campaign slogan for Trump 2024 to 2028, 2032 and eventually the year 90,000 and 4EVA. In any other case this might be regarded as semi-amusing irony but such is Trump’s delusional state of mind that might be a dangerous presumption. This is not the first time he has publically flirted with the idea of scrapping the term-limit on the Presidency. Such is the supine nature of the modern Republican Party in Congress it cannot be ruled out if he wins a second term later this year.

I Am the Law

The impeachment trial provided alarming evidence that Trump has surrounded himself with a circle of advisors who are willing to feed his inflated ego. One of the most startling episodes of the trial was the moment Alan Dershowitz, one of the President’s defense lawyers, bizarrely claimed that it is essentially impossible for any occupant of the Oval Office to break the law:

If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment…Every public official I know believes that his election is in the public interest.

In other words, every politician inevitably believes his or her election will be beneficial for the electorate so anything that is done to facilitate this is in the public interest! Dershowitz seemed blissfully unaware that, as a lawyer, he was arguing for the suspension of the rule of law. With legal advice like this, it is small wonder Trump increasingly perceives constitutional constraints on his power as disposable.

World War 6

Once it became apparent that the White House would succeed in blocking eyewitness testimony, any tension or suspense in the impeachment process drained away. The dire plight of the Democrat case was highlighted by the fact that one of their great hopes for nailing Trump was none other than John Bolton, one of the most notorious of the neocon coterie that has driven US foreign policy into a sequence of calamitous overseas adventures over recent decades. Bolton had been fired from Trump’s White House last year and was undoubtedly looking for a way to skewer his ex-boss. The fact that the Democrats would turn to someone who even Trump suggested was unhinged indicates how desperate they had become. The President recently stated that he had to fire Bolton or we would be in World War 6 by now!

Russophobia

The Democrats’ failed attempt to turn Bolton underlines how there was nothing progressive about the motivation behind the impeachment. Essentially, they were arguing the President was risking the security of a crucial East European ally of Washington in the encirclement of Putin’s Russia by stalling on the arming of the Zelensky regime. The impeachment became a re-run of the botched effort to use the Mueller Report against Trump last year in that the senior leadership of the Democrat Party allowed Russophobia to cloud their political judgement, giving the President the perfect excuse to claim the Beltway establishment has still not come to terms with his victory in 2016. At no point did they consider impeaching the President over the far more serious components of his reactionary agenda, such as appointing anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court, locking up children on the Mexican border or almost triggering war with Iran by assassinating Qasem Soleimani.

Hope from Iowa

Shortly after his acquittal, Trump revelled in the political fallout, using his State of the Union Address to deliver a typically divisive message to Congress that included the awarding of a Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh, the infamous right-wing shock-jock and the crass chanting of ‘Four More Years’ by Republican senators. As Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and the rest of the Democrat leadership pack away their ill-conceived impeachment files, the best hope for removing the most odious President of the modern era now comes from Bernie Sanders’ bid for the party’s Presidential nomination. Amid the chaos of the Iowa caucus, it is already apparent that the veteran Vermont Senator is the best bet to mobilise a movement on the streets and at the ballot box that can avert the nightmare scenario of a Trump second term.

Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History and Sociology at York College, where he is also UCU branch secretary. Sean is also a regular contributor to Marx and Philosophy Review of Books and Culture Matters

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