With barely a week to go before a new President of the United States steps into the Oval Office, the country is again faced with an uncertain situation that has trouble written all over it and with a capital ’T’.
The Democrats led by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, is demanding that President Donald Trump leave office, failing which they are calling on the vice-president Mike Pence to throw the top man out through the 25th Amendment.
Seeing that none of these two is going to happen, the Democrats are getting ready to vote on their Resolution of Impeachment that has already been introduced.
There are necessary votes in the House for this One Article of Impeachment to pass but the question is whether Speaker Pelosi will send it across to the Senate for trial right away or wait for the new President to be sworn in and set his initial agenda.
In any event, the Senate is not due in Washington DC till inauguration Day of January 20. The crux of the matter is that even if Speaker Pelosi sends the House Impeachment to the Senate on the first day of reconvening or waits for 100 days to pass by, do Democrats in the Senate have 17 Republicans on their side to get a conviction after a trial? The last time around about a year back, a lone Republican, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, had crossed over. Is the outrage of what happened on January 6 so much that 16 others will join Senator Romney this time? The likely answer to that will be in the negative.
What is happening in Washington DC right now is not just another trappings of a political circus by way of a Second Impeachment. That Donald Trump is entering history books by being the first American President to face impeachment proceedings twice will make very little difference to him; probably he will put a spin on it to make it look as a great honour. But what is unfolding in the capital city and elsewhere in the country are making a lot of people nervous: the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has warned of trouble in the capitals of all 50 states and a potential personal threat to President-elect Joseph Biden leaving the possibility of the swearing in ceremony of the 46th President moved to a safer spot and perhaps to a closed enclosure.
Two things are certain as of the time of writing: Trump is not resigning; and Pence is not invoking the 25th Amendment. An outraged vice-president, who was one of the prime targets of the mob of January 6, apparently had a good meeting with Trump where at least outwardly the man behind the Resolute Desk has given the impression of squaring up with his long trusted deputy. “They reiterated that those who broke the law and stormed the Capitol last week do not represent the America First movement backed by 75 million Americans, and pledged to continue the work on behalf of the country for the remainder of their term,” according to a senior official.
A mob that was invited and directed to wreak havoc on Capitol Hill are now characterised as not representing America!
Suddenly, there seems to be this eerie silence in the world of Trump: his favorite toy, Twitter handle, has been taken away for good; other social media platforms like Facebook have similar restrictions; Republicans who swore on their President for the last four years seem to have deserted on the premise that “enough is enough”; wealthy business tycoons are said to be having different ideas; and conservative media houses have just about asked their favourite President to wake up and smell the coffee.
Trump is said to be in a rage and alone at the White House, even cancelling a weekend trip to Camp David— the Catoctin Mountains would have been the ideal calm and serene setting.
Would the Democratic second bid at Impeachment further rattle the President or give new ammunition for Trump to try and bounce back? One thinking is that Speaker Pelosi and company should go about it slowly for rushing it to the Senate could be counterproductive, not only for the efforts to permanently wound the President but also for the incoming administration as it would be weighed down.
Although President-elect Biden has not fully blessed the second impeachment of Trump saying it is the business of Congress, he has nevertheless appealed to the Senate to devote one half of its daily business schedule to confirming incoming senior Cabinet positions.
At worst, there is also the perception that a full drawn out Senate trial will only bring out the likes of Rudy Giuliani defending President Trump who certainly will not go down meekly. Hence, it is back to the kind of political show that was witnessed during the first Impeachment process and in what happened during the court trials post November 3 election. Some argue that another charged political environment is not what America needs at a time when focus must be on a healing process; and this is something that the President-elect Biden has been talking about in the last few months —uniting the nation as opposed to dividing it further.
In fact, there are those who have pointed out that in the outpouring of outrage by politicians, especially from the Grand Old Party, many have forgotten the irony — that the mob violence of January 6 was not a first in American history, rather that it was directed at the wrong crowd. “The storming of the US Capitol by predominantly white supporters of President Donald Trump was in keeping with a long tradition of mob violence directed by white elites in the service of their own interests. The difference this time is that the rioters turned on their own,” says Jeffrey Sachs.
In a brilliant essay, Sachs argues that the storming of the Capitol is misunderstood. “Shaken by the ordeal, members of Congress have issued statements explaining that America is a nation of laws, not mobs. The implication is that the disruption incited by President Donald Trump is something new. It is not. The United States has a long history of mob violence stoked by white politicians in the service of rich white Americans. What was unusual this time is that the white mob turned on the white politicians, rather than the people of colour who are usually the victims,” the economist argued, going on to make the point that the targets of white hate historically have been not just African Americans but also native Americans, Mexican and Chinese immigrants.
“These groups were the targets of mob violence stoked by Americans from President Andrew Jackson and the frontiersman Kit Carson in the 19th century to Alabama Governor George Wallace in the 20th,” the author says. Hopefully, Sachs has opened many eyes and a painful chapter is not repeated!
The writer was a former senior journalist in Washington D.C. covering North America and the United Nations.