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Notes on the Revolution / Column 21

Notes on the Revolution / Column 21

October 21, 2019

The impeachment of Donald Trump

By Charles McKelvey

According to The New York Times, that illustrious defender of the interests of the U.S. political establishment that pretends to a journalism that seeks truth, solid evidence for the impeachment of Donald Trump is accumulating with each passing day. Various articles in The New York Times over the past few weeks are presenting a case that Trump and his team were pressuring the president of Ukraine to investigate a political rival, conditioning a military assistance package on cooperation in the affair.

The government of the United States, of course, is always pressuring other governments by threatening to withhold or reduce aid, or by threatening military action, or by threatening or implementing economic sanctions. So why is this such a big deal?

The problem with what the Trump team is accused of doing is that a president is supposed to pressure other governments in defense of the interests of the United States, or better said, the interests of the U.S. political establishment. The president is not supposed to pressure governments to do something that would undermine the electoral prospects of a political rival. The Constitution gives the president the authority to conduct foreign policy, which during the course of the twentieth century came to mean pressuring governments, ignoring their right sovereignty, in order to advance the foreign policy goals of the political establishment. To use presidential authority not for this purpose, but in order to gain advantage over a political rival, is being interpreted as an abuse of authority, and in such a situation, the Constitution allows for the impeachment of the president by the House of Representatives.

There is another dynamic to the phenomenon, if The New York Times is to believed. The Trump team applying pressure on the government of Ukraine was not composed of the diplomats who formally were responsible for U.S. policy toward Ukraine, but by an informal team of presidential advisors, who were acting on a parallel track without the knowledge of those formally responsible. This in and of itself is not necessarily a problem. Indeed, it is not untypical for a president to be in conflict with the governmental bureaucracy on various issues, particularly when a president is elected with an ideological agenda different from that of the political establishment. When John F. Kennedy, for example, pursued peace initiatives with the Soviet Union and Cuba in 1963, going against the prevailing Cold War thinking, he did so through private channels, sidestepping the State Department.

In the case of the scandal with respect to Ukraine, the informal channels for the pressuring of Ukraine point to a possible defense of Trump. It could be claimed that the informal team was going beyond what Trump had intended, and furthermore, they were misadvising him with respect to the legal and constitutional aspects of the affair.

Impeachment now appears likely, although it is curious that the Democratic Party leadership has decided to not seek a full House vote at the present time for authorization of an impeachment inquiry, which already is underway in different committees. If in fact the President is impeached by the House, a trial would be held in the Republican-controlled Senate. So far, Republican Senators continue to support Trump. If the majority of Republican Party members continue to be opposed to the removal of the President from office, the support of Republican Senators would hold firm, except for Senators in swing states, who would need the support of independent voters to be reelected.

The strategies of the two political parties are taking shape. The Democratic Party, which represents the moderate and progressive wings of the political establishment, are seeking to move quickly through impeachment and a Senate trial, possibly resolving the matter by the end of November. If the President is not convicted by the Senate, the way would be clear for the Democratic Presidential candidate to run against Trump on the basis of his abuse of presidential authority (among other issues), castigating the Republican Party for its tolerance of Trump’s abuse of presidential authority, hoping to win the presidential elections and to register gains in both the House and the Senate in the elections of 2020.

But the Democratic plan could backfire. Trump is arguing that the impeachment by the House is politically motivated, and the process is denying the due process rights of the president. The White House has submitted a letter to the Speaker of the House and to the chairs of impeachment inquiry committees, maintaining that the impeachment inquiry is unconstitutional, in that it violates due process rights. The President, the letter argues, is denied the rights to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts of testimony, and to have council present. The House leadership has ignored these arguments, rather than responding to them. The New York Times also is silent of the question of Constitutional due process rights in the context of an impeachment investigation by the House of Representatives, which seems like a legitimate issue for the White House to raise.

The Trump Administration is taking the position that, as long as due process rights are not respected in the impeachment process, the administration will not cooperate with the impeachment investigation. Both the Democratic Party leadership and The New York Times criticize the decision to non-cooperate, without addressing the charge that the impeachment process is violating the due process rights of the President. If this continues without resolution, the way would be clear for the Republicans to accuse the Democratic Party of ignoring constitutional guarantees when they are inconvenient for their political agenda, which could adversely affect the Democratic Party in the 2020 elections.

Even though the Trump administration has embraced a super-aggressive form of imperialism, particularly with respect to Venezuela and Cuba, the conviction of Trump by the U.S. Senate and his removal from office would not necessarily further the interests of the neocolonized nations and peoples. He would be replaced by Vice-President Mike Pence, assuming that Trump does not have a maneuver to defy the Senate conviction. Pence has been one of the key actors in the super-aggressive imperialism of the Trump Administration, and his prospects for re-election in 2020 may be stronger than those of Trump.

Moreover, a conviction of Trump by the Senate would deepen the division in a nation already deeply divided, especially if the Democrats were to win the 2020 elections, except in the unlikely case that they win by strong majorities. A deeply divided empire, unable to debate and arrive to agreement concerning a national plan of action, is not in the interests of the peoples of the world. When the world’s most powerful nation becomes politically unstable, unable to internally debate its conflicts in a politically useful way, the entire world is threatened by new military and economic aggressions that possibly may emerge.

The best-case scenario, from the point of view of the world’s neocolonized peoples, would be the realization of the Democratic Party plan at present: a relatively quick impeachment by the Democratic-controlled House, followed by insufficient votes to convict in the Republican-controlled Senate, paving the way for a possible Democratic victory in the 2020 presidential and congressional elections. No one should expect too much from a Democratic Party victory in 2020. It would not imply the end of aggressive imperialism against our nations and peoples; it would only mean the end of super-aggressive imperialism, plus the granting of some space for multilateralism and for nations that seek a sovereign road. It would imply a world a little less insecure, a world with a little less conflict and chaos. But it would not imply a steps toward the necessary road for a more just, democratic, and sustainable world-system, which, so far, is being forged from below, by the peoples, leaders, and movements of the Third World, and not by the movements of the peoples of the North. So far.

This is Charles McKelvey, reflecting on the unfolding global popular socialist revolution forged by our peoples in defense of humanity.


Edited by Lena Valverde Jordi
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