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18 December 2019updated 25 Jun 2021 9:10am

Evening Call: Impeachment Beckons for Donald Trump

By Jonn Elledge

“I’m only reading American news,” a chap I met earlier today told me. “It’s somehow less stressful when it’s someone else’s problem.”

Well, if it’s someone else’s problem you want, then you’re in luck. Today, the US House of Representatives is voting on the impeachment – a key step on the road to removal from office – of the United States’ 45th president, Donald Trump. Trump stands accused on two counts: of abusing his power by pressuring the Ukrainian government into assisting in his re-election campaign by releasing information that would damage his Democratic rivals; and of obstructing Congress in its investigation of the above.

It seems entirely plausible the impeachment will happen. The Democrats hold 233 seats in the House compared to just 197 for Trump’s Republicans, and partisanship is running as high as ever. Polling suggests the country is broadly in favour, too: a survey from YouGov for the Economist has found that registered voters back impeachment by 50 to 43 per cent, and removal from office by 50 to 42.

The President is not taking the day’s events lying down. Earlier today, with all the dignity and élan for which he’s become justly famous, he tweeted (punctuation and capitalisation all his own): “Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG! A terrible Thing. Read the Transcripts. This should never happen to another President again. Say a PRAYER!”

But if he doesn’t seem too concerned (let’s be honest, it’s difficult to tell), it’s with good reason. If the House impeaches, the next step is a trial in the Senate – where the Republicans hold a majority.

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Three other presidents have faced the impeachment process. Two of them – Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998 – were impeached by the House but then acquitted by the Senate. The third, Richard Nixon, resigned before the House had voted – but only after his fellow Republicans made clear that, so overwhelming was the evidence and so great the drag on their own re-election efforts, they would vote with the Democrats.

There’s little sign of that happening on this occasion, at least not yet. Even if Trump is impeached, the odds are the US is stuck with him, for now.

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Good day for…

Breaking with the sectarian left. So, at least, says our regular writer Paul Mason, who argues that whoever replaces Jeremy Corbyn must make greater efforts to forge alliances with both other progressive parties and with other factions of the Labour party. You can read his latest column here.

Bad day for…

Ex-future leaders of the Labour party. Stephen has written a fascinating piece on how Emily Thornberry, so long seen as the heir apparent, now looks less likely to win than either Rebecca Long-Bailey or Keir Starmer. The reasons why include changes to the nomination process, the details of last week’s election result and, inevitably, Brexit. You can read the whole thing here.

Quote of the day

“No sentient political party goes into an election with a leader who has a net approval rating of minus 40 per cent.”

Tony Blair – who, whatever your views on the man, is now the only Labour leader to have led the party to victory in 45 years, which is faintly terrifying – in his speech today on the future of progressive politics. You can read the whole thing on the Staggers.

Everyone talking about…

Star Wars, because the new film, The Rise of Skywalker – which Disney seem to expect us to genuinely believe will be the last one – Is out tomorrow. Our review, by Ryan Gilbey, will be out then too. But to whet your appetite, if you’re the right sort of nerd, here’s a lovely piece by James Cooray Smith from last May, on how the backlash to the prequels created a toxic fan culture.

Everybody should be talking about…

The New Statesman’s A to Z of the 2010s, in which the gang are re-telling the story of the last decade one letter at a time. So far, it’s reached L for Love Island, courtesy of Sarah.

Other entries include Indra on Kate Middleton, Emily on grime and Shiraz Maher on drones. It’s turning out to be such a great series that I, eternal rider on other people’s coat tails that I am, am slightly kicking myself I didn’t get my act together and write any of it. You can find all the entries here.

Housekeeping

Tomorrow is the NS Christmas lunch so please be gentle if tomorrow’s Evening Call is slightly later or more maudlin than usual.

Questions? Comments? Email me.

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